Busyness and Business

by Anna Blanch on January 13, 2009

Running like a rat in a maze, like a chicken with its head cut off, like a lizard chasing its tail! Over the last few months of last year, I felt like busyness was stealing the joy from the many things I do that I love. When exercising started becoming a chore I knew that i was too tired, when reading great literature started feeling like really hard work I knew that I was too tired (or that it wasn’t great literature, if you know what I mean). When I found myself looking at my clock when I was with a friend or, worse, at church I knew that I had too much to do and not enough hours in the day.

Some of you may have noticed my utter silence for the month of October (I can’t believe that was over 2 months ago!). Just in case you did notice, it was because I had to prioritise my energies even more than usual and in the little battle of the hemispheres of my world Goannatree lost. When I started having to decide between sleep and more work I knew that I was too busy and too tired (I was obviously not thinking straight).

It got me thinking about how it is that we keep our lives and priorities in order.

You probably know if you are busy or not; but I found these question provided by Tim Chester as a helpful checklist:

  1. Have you ever been irritated because there was a queue at the supermarket till?
  2. Do you regularly work thirty minutes a day longer than your contracted hours?
  3. Do you check work emails and phone messages at home?
  4. Has anyone ever said to you: ‘I didn’t want to trouble you because I know how busy you are’?
  5. Do your family or friends complain about not getting time with you?
  6. If tomorrow evening was unexpectedly freed up, would you use it to work or do a household chore?
  7. Do you often feel tired during the day or do your find your neck and shoulders aching?
  8. Do you often exceed the speed limit while driving?

If you answer Yes to all of these questions you are probably objectively busy.

But, what about the stage beyond busyness. You see, I think I achieved Burnout.

Burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest incliding a “a general wearing out or alienation from the pressures of work”

Put it simply, I was exhausted. In realising I was at the burnout stage I stopped. I rested – slept more accurately – and forced (it felt like I had to be pretty disciplined) myself not to work for a few days at least. I have always tried have a few days at least during each break or time of rest where I don’t wear a watch or check my emails or otherwise participate in the electronic universe. These are little things but they do help me keep my sanity. I also find it helpful to “get out of town” – I always feel like I am at work when I am at “home” – mainly because I pretty much live where I live because of work.

Tim Chester makes this astute observation:

The thing is: God put 24 hours in each day. And God doesn’t make mistakes. so the problem is not that there aren’t enough hours in the day. The problem is that you are trying to do too much. You are trying to do more than God expects of you.

I agree that you only get as much done in a day as God has for you to do, but knowing that and convincing the sinking feeling in the depths of my stomach that I have more to do than there are hours in the day feel like two different things!

Chester also observes a number of the many reasons for busyness – all of which relate to a skewed understanding of the relationship between what we value and our identity. In our electronically available society,

Busyness is a sign of virtue and value. Busyness is next to godliness…Young people really do feel tired, but often it’s self-generated, maybe even psychosomatic, because if you’re not tired then you’re not worthwhile.

Sad, but too often true. As I begin work for 2009 I am a little wiser, and more intent on being a little kinder to myself in learning to say “No,” and in taking time out (as much as is possible – see I am doing it already) to rest and recharge. The only way I made it through last year was staying physically fit with plenty of exercise which incidentally is the only time my mind really switches off entirely and yet I still ended up absolutely exhausted! Here’s to being at peace, and content with knowing “It is finished.”

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