Busyness is the sign of the times. We all suffer from busyness in one form or another. It seems to us that every minute of our time is spoken for. Our schedules are full. We cannot possibly handle another commitment.
Perhaps including family time, prayer, learning our faith, and spending time with friends.
And that would be fine if we were happy. But we're not happy, by and large, are we?
We are dissatisfied, harried, burned out.
Busyness cannot be a substitute for meaning in our lives, yet that is what we try to do.
But are we really as busy as we think we are?
Permit me to share two illustrations with you that will challenge your perceptions.
Example 1: Lori
Lori is a regular customer at From the Abbey book fairs. I love to watch her browse. She walks into the book area and draws the atmosphere around her shoulders like a cloak. She uses the bookstore ethos to shut out the bustle and stress of the outside world. She caresses the book titles with her eyes, and sometimes with her hands. But she never buys. She passes me by with a sad smile, sometimes verbalizing her regret other times expressing it with her eyes.
I wish I had time to read. Then her family bursts into her bubble. Husband and children are all in a hurry to leave. They all have places to go after Mass. Work and other commitments (and the occasional football game) call.
Example 2: Becky
Becky is a young mother living in western Wisconsin in 1868. She wakes up before the sun rises to stoke the fire and get breakfast started. After breakfast is eaten and cleaned up, and her husband is off to the lumber camp, she grabs some time to mend clothing and churn some butter. The baby and her two year old son also need tending to. Then it's time to make lunch. Her husband comes home for the midday meal and he is always very hungry. It has to be on the table as soon as he comes through the door because he doesn't have very long to eat if he's going to cut his quota today. Her husband comes and goes, and after lunch is cleaned up Becky goes out to tend the animals. Her afternoon chores take up a good part of her day, but she still finds some time to make thread for her next weaving project - a blanket for the baby. Then she needs to start making supper. Her hard-working husband will be home soon, and hungry again.
After supper, she sits by the fire with her husband. They talk and read the Bible together. He spends some time with the children and helps get them to bed. Then he reads out loud to her from the latest news monthly periodical while she nurses the baby and cleans the kitchen. When the light gets too dim to read from the single lamp, they go to bed.
So Which Example Describes You?
We all have the perception that we have no more time to add anything else to our plate. The hard truth is that we have more discretionary time than anyone else in history. First of all, most of our time is not taken up with necessities of survival. Yes, we dedicate a lot of time to our careers. But we also have more time to dedicate to social engagements, to extracurriculars for our children, to television and other entertainment, and to our own hobbies.
Secondly, we have more time in the day. Electric lights, better shelter, and better health give us more time in a day than anyone else in history.
So we have more time in the day and more discretion over our time. Yet, we perceive ourselves as too busy.
Busyness is a myth!
So What’s the Real Problem?
And yet, it seems that we are addicted to busyness.
Look, I’m no different. I claim to be too busy too. So I started taking a close look at myself. If I cannot claim busyness, what is the real problem?
As part of my exploration, I came across a book written by Wisconsin native Richard Swenson called Margin. And my eyes were opened. The concept of margin fit my life so perfectly I almost laughed out loud as I read it. I believe that Swenson has hit on a concept that is critical and life changing. And I’ll share it with you in the next article in this series. Then we'll talk about one key to finding margin - focus.