Tag Archive: busy

The Pride In Our Busyness

What if our busyness is caused by our pride?

The Killer P’s are a part of pastor and author Kevin DeYoung’s reason behind the state of busyness most of us live in. Reading his book Crazy Busy would be worth your money and time (it’s cheap and “mercifully short”).

DeYoung first points out there are no “quick fixes” to busyness. Especially as Christians, because “We ought to know better [than quick solutions] because we understand that deep down that the problem is not just with our schedules or with the world’s complexity—something is not right with us.”

And in the “Killer P’s” chapter of his book, he argues that typically the “thing not right” with us is a manifestation of pride. He says “Our understanding of busyness must start with one sin that begets so many of our others sins, pride.”

In a brief two pages, DeYoung names twelve manifestations of pride related to busyness. But to even be briefer than he, let me do a Dodridge-download on just four of “the P’s” that tend to manifest in my life (and perhaps yours).

4 Killer P’s

Pats on the back. This is living for praise and DeYoung says it’s often motivated by a “desire for glory.” Now, must of us would not say we’re doing things to pursue glory. But can you hear yourself saying this sentence DeYoung wrote, “If I take on this extra assignment, I’ll be a hero to everyone in the office”?

Pity. If we let everyone know how busy we are, well, they’ll feel sorry for us…they’ll take pity on us. If our busyness generates sympathy and pity, then that means we’re getting attention. Because of the sinfulness of pride, for some reason someone saying to you, “You work so hard, I bet it’s really hard to find time for yourself” seems to create a buzz for us. Rather, it should be a revealing sign to “Get out of that unhealthy busy rhythm!”

Power. DeYoung’s associated statement for power is, “I need to stay busy because I need to stay in control.” The lie we tell ourselves is that in order to fully control something and get the desired results, we have to control every part of it. And to do that, well, we keep everything under our watchful (busy) eye. This leads to becoming an indispensable person (I’ve written on the dangers of that before).

Position. When I read DeYoung’s associated statement I knew he had named one of my Killer P’s. It’sI do too much because that’s what people like me are supposed to do.” Can you hear yourself saying that?

This is where our intentions can sound good, even God-glorifying. But ultimately it’s a prideful way of recognizing our own contribution to something. You may be the “responsible one” in your workplace. You’re the person who goes the extra mile. You’re the execution ninja! But each of those good qualities have a shadow side, and these good qualities become manifestations of pride quickly. And once you start these prideful expressions, it further perpetuates the feeling of you needing to keep up the standard of busyness.

Be brave enough to name the “killer P’s” you’re prone to. Name it (them) and then ask for help with your pride. Ask God to speak to you His version of what busy looks like. Ask a friend to call you out when they see you manifesting the killer P’s.

Busyness doesn’t have to be wrong or sinful, but if pride is the source of that busyness, well…

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Why I’m Not Busy & You Shouldn’t be Either

I’m not busy.

Mainly because I all but refuse to use that word in description of my status. I may say, “It’s peak loading time right now,” or “It’s a little stressful, but I am managing through it.” That may seem like just semantics, but in my mind, it’s more than that.

Living in a continuous state of busyness reflects poor stewardship of time. It reflects an inability to prioritize. I get that sometimes no matter how well you steward and prioritize your time, you’re still busy. I’m in the same boat. But I’m talking about excessive busyness. I’m talking about feeling busy most days of the week. About the mentality that people like to wear on their sleeve as a status symbol. I don’t think that type of busyness is healthy, and therefore I try to avoid it (and I have so much free time, I’m writing to tell you I think you should avoid it too).

Here are some reasons I’m not busy:

  1. I limit what I put on my calendar. This is a priority exercise. What’s the best use of my time? Some efforts of time are best, whereas others are just good. Determine value and calendar accordingly,
  2. I block time on my calendar to work on specific projects (and I don’t spend it catching up on emails).  Whenever I’m least pressed for time during the week (for me, Sunday afternoon), I view my week’s calendar and either do work or schedule time to do that work in the week. I head into Monday knowing I’m prepared for the week or have blocked time to prepare.
  3. I leave margin in my calendar for the unexpected. Scheduling to 80% is a good rule of thumb. This allows for me to respond to the urgent and unexpected. (I’ve blogged before on “Surviving the Unexpected Time Consumers”.) It allows me time to help those I serve alongside. This 20% margin time allows me to “grab five minutes,” or to adequately respond to my boss, or even quickly read those emails with the little annoying red exclamation point ‘!’ on them.
  4. I say “No.” I may not actually speak the word, but I’ve discovered ways to pass on opportunities and tasks that aren’t job critical.
  5. I continuously look for better ways to be efficient. For things I can’t say “no” to, I examine whether I can lessen my time commitment. Sometimes that means changing my philosophical approach to workflow, as explained in the book Essentialism, and sometimes I just adopt a work-hack I’ve seen. (I’ve listed a few of them, in a later paragraph.) If I see someone who stewards their time well, I ask them how they do it. Here’s some resources I’ve read recently, and in part, put into practice:
  1. I don’t compromise my time with God. I could spend a lot of words on this point, but suffice it to say, the time I spend with God in the mornings has a direct correlation to my effectiveness. I could use that time to complete more of my tasks, but I choose to wait to do them knowing I’ve brought them before God.

Best hacks I’m currently using, keeping me from being busy:

  • I add buffer to most meetings. If I think a meeting will take 45 minutes, I book an hour. The buffer isn’t in case the meeting runs late, it’s actually for me to deal with output from the meeting. If I can do any follow-up in that fifteen minutes, ( send an email based on meeting conversation, I do it then. If nothing else, I can file my notes from the meeting.

So that a new day’s emails and unplanned tasks don’t overwhelm my most productive time (for me, early mornings), I strive to end each day by leaving a project on my desk for the next morning – ideally,  an hour’s worth of work that doesn’t require a computer, or at least not email. This allows me to focus quality attention to an important task, when busyness rarely interferes.

It goes without saying, I sometimes violate everything I’ve written (including the last bullet). But typically I follow these, and despite a lot of people and things vying for my time, I’m able to say and believe, “I’m not too busy.”

But what does all this mean for you?

If you’re not doing one of the things numbered above, should you be? Would doing one of these not only relieve you of the semantics of being busy, but actually slow your life to a pace in which you can accomplish the most important work you have?

If you’re a person that likes to say, “I’m busy,” I encourage you to rethink this and evaluate why you’re attributing your value to living a frenetic life.

If you’re one who thrives on living in the “tyranny of the urgent,” I propose to you that it’s not sustainable, and warn that something is going to get missed. That’s the nature of urgency… urgent is rarely done beautifully… it’s messy.

And if you’re like a lot of people (including me) who can sometimes feel overwhelmed by their tasks, I suggest trying one or more from the list above. I hope they can make a difference.

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