21 Tips for Being the Busiest Person You Know

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been asked several times how I do everything I do. My answer has been, I don’t know, I just get stuff done. The truth is, the more I’ve thought about it, I really love productivity hacks.

I’ve blogged about it at times. I think I talked to one of our ExCos once about the productivity hacks I use. Let me share a couple with you. First, I am a huge fan of Evernote. It’s this program that lets me keep everything in one place. It’s like my digital brain, synced to all of my devices. Second, I love Siri and Reminders. Siri sends me reminders all the time that keep me on track. Third, I love the idea of Inbox Zero. I work hard to keep my inbox empty as much as possible. I don’t like the digital clutter to build up. Fourth, I am careful about how I manage my To Do List. When I am prioritizing all the stuff on my list, I ask myself “When I get in bed tonight, what are the things that will let me sleep well if I’ve gotten them done?” Those are things I put at the top of my list every day.

I’m a sucker for articles or books about how to be more effective, more productive.

  • 21 Tips for Being the Most Productive Person You Know
  • 30 Quick Tips for Being More Productive
  • How to Be a Healthier, Happier, More Productive Person

I’ve even noticed a trend – there is a lot of stuff out there about how to make sleep more productive. Think about that irony of that for a minute. We’re so obsessed with productivity that we even want to make our time when we’re not producing anything to be more productive.

I’ve been using the word “productive” to describe this. It’s got a positive connotation, right? Productivity is about effectively managing our limited time and tools to get the most done. 

But what if I switched words. Instead of talking about being more productive, what if I used the word “busy.”

  • 21 Tips for Being the Busiest Person You Know
  • 30 Quick Tips for Being Busy
  • How to Be a Healthier, Happier, Busier Person

That doesn’t sound as appealing, does it?

Busyness seems to be the plague of our culture, doesn’t it?

We are busy with work, busy with the kids, busy with our hobbies, busy with our passions. 

Think about this. You’re making small talk with someone. They ask you, “How are you doing?” or “How was your week?” You reply, “Busy.” Or, “Man, I am so busy right now.” Or, “Crazy busy.” “I’ve got so much going on.” Busy has become the way we describe our lives. It’s almost like it is our default mode, our go-to answer. 

But is this a good thing?

Studies have been done on our busyness, and you know what they say? Busyness is not good for us. Busyness and the stress it produces is the cause of real problems, real sicknesses. Anxiety. Depression. Tension. Insomnia. Chest pains. Headaches. Exhaustion. Heart disease.

And it becomes a vicious cycle. We want to slow down and feel less stress, but we need to get enough stuff done so that we can give ourselves permission to slow down, but getting more stuff done stresses us out even more, which makes it even more difficult to slow down. We are on a roller coaster of busyness that we just can’t seem to get off.

Unfortunately, the church hasn’t made this easier for us. Instead of being a place of rest and recharging, the church often piles on. In many churches, there is this subtle (and not so subtle) pressure to be busy. Attend church on Sunday morning. Attend church on Sunday evening. Go to a committee meeting on Tuesday night. Be at your small group on Wednesday night. Take your kids to an event on Friday. Participate in the outreach event on Saturday. 

It used to be “cleanliness is next to godliness.” Now, it’s “busyness is next to godliness.” Our busyness is a badge of our spirituality.

But this is not the way of Jesus.

In John 10, Jesus described his mission, his purpose, why he as God came to earth in human form. In John 10.10 he said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.”

Life is the point of our Christian faith. To be fully alive is what life is all about. It’s not about accomplishing or doing or producing. It’s not about striving for anything, not even holiness or changing the world. I have come that you might have life. To practice the way of Jesus, to follow Jesus, is to just live.

Bizarro1 (1)And then he qualifies it. “And have it to the full.” Fully alive. The Greek word for fullness is a word that describes both quality and quantity. Jesus came to give us a good, quality life that lasts not just in this life but continues on for ages to come. This is what we mean when we say “eternal life.” It’s a life for the ages. An ageless life. There is a quality and a quantity to it. 

Notice that Jesus did not say “I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it busier.” A busy life is the bizarro version of the full life.

I’m not much of a comic book guy, some of you are, but I’m not. But I do remember from my childhood that there was a bizzaro Superman world, where everything was the opposite of how it was supposed to be. It was weirdly inverted.

That’s what busyness is. It is a life that is a weirdly inverted version of the life Jesus intends for us to live.

A full life is about being present in the moment, but a busy life is always worrying about what needs to be done next. A full life is about growth, while a busy life is about being in motion. When we live a full life, we can concentrate, but a busy life has us always multitasking. A full life gives us space for self-care, but the busy life is all about people-pleasing. In a full life, we have friend; in the busy life we have acquaintances. 

When our lives are busy, we end up completely missing out on finding God in the ordinary, everyday beauty. We miss out on the moments of wonder and awe that give us depth. We miss out on the divinity that can be found in things as simple as bread and water. When we are busy, we can’t breathe. When we are busy, we can’t live.

I want to give you a couple of tips, lifehacks, practical ways to live life to the full instead of having a busy life:

Flip the Script. I shared on Facebook this morning a fantastic article from the Huffington Post called “Busyness Is a Sickness.” In it, the author describes how he was always saying how busy he was. Then one day, a friend asked him to describe his busy day. He talked about taking his son to a basketball game, having to shop for a present for his daughter’s birthday, and going out on a date with his wife. His friend replied, “It sounds like you have a full day.”

You see, it might not be that you have to change anything about your life other than how you describe it. Words create worlds. What we say about things become self-fulling prophecies. Maybe if we described our lives as full instead of busy, we would see the beauty and opportunity and divinity in our lives more readily. 

Vanessa told me about how a colleague of productivity guru Micheal Hyatt who instead of saying “I have to do this or that,” has started saying “I get to do this or that.” See the difference. Flip the script and see what difference it makes.

Here’s another idea. Sabbath hard. From the very beginning, starting with even God, the biblical story has included the idea of Sabbath and emphasized how important it is for us. Take a real break. Stop what you are doing and just be. Rest. Relax. Don’t work, just enjoy.

Sabbathing is an act of faith. It’s a way of saying, the world does not depend on me. The world keeps going even if I don’t. The world will not fall apart or blow to pieces if I don’t do something. God is the one who holds all this together, not me. 

And it has this way of rejuvenating us. You farmers and gardeners know that you have to let the soil rest at times. The garden of your soul is the same way.

Many years ago, Vanessa and I made a commitment to each other that we would Sabbath hard on Sunday afternoons and evenings. We would do what we hardly ever do any other time – we’d take naps, read books, watch TV in the middle of the day, sit on the back porch. We’d just be. And on Sunday evenings, we just hang out as a family, make a pizza, watch a show together. That’s sacred time in our family. And when we occasionally miss it for some reason, we feel it. 

How about you? Is there a time that you can Sabbath? You’ll have to guard it because the work is ever-encroaching. You’ll have to say no to some things. You’ll have to disappoint some people. You’ll have to learn new habits. You’ll have to experiment and fail and keep trying to get it right. But it’s so worth it. You weren’t made to be busy all the time. You were made to rest. There’s a fullness in it.

Be intentional about church and technology. Both of these things were supposed to make our lives so much better, so much easier. But do they really? With every blessing has come a curse. We get caught up in the onslaught of the church programs. We’ve become slaves to the manufactured busyness of technological connection. Skip a Sunday evening service. Use the Do Not Disturb function on your phone. Just say no to that extra event. Log off Facebook. Take a break. It’s ok. It might help you to just live.

Let me end with two stories.

There was once a rich man and a poor man who had a conversation about their lives. The rich man asked the poor man what he did all day. The poor man replied that he usually would fish a little, read a book, take a nap, and talk to his wife and kids. That was a typical day. The poor man in turn asked the rich man how he spent his days. He replied that he would get to the office early in the morning, spend time in meetings, negotiating deals, hustling so he could get ahead and make more money. The poor man asked the rich man what he would do with the money he made. The rich man said he was saving up for a vacation where he’d be able to spend a week going fishing, reading a book, taking naps, and talking with his wife and kids. 

A busy life is not necessarily a full life. 

Our mentor Dr. Rembert Carter was a man who got a lot of things done. He slept only 4 hours a night. He taught several college classes, pastored a church, mentored people. He was very productive. He told us once about a conversation that stuck with him. He was doing a pastoral visit with a woman in her nineties. He asked her how she spent her days. She replied that sometimes she’d read her Bible, sometimes she’d pray, and sometimes she’d just sit and let God bless her.

Just sit and let God bless you. That, my friends, is life and life to the full.

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  • Tom Christian

    Very good! We miss out on so much of life when we’re busy thinking about the next thing that HAS TO BE DONE.