The Glorification of Busy

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people ask me this question: “How do you possibly have time for that?”

If there was such a thing as a time accountant, I would be it. I’m terrible at chemistry and I don’t play organized sports unless I’m forced to—but I know how to handle time, a lesson hard learned. I’m very rarely late, I get eight hours of sleep a night and I make time for what gives me life while balancing a full-time job as a missionary.

This lifestyle leaves many people exasperated. Friends, family members, fellow missionaries and students constantly tell me that they couldn’t possibly get that much sleep every night, and they can’t believe I manage to fit in 90-minute yoga sessions, and they are just shocked that I’m able to run a personal blog on the side! Man, they wish they had enough time to cook dinner instead of eat out! You can see the truth in their eyes: they’re usually thinking, She just must not be as busy as I am.

It’s time to face it: there are fewer things more glamorized in our culture today than being busy. Whether it’s “leaning in” or “having it all,” if you aren’t juggling a thousand different projects, people are going to make assumptions about your work ethic. But managing time is a skill, just like pottery or playing the violin.  It can be practiced, and with practice you can improve.

In college, I was taught to bust my butt every day and work at a constant 100% level. I fell into the “busy” trap, telling the FOCUS missionaries at UW that, for heaven’s sake, I was a student. I didn’t have time for prayer! I had exams to study for, articles for the newspaper to write, causes to protest, internships to apply for!

In short, was just too busy for God. We can call it a lot of other things—I was devoted to my studies, I was focused on my career—but at the end of the day, that was the reality.

But the deeper I dove in to my faith, the more I began to realize the importance of managing time in a balanced way. The truth is we all have time for the things that are most important to us. No one has ever starved to death because they couldn’t find time to eat. We prioritize what matters most to us in our lives.

David Duchemin, a humanitarian photographer, stated it practically: “Guard your time fiercely.  Be generous with it, but be intentional about it.” We should freely give our time to things that matter, but all the while we should understand our capabilities have limits. In the world today—whether you’re a full-time student, a stay at home parent, or out in the workforce—we can frequently feel the pressure to constantly say “yes.” “No” seems like a big, scary word, an admission of our limited capacity as human beings.

What are you giving your time to this year? More importantly, why?

If time is an investment, then the reasons behind the time we use matter. When you’re lying in bed watching Netflix, is it because you’re genuinely exhausted and need a little recharge so  you can go out and live the life God has planned for you in a fuller, freer way? Or is it because you just don’t feel like working on that lab report (and, come on, House of Cards is sort of like doing your political science paper)? Honesty time: how often have you taken a quick “Facebook break” that turns in to 45 minutes of photo stalking?

We have been given a limited amount of time on this earth. One day, you will die. I will die. That ancient professor, whose age no one really knows, will die. It’s the way God designed it—and in that, it has beauty. But since God has given us a limited amount of such a precious resource, we must invest it wisely.

This is not an advertisement to lead six Bible studies or to ask every person you ever see praying before a meal into discipleship. The virtue of prudence must be intertwined with every decision. This is merely a suggestion to take a long, hard look at how you spend your week. Are you on the sailing team because it’s your passion? Because it allows you some cool Instagrams? Because you want to evangelize the team? Because it’s a great way to blow off steam? Because it’s an interesting résumé-builder? Because your friend begged you to join and you felt bad? Because you’ve done it for three years and would feel guilty quitting? Some of these are great reasons; some, not so great. Examine how you spend your time.

There are four simple steps you can take to make sure you’re investing your time wisely:

  1. Make a list of the different roles in your life (student, child of God, sister, teammate friend, etc.).
  2. Consider and understand each role’s various levels of importance.
  3. Plan accordingly.
  4. Trust God.

Trusting God will help you invest your time rather than spend it carelessly. We’ve heard it a million times: when you give your time to God, He will multiply it. As someone who spent a handful of years falling down the “busy” rabbit hole in to total self-absorption and a lack of productivity, I promise you: this statement couldn’t be truer! Devoting time to prayer first and foremost (something I still struggle with!) makes my head clearer, my heart more full and my energy higher. I know that if I do my part—fulfilling my vocation as a student—God probably won’t deny me from every single medical school because I lead a few women closer towards him.  He will take care of my needs, as He takes care of all of us.  But the first thing we must do is give Him the time—our time.

It’s time to get over being “busy.”

Claire Swinarski
Claire Swinarski
I’m always working on my next project, but besides writing, you can usually find me reading great books, going on long walks with interesting podcasts playing through my headphones, trying new recipes, or enjoying beautiful Wisconsin summers at my family’s cabin in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin (the town Moose Junction from What Happens Next is based off of!) Things I love: hot coffee, going to the movies and getting a huge bucket of extra salty popcorn, early mornings when I’m the first one awake, boating, candles, the smell of air conditioning, old libraries, any season but winter, burritos, and snuggling babies.

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