“We are the New Busy. We are redefining busy Because we know that having a full calendar means having a full life.” –Hotmail advertisement
“Busyness…can be a way to avoid God, the meaning of life, and life itself.” –Sidney Macaulay
COVID-19 and Busyness
Many online articles attempt to answer the question, “How can I stay busy when I am stuck at home during the pandemic?” While it is true that some of us are needing to find ways to occupy our time while being stuck at home, there are many more of us who are busier than ever.
Parents who are now working remotely have the additional challenge of keeping their young children busy and on-task with school assignments while they themselves struggle with work-life balance. Those who have lost their jobs or been furloughed are now busy and stressed finding new employment. And of course, medical staff, supermarket employees, and other essential workers are busier than ever.
The coronavirus will likely change how we work, when we work and why we work. Many employers will find that they can let people work remotely and still grow their business. Employees who are working from home for the first time in their lives may find that they love the flexibility of setting their own hours and/or not having to commute. In addition, many people are taking a new look at what matters most in their work and personal lives.
The coronavirus is forcing us to hit the pause button in many aspects of our day-to-day lives, giving us the opportunity to re-evaluate our lives. As Amina Ispahani, a counselor and psychotherapist says, “Hopefully we will be able to see that ‘busyness’ does not equal productivity.” Being busy is not equated to being competent, successful, and valuable. For many of us, this timeout in life provides an opportunity to consider God’s perspective on busyness and how best to use our gifts for the glory of God.
We are Still a 24/7 Society
In spite of the coronavirus, we are still a “24/7” society. At any hour of any day of the week we can shop, watch news, be entertained, find information, communicate via email and Facebook — and work. Perhaps you now find your life is full of Zoom meetings which propel you mercilessly from one activity and one group of people to another. And you are not alone. Ask almost anyone how they are doing and you will probably get a response like, “I’m really busy.”
Working More than 9 to 5
While working from home has benefits such as no commuting and more flexible hours, an article by Ladders reports, "As most Americans continue to adjust to working from home during quarantine, the number of hours workers save on commuting hassles is being redistributed into their work." The article describes that one company, NordVPN, found that the average workday has increased by 40%, or an extra three hours. In a press release, Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN reports, "The data as well revealed that employees are starting work earlier, but finishing at the same time. This is perhaps because people are not commuting, and instead of sitting in traffic, they choose to work.”
Even prior to the coronavirus, long working hours have caused a lack of balance in our callings as parents, friends, and family members. “The average workweek is now up to 47 hours, four more than two decades ago. A Gallup Poll found that 44 percent of Americans call themselves ‘workaholics.’” Downsizing, mergers and decreased revenues have created workplaces with fewer workers and increased workloads. Commutes have become longer as people work further from home and traffic congestion increases. In addition, both parents work in many families. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 60% of marriages are dual-career. Not surprisingly, “lack of time” is cited in one study as the biggest challenge to their marriages.
Too Busy for God
Overscheduled. Overworked. Overcommitted. Overwhelmed. Our busyness can be the product of doing lots of good things. But are they the good things that we should be doing? Busyness can be a very effective calling blocker. For example, when Kevin served on our church’s committee that sought to fill church board openings, the most common response to his inquiries about interest in serving was “I’m too busy.” Approximately only 25% of those who attend church are involved in any ministry/volunteer service in their church. God calls us to active service using our gifts within the church, not to a passive, self-centered consumerism of its programs. Many of us are missing our callings within the Body of Christ.
Even busyness “working for God” can be a calling blocker. Oswald Chambers urged, “Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him…. The one aim of the call of God is the satisfaction of God, not a call to do something for Him.”
Thomas Kelly observed that “too many well-intentioned people are so preoccupied with the clatter of effort to do something for God that they don’t hear Him asking that He might do something through them.”
Our activity and productivity can prevent us from hearing God’s voice and discerning his guidance. How easily we become compulsive people who ignore the Caller while frenetically seeking and doing what we imagine (and hope) to be our calling. We are just too busy to consult with the One who calls. Activity, productivity, and accomplishment become our masters. Many of us live our lives as driven people rather than ones who are called.
The Good Samaritan Experiment
Malcom Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point, describes a social experiment that two psychologists from Princeton University conducted that was based on the biblical story of the good Samaritan. The story describes how the Samaritan stops to help a wounded person on the road while a priest and a Levite passed by him offering no assistance.
In their experiment, seminary students were asked to give extemporaneous talks on a Bible story, including one group that was asked to speak about the good Samaritan parable. The group giving the talk on the Good Samaritan was instructed to walk across campus to a nearby building where they would speak to a group of undergraduates. To some of them, they said, “Oh, you are late, they were expecting you a few minutes ago, you better hurry”, to others they said, “It will be a few minutes before they are ready for you, but you might as well head over now.”
While walking to the building each student encountered an actor who was bent over coughing and groaning. The assumption would be that those speaking on the Good Samaritan would be the ones most likely to stop and help. The researchers found, however, that it made no significant impact on whether they stopped. Instead, it appeared that the one thing that mattered was whether the student was in a rush. They found that only 10% of those who felt rushed to get to deliver the talk on time stopped to help the man. Of those who were told they had a few extra minutes, 63% stopped!
Here is what the researchers, John Darley and Daniel Batson, said, “It’s hard to think of a context in which norms concerning helping those in distress are more salient than for a person thinking about the Good Samaritan, and yet it did not significantly increase helping behavior. Indeed, on several occasions, a seminary student going to give his talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan literally stepped over the victim as he hurried on his way.”
What Does All This Mean For Us As Called, not Driven People
The following are some suggestions to help you make wise choices in how you spend your days, so that you are investing your time in the things that really matter instead of getting trapped on the treadmill of perpetual busyness:
1. Slow down to hear God’s “still, small voice.”
Within our “plugged in” cell phone lives, where we have the latest news about the world and our friends at our fingertips, God reminds us (I Kings 19:12) to quiet ourselves in order to hear from Him. Then we can be guided by God’s word and His Spirit to make the right choices in life like helping those in need. Help us Lord to quiet ourselves in the crazy, busy world so that I can hear your voice and do your will.
2. Scrutinize your schedule.
Take a large sheet of paper and divide it into five columns. In the first column, list all of your activities and commitments in a typical month. (You could list all that you were doing before the pandemic.) If you have a spouse and/or children, make this a family activity with each family member adding to the list.
In the second column, write down the amount of time it requires each week (include driving time, preparation time, etc.). In the third column, write down why you (or another family member) began doing the activity. In the fourth column list the “pros” of doing this activity; in the fifth column the “cons.” (The pros and cons should take into account the impact on both the individual and the family.)
3. Re-create your schedule based on God’s priorities for your life.
God gives each of us enough time to do all the things he wants us to do. Ask the Lord to help you (and your family) create a schedule that reflects the life he intends you to live. God may very well be calling you to do less, not more! This is not an easy process; you may feel like you are in uncharted territory.
In When I Relax, I Feel Guilty, Tim Hansel describes our condition of suffering “from a nagging sense of guilt that no matter how much [we] do, it is never quite enough….Words like wonder, joy, rest, and freedom have become faded replicas of what Christ taught. Time becomes a tyrant instead of a friend.”
This “time-out” during the pandemic gives each of us the opportunity to think about the choices we want to make when we again have the freedom to engage in activities with others.
4. Commit your schedule and intended activities for the day to God each morning.
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in making wise use of your time that day. Ask God to enable you to live your calling “24/7” each day.
The Great Count Down
The way you spend our days is the way you spend your life. Let us join with the psalmist in praying, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom…. And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:12, 17 NASU). God gifts you “24/7” with a new day; 24 invaluable, irreplaceable hours of time to manage. We need guidance from the Creator of time so that we use the hours of the day to live our callings, and not run by or away from them.
If you are busy in work that doesn’t energize you, and/or you are not sure how to wisely use your time, we invite you to explore how career counseling and professional career testing can help you to discover and live your calling all within a balanced life.
Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck are the authors of Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life. As National Certified Career Counselors and Life Calling Coaches, they are recognized experts in helping people identify their giftedness and find their calling in work and life. If you are interested in career coaching and testing to discover work that fits your God-given design; or would like assistance with writing a powerful resume, interviewing effectively, finding job openings, or other aspects of a successful job search, you can schedule a free consultation session at www.ChristianCareerCenter.com. You can also find more resources at www.ChurchJobsOnline.com and www.ChristianJobFair.com.