Is my life too busy?
Busy; busyness: The state of having or being involved in many activities
I remember stepping off the plane and standing on European soil for the first time. It was early morning; 7 am or so, I think. We had just arrived in central Europe to work with some missionary friends who lived in that country for the week.
There were some old men gathered outside the airport, and they were enjoying what seemed to be a vodka-like drink. We were told that folks in that part of the world had a different sense of time than we Westerners did. And as the week unfolded, we were confronted with that reality over and over again…people in Europe had a different sense of time, and different practice of time than we did.
It's not that clocks tick slower in Europe; but Europeans definitely think about time differently . They are not controlled by it, and they are not beholden to it. They do not seek to fill up their days from sun-up to sun-down. Sometimes, they don’t even pay attention to time. They are not constantly looking at the clock, and what struck me most was that they did not hold their time with one another at the mercy of the clock. If time ran late, it ran late.
-The Europeans I met on that trip, and on several trips since that time have shown me a different way to live…a leisurely way of living. It's not that Europeans are lazy people; far from it. But they are leisurely when it comes to time. They spend their time intentionally with others...
Leisurely: unhurried; without haste.
-Rather than leisurely, Americans are living for, “What’s next!”
Americans are Enslaved to Busyness
-The average American lives an incredibly busy life. In fact, a 2019 study claimed that the average participant claims 26 minutes of free-time per week. —Per week! Can you believe that!? — Some of you probably can. The study goes on to say that work and other commitments have so crowded out unhurried time that things like household maintenance, personal health, and bills are going neglected.
A 2018 Pew Research study found that 60% of American adults at least sometimes feel too busy to enjoy life.
That same study found that 74% of Parents with children under the age of 18 felt too busy to enjoy life. That number increases when the Parents are also working a full-time job.
-Another study shows that since the 1960’s, America’s work/life balance has steadily declined.
More people are working (70% of American homes now have both parents employed outside the home).
And the average American worker puts in 1,767 work hours per year, which is roughly 400-440 more hours per year than European workers.
If we do the math on that, it means that the average American worker is putting in 10-12 more work weeks per year.
That time comes from somewhere.
-In fact, we have become such a busy people that we have no real time left for relationships.
The U.S. Department of Labor released a time use study in 2021 that reports the average American adult spends only around 30 minutes per day communicating with others (in casual, non-essential ways).
American adults are spending as much, as sometimes more time playing video games as they are casually talking with people.
We are also reading less than 10 minutes a day.
-The Business Insider notes that our obsession with busyness has been passed along to our kids.
Kids have much less freetime that they once did; and almost no unstructured time. We’re packing their days full. They’re spending their days in school, doing hours of homework, looking at a screen, or being carted to the next activity…and this type of stress and busyness is not good for children.
We have lost the art of leisurely unstructured time.
And, as I note here, unstructured, unhurried leisure time is essential for healthy development in children.
Our Busyness Reveals our Priorities
Our busyness makes us prioritize what we do. When we pack our schedules as full and as tight as we can, we have to say “no” to those things that just aren’t important to us…or those things that aren’t as important.
When time becomes a premium commodity, we don’t spend it on the non-essentials.
For the most part, no one makes us spend our time a certain way.
Most of us have to go to work, but outside of that, we have fairly strong control over what we do and how we live.
Reality Check: We’re Not Too Busy.
-Interestingly, a June 2022 study showed that the average American works 34.5 hours per week. That average varies by industry and education level, and some workers are averaging closer to 50 hours per week; and then there are those who go above that.
The reality is, even if you put in 80 hours a week at work (workaholic status), that still leaves a lot of time leftover.
One week contains 168 hours. If we account for normal sleep (7-8 hours/night), that leaves 112-119 waking hours during the week. If you work 80 of those hours, you still have 30+ hours of unstructured time. If you work a more normal week, let's say 35-45 hours, you have closer to 75 or 80 hours of time at your disposal.
-So, think about that for a minute. The average American has somewhere between 50-70 hours of free-time during a normal week, and what are we doing with it?
We’re packing it full…as full as we can. So full, that many adults are reporting 26 unaccounted for minutes per week.
We’re packing our schedules so full that we’re ignoring personal health, home and vehicle maintenance, and needed human communication.
And the stats would also show that along with these declining realities, less and less people are going to Church.
Now, obviously, this free-time is when we have family time, run errands, shop for groceries, do household chores…but that accounts for maybe half of that time.
The reality is we have forgotten the need for rest and sabbath. We have forgotten the discipline of slowness. When we fill our lives full to the limit, we are not following the way of Jesus Himself.
Unhurried with Jesus
Jesus lived an unhurried life. He wasn’t rushed. He always had time to interrupt His schedule for the sake of someone in need. He spent unhurried hours with His disciples and with others. He dined with friends and strangers. He spent hours and hours in prayer.
Jesus was not a busy Person.
Jesus was not a hurried Person.
And yet, He lived the most successful human life in the history of the world.
He accomplished much. He invested deeply. He lived with deep purpose.
He also purposefully took time away from friends, family, and work for quiet, uninterrupted slow time with God. He pulled away and rested with the Father.
Busyness is A Threat to our Spiritual Health
Our lives, and our schedules have an effect on us — and for us parents, our schedules have an effect on our kids. In fact, the way we spend our time teaches our children how and what to prioritize in their own lives.
Our time is a stewardship from God. Managing it is part of our worship.
Deut. 6:4-9 - “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
In other words, God is teaching us that the way we live ought to be God-centered in every way. Our living ought to be “toward God” no matter what we are doing. And our schedules are not only a part of that “living toward God,” our schedules have a lot to do with our ability to do just that.
When we pack our lives so full of things —even good things (sports, dance, vacations, day-trips, etc)—we leave no room for our rest, and for our families rest. When we're packed full, we leave no time for slow time with God. We also run the very real risk of leading ourselves into disobedience by allowing our schedules to crowd out needed time with His Church.
One of the more concerning trends I am starting to see, especially among young families, is a willingness to sacrifice Church involvement for extracurricular activities. The justifications come so easily...but ring so hollow.
We spend our time on what means the most to us.
What does your schedule reveal about what you love and who you love?