Maybe you’re a type-A overachiever. Or maybe you inevitably end up with a to-do list that won’t end. These days, just about all of us accept our busyness with combination of pride and exhaustion.
For ambitious, go-getter ladies, it’s easy to let being busy fuel us, convincing ourselves that it’s part of our success. But we’re finally hearing from more successful women who are resisting the constant cycle of busy and forging another way.
Entrepreneur Lara Casey describes getting caught up in “the kind of busy that edges out intentional living” before realizing her busiest, hardest-working, least-restful years were not her most purposeful, or even her most productive. A recovering perfectionist, she writes about what it meant to rethink her sense of control and her time in her book Making It Happen, excerpted below.
Later this month, Her.meneutics will also review Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed, about the social factors that have pushed out our leisure time, and Jessica Turner’s Fringe Hours, about moms making time for themselves, so if this message speaks to you, stay tuned.
- Kate Shellnutt, Her.meneutics editor
Mathematically speaking, it seems logical that working more hours means more productivity. So working 14-hour days to get ahead and never taking a weekend off so you can make it happen would mean you would be making more money too. The equation would be: More Time Spent Working + Some More Work = More Productivity, More Money, and, therefore, More Happiness. Right?
It’s easy to get this whole “work hard” thing all twisted, though. Our motives easily morph into wanting more instead of wanting our Maker, taking things to an extreme that God did not intend. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that in order to get ahead, we can’t rest—except on an occasional vacation (where we take our cell phones and laptops to the pool so we don’t get behind)—and then when we are 65, we can retire and slow down.
In past years I lived in fear of never being good/popular/worthy/successful/accomplished enough. I thought that working around the clock and never taking a break was something to be praised. Oh, friend, those days were so hard. And so unproductive in the big picture. I believed that the number in my bank account and the number of followers I had on social media somehow equated to my worth—and in order to increase those numbers, I had to increase my work hours and decrease rest. But where was that really getting me? God designed good work coupled with good rest. He did not design the extremes of busy and lazy. And he gives us a way out of both.
Busy means having a great deal to do, which is not a bad thing in many cases. But when the things we are spending our time on aren’t purposeful—when we use busy as an excuse, or when being busy begins to rule our lives—that’s when things get messy. I’m defining busy in this context as the kind of busy that edges out intentional living. It’s a kind of busy I know well.
Busy stems from the fear of never being enough. Busy strives, going to unhealthy extremes. If we stay busy, how can our lives be meaningless, right? We are full, packed, booked, needed, scheduled, and pulled from all directions. Busy covers our emptiness. Busy says, I am in control. Busy’s sister, Lazy, is cut from the same cloth, but expresses herself in a different way. Lazy stems from that same fear of never being enough and apathetically withdraws. Lazy is often afraid to fail, try, or be anything significant. Lazy says, Someone else can do the work.
You may feel the same way I did, that being busy—working at the expense of everything else—is admirable, temporary, and necessary. But busy keeps us from making real life happen. Stop the glorification of busyness. The More Work + More Work = Success equation does not add up, no matter how you stack your figures. You could even be doing a whole lot of good, purposeful work, but never resting can leave you exhausted, going through the motions to try to get through. Your work will suffer. Purpose will dwindle in favor of survival. Life is too short to spend an entire season working hard, thinking you’ll live later. Later may never come, and you may find yourself working 24-7 forever at the expense of what matters most. You may feel your life completely slipping away, like I did.
Who says you have to work seven days a week to get ahead? Who made the rule that you have to scrape to the top to be successful? Who says you can’t take a break? Who made up these rules? Not God. If God—the Creator of heaven and earth—rested from all his work (Gen. 2:2), who are we to think that we don’t need rest too?
The world says: My Life + More Work = Financial Success and Lasting Happiness. God offers us a different equation for a true success and a purposeful life:
My Life + God’s Way = Living On Purpose
God’s way is the way of purpose. Of living intentionally in order to love others. God’s way is the way of rest coupled with meaningful work. God’s way is the way of true balance and lasting success.
God’s way is not about us. God’s way means less of us and more of him. God’s way isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it.
Following God’s success equation means you always have him there to turn to and ask for guidance when you lose your way. God’s way brings freedom, joy, and contentment. Following God’s true success equation eliminates busy and lazy and replaces them with intentional work and a deeper rest than you can get from a tropical island.
Lara Casey, a lifelong believer in the impossible, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Southern Weddings, which encourages couples to plan a meaningful beginning to married life. Lara's first book, Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live on Purpose, released in December 2014 (Thomas Nelson Publishers). She frequently speaks on goal-setting, mission-centered business, and faith and hosts the annual Making things Happen Conference. Lara lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with her husband and daughter, Grace.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more