I knew I had a problem with busyness when every time someone prayed for me they would mention the verse 'Be still, and know that I am God'(Psalm 46:10).
I was a speedaholic - too busy for God, too busy to build any strong or even close relationships and my health was suffering. I wasn't alone. I interviewed more than 1,000 people for my book and discovered that:
- 75% agree that there is never enough time to get through the things they need to do each day.
- 64% don't feel that they give their close relationships enough time.
- 44% see their best friends only once a month or less.
- 63% feel regularly stressed or tired.
We can't have great relationships if we are too stressed, too tired or too busy. We can fool ourselves that a slower day is coming but the truth is that it rarely does. If we really want to lead less stressful lives then we need to make different choices.
How to navigate a new course
I've spent the last ten years trying to find a new way to be. These days I try to be less like a motorboat and more like a sailing boat, carried by the wind. Sometimes the wind is strong and I travel fast but sometimes there are periods of stillness where I have to be content to move slowly, if at all. I can't pretend that I've discovered all the answers, but here are some helpful questions that I have learnt to ask myself.
1. Where is my destination?
It can be helpful to look at the bigger picture. Where am I heading? Who are the people and what are the things that God wants me to focus on? Am I giving my best time, effort and resources to these things or am I spreading myself too thin? What needs to change?
2. How am I planning to stay on course?
If we want to be deliberate about spending time with the most important people in our lives, we may need to plan it into our diaries. That may seem contrived but it will mean that the hours, days, weeks or months don't slip by without us spending quality or even quantity time with out favourite people.
3. What is the wind doing now?
I've watched others with better balance in their lives than me and I have noticed that what they have is rhythm. Their lives aren't filled with a constant stream of activities but rather they are punctuated with times of stillness.
The people I know who do any or all of the following are the least stressed people I know:
- go for daily walks
- start their day in prayer, reading the Bible or silent contemplation
- take their full lunch hour
- make sure at least one day a week is spent 'not working'
- take all their holiday allowance
- say 'no' when they have to
These people are also, interestingly enough, those who seem to get the most done when they are active. No doubt their relationships are healthier too.
4. How can I keep reviewing my situation?
This may mean taking time out once or twice a year and asking myself whether there are different choices I could be making. Are there ways I could simplify my life? Are there things that I could give up or delegate?
Enjoying the journey
While it is helpful to look at the long term and to navigate our route, it is good to enjoy the journey and not just fixate on the destination or completing our 'to-do' list!
How can we find contentment today and not spend our time worrying about tomorrow?
People who have faced death or have been through a serious illness often find it easier to live in the present. Rita is in her late thirties and the mother of two young children. Six months ago she had a heart attack.
"My long-term goals are to enjoy my grandchildren, to suffocate in a bear hug from my gown-up son and to watch my daughter walk down the aisle... but just in case none of those happen, I'm focusing on today," she says. "Every day I inhale the scent of my son's downy fair hair and I marvel at the softness of his little hands and feet. I laugh with my daughter and squeeze her tight, telling her that I love her. I have learned to be grateful for now, for this moment."
And that is the challenge; to make sure that we aren't too busy to love the people that God has put in our lives. Let's take the opportunity today to show them that we care because that slower day we're holding out for may never come.
Sarah Abell's book Inside Out – How to have authentic relationships with everyone in your life (Hodder and Stoughton) is out now.
You can follow Sarah on Twitter @nakedhedgehogs