A paradox has emerged in this new millennium: people have enhanced quality of life, but at the same time they are adding to their stress levels by taking on more than they have resources to handle. It’s as though their eyes were bigger than their stomachs.
– David Allen, Getting Things Done
It’s more than likely that you’ve heard a message, read a book, or done some thinking about “busyness” in the last year or two. Slightly less likely, but still entirely possible, is that you’ve heard a message, read a book, or done some thinking on “gluttony” during the same time.
It’s highly unlikely that the two were connected. But maybe they should have been.
Why do we say yes to so much? Is it because we are guilt-ridden, co-dependent angst monkeys who lack the willpower to say no? No. We say no to a million things a day. Usually to things that are good for us, but still…when we want to, we know how to say no just fine, thank you.
Is it because we have a drive towards self justification that works itself out in our work and an ever-increasing load of commitments through which we seek to earn the favor of others and God? In part, yes…
But maybe it also has something to do with our appetites. You know, our appetites for recognition and “importance.” To be liked, appreciated, admired. Even our appetite to “get things done.” And honestly, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But like all things in this broken world, left unchecked by the Spirit and un-submitted to God, our appetite to be liked and our desire to achieve will run out of control.
I’ve been thinking about busyness as though it is a problem to be managed – increase my productivity and I could, of course, accept and keep more commitments, more on my plate… more to feed my ego.
Maybe the problem with busyness isn’t it. Maybe it’s me. Me and my ego and pride.
Conceived of this way, busyness isn’t an issue of time management and productivity, it’s an issue of desire. When is enough, enough? When am I doing enough good things through which that God-given desire to feel productive and useful in this world can be fulfilled? When do I cross the line between finding satisfaction in the good day’s work I put in and trying to find my identity through an ever-increasing load of ego-enhancing commitments?
I spend a lot of time thinking about how people can be more productive in ministry. And don’t get me wrong, I want to continue to work on productivity/time management and all the rest. But until I work through the inner issues of why I try to do so much, all the productivity hacks in the word really just add up to enabling.
In other words, most days I don’t need any more help being productive or managing the stress of work. I think I need help in managing my appetite for applause and the stress of opportunity.
I fear my busyness is simply a sign of my gluttony.
Bob is the Director of Equipping and Spiritual Formation for the Ecclesia Network.
He’s the co-author of Eldership and the Mission of God: Equipping Teams for Faithful Church Leadership as well as Ministry Mantras: Language for Cultivating Kingdom Culture.
He planted the Evergreen Community in Portland, OR in 2004 and holds a DMin from George Fox/Portland Seminary.
Bob currently lives in Boise, ID with his wife, Amy, his kids, Jack, Jane, and Josie and his dog, Bentley.