Three types of busyness

The other day Doug Fields wrote about battling busyness in ministry and offered these 6 action steps.
  1. Declare war on busyness
  2. Go public
  3. Clean the piles
  4. Go to bed earlier
  5. Journal to find the “yes”
  6. Quit lying to yourself

This is such a crucial topic. As I unpacked these action steps I sliced and diced a particular segment of the argument.

Forgive the introspection. But I want to dive deeper. Specifically, I think there are three different types of busyness in my life.

  1. Seasonal busyness. When I was a youth pastor FT, that was September & December. September because we launched everything, December because it was Christmas and that’s always crazy in a church. Every type of career faces these… I think they are pretty normal.
  2. Legitimate busyness you just have to push through. This last season was like that for me. Summer 2011 will go down as my most busy ever. But it might also go down as the biggest season of blessing our family has ever experienced. God blessed our socks off for no good reason. It’s been my task just to keep up.
  3. Illegitimate busyness. Where I’m staying busy to hide from something else OR looking crazy busy so people think I’m important.

As I peal back the onion one more layer and look at busyness types 1 & 2– Pride isn’t the right word for describing how I feel about these. But there’s a certain level of satisfaction in pushing through something and acknowledging hard work for what it is.

Then there is #3. For me, that’s where the shame and accountability come into play because I can convince myself that I am so busy for such a good purpose. I’m thankful I have friends in my life who call my crap. I try to label 3 as 1 & 2 sometimes… but a true friend knows the difference and doesn’t let me get away with it.

One thing I know about busyness. I hate when people start a conversation with: “I know you’re busy, but…” I always want to reply by saying, “I’m not hat busy, really.” But then I always wonder… “Why do I look so busy? What is it about my demeanor that makes people think I’m busy even if I’m not?

What do you think? Are there legitimate and illegitimate types of busyness? Or am I just trying to slice/dice this to justify my behavior? 

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

4 comments

  1. This topic has been top of mind for me for over a year now. As my wife and I have worked to establish our relationship and new marriage, we have sought to simplify our lives and had both success and failure and now, with the commencement of the ministry year and moving into a new home, the pressures on our time have multiplied.

    I’m sensitive to the concept not just because I personally feel tired (like your thoughts that Doug quoted in his post – although I’ve been there), my sensitivity is a result more of a comment by my brother. Just over a year ago, we were sitting down to dinner and he flat out told me that he just couldn’t believe the pace I run at and that frankly, it stunk having to try to find time with me because I was so busy. That hit me hard and I resolved to fix the issue because I don’t want to be available on a schedule. I want to be available when people need me.

    The challenge is that I actually think there’s a fourth category to add to the above list. It’s the black hole of legitimate/illegitimate busyness. Ministry work is, for the most part, all good, legitimate stuff and there is no shortage of things we should be doing. We can even likely use the excuse that we are gifted for specific ministries so how dare we turn them down. But the reality is that we are called to prioritize things in our lives. Our families need us. Our friends need us and both of those groups have been placed in our lives purposefully by God Himself. We need to find a balance between program and relationship.

    I’m striving for it and appreciate both your and Doug’s comments on the matter.

    1. I love your brothers honesty. Having those people in my life has been very helpful. My wife cuts right to the chase. She’ll say, “So… this is what success looks like?” [Complete with air quotes around ‘success’] (ouch!)

  2. I like this categorization of busyness, but I would say that all of those could be harmful if you let them. You need to guard your family time as well as your time with God. Any busyness that eliminates either of those times significantly and consistently needs to be re-evaluated.

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