A Helpful Guide to Becoming Unbusy

“Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.” ― Lin Yutang

It was in this video from Jeff Shinabarger that I first heard the phrase, “‘Busy’ has become the new ‘Fine’.” As in, when you ask somebody how they were doing, they used to answer, “Fine.” But nowadays, everybody answers, “Busy.”

Seemingly, busy has become the default state for too many of our lives.

But is the state of busy really improving our lives? Certainly not. Statistics indicate 75% of parents are too busy to read to their children at night. There is a rising number of children being placed in day cares and after-school activities. Americans are having a hard time finding opportunity for vacations these days. 33% of Americans are living with extreme stress daily. And nearly 50% of Americans say they regularly lie awake at night because of stress. This is a problem. We have become too busy.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Busy is not inevitable. Each of us can take intentional steps to unbusy our lives.

Consider this Helpful Guide to Becoming Unbusy:

1. Realize that being busy is a choice. It is a decision we make. We are never forced into a lifestyle of busyness. The first, and most important, step to becoming less busy is to simply realize that our schedules are determined by us. We do have a choice in the matter. We don’t have to live busy lives.

2. Stop the glorification of busy. Busy, in and of itself, is not a badge of honor. In fact, directed at the wrong pursuits, it is actually a limiting factor to our full potential. It is okay to not be busy. Repeat this with me: It is okay to not be busy.

3. Appreciate and schedule rest. One of the reasons many of us keep busy schedules is we fail to recognize the value of rest. But rest is beneficial to our bodies, our minds, and our souls. Set aside one day per week for rest and family. Intentionally schedule it on your calendar. Then, guard it at all costs.

4. Revisit your priorities. Become more intentional with your priorities and pursuits in life. Determine again what are the most significant contributions you can offer this world. And schedule your time around those first. Busyness is, at its core, about misplaced priorities.

5. Own fewer possessions. The things we own take up far more time and mental energy than we realize. They need to be cleaned, organized, and maintained. And the more we own, the more time is required. Own less stuff. And find more time because of it.

6. Cultivate space in your daily routine. Take time for lunch. Find space in your morning to sit quietly before starting your day. Invest in solitude, meditation, or yoga. Find opportunity for breaks at work in between projects. Begin right away cultivating little moments of space and margin in your otherwise busy day.

7. Find freedom in the word, “no.” Seneca wrote, “Everybody agrees that no one pursuit can be successfully followed by a man who is preoccupied with many things.” Recognize the inherent value in the word “no.” Learning to say “no” to less important commitments opens your life to pursue the most important.

Busy does not need to define you. Unbusy is possible. It’s okay to be happy with a calm life. And doesn’t that sound wonderful right about now?

Written by Joshua Becker for his Becoming Minimalist blog. Please check out his article archives and his newsletter!

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