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A Matter of Priority

Why you can’t be too busy for you

Busyness has become a celebrated lifestyle today. If people aren’t busy, we think less of them. In Overwhelmed, Brigid Schulte writes, about time researcher Ann Burnett, who studies Christmas letters and notes the rise of people sharing about their busy lives over the past fifty years. Her research blew my mind. Schulte writes, “Somewhere toward the end of the twentieth century, Burnett and other researchers contend, busyness became not just a way of life, but glamorous. Now, they say, it is a sign of high social status…Busyness is now the social normal that people feel they must con- form to, Burnett says, or risk being outcasts.”

This lifestyle of busyness makes it a big shift in perspective for women to acknowledge that they are not too busy for themselves, but that is exactly the shift that needs to happen. Women today must make themselves a priority. I know this shift in thinking was hard for me. Lies like “I’m the mom, I need to make sure my children’s outfits are perfect,” “I’m the wife, I need to have a spotless house,” and “I’m the business professional, I need to check email as soon as I wake up” repeatedly poisoned my thinking. Once I freed myself from the bondage of perfection and embraced a lifestyle that made time for my passions, I was happier in all of my pursuits and responsibilities.

Of course, I still have days when these lies creep into my head. But overall, I no longer feel like a bad housewife when I choose to craft instead of organizing my linen closet. I no longer have mom guilt when I choose to spend an occasional Saturday morning getting a massage and meeting a friend for coffee instead of hanging out with my kids. I no longer become stressed when my house isn’t perfect because I choose to sew instead of worrying about scrubbing floors before having guests over for dinner.

During a lunch date a few years ago, my friend Jenny and I were catching up about the busyness of our lives and balancing family, work, and home responsibilities. She and I are similar in a lot of ways. We both have two young kids and work full time outside the home.

She said to me, “I don’t know how you do it all, Jess. I really don’t. I’d love to know your secret.”

I started asking how she spends her time at home, and she confessed that she is consumed with cleaning and organizing. She said she spent an entire Saturday cleaning cupboards, washing them out, organizing household supplies, and so on.

I laughed and said, “Well, there you go! I would never spend my Saturday that way. Ever. I don’t care if the cleaning supplies are a mess under the sink. I would much rather be taking photos, writing, or doing something fun with my kids.”

I encouraged her to try to let some of that “perfect house” guilt go and make time to just read a book, go for a walk, or do something just for her. I reminded her of an important truth: your kids are never going to remember the condition of your cabinets, but they will remember what their home felt like. They will remember if their mom was always cleaning, or if she was relaxed enough to abandon the dusting to go hang out on the deck. They will remember whether mom was always frustrated by “another mess” or allowed them the joy of playing with a fort left up for days in the living room.

Jenny is like so many people I know who say they are too busy for themselves. I have learned, though, that busyness is not an excuse I can afford to give because making time for my passions matters. So I’ve eradicated the “I’m too busy” excuse from my vernacular—and I want to encourage you to do the same.

When people hear that I am a scrapbooker, they usually respond with something like this: “That’s so cool. I’m terrible at printing my photos. Honestly, I don’t know how you find time to do it. I’m too busy..”

To which I reply, “No, you are not.”

You are never too busy to make time for what you love. It’s just a matter of prioritizing—evaluating how you spend your days and dedicating time for what you value. If something is really important to you, you will find a way to fit it into your life. To the people who say they are too busy to scrapbook, I’d say that memory keeping in that manner is simply not a passion or priority to them. If it were, they could find the time.

Scrapbooking might not be your thing. That’s perfectly okay. But something is.

Most of the time, if I sit and talk with a woman long enough, I can discover what her “scrapbooking equivalent” is. She likes to cook. She knits. She trains for marathons. (I will always say I am too busy to train for a marathon!) Everyone has something, and it is important to identify those unique interests and passions we have.

But because life is busy, it can be challenging to do this. Too often, we have a plethora of options for how to spend our time and yet we pick the item that is not for us. We say yes to volunteering because we think we are supposed to. We make elaborate birthday cakes (when we don’t even like to bake) because Pinterest has made that the norm. And we go to the networking meeting because everyone else does and we worry about what others will think if we don’t go.

This way of living is stifling our joy. It must stop. Time is a sacred gift and should be spent well, doing things that make sense for our family and ourselves. Our days should not be filled with a litany of pursuits that drain us. Women must shift their perspectives from “I should do this because…” to “I want to do this.”

Excerpted from The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. Copyright © 2015 by Jessica N. Turner. Used by permission of Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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