Confronting the Curse of Busyness

This is a guest post by Coach Steve Scanlon of Building Champions, the company I use and recommend for executive coaching. Steve has accrued more than 8,000 one-on-one hours coaching business professionals and is also an active blogger at “Reality and Hope.” He and his family live in Portland, Oregon. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

The literary giant, C.S. Lewis, wrote many wonderful books and stories in the mid-twentieth century. Among his finest works is The Screwtape Letters, in which Lewis portrayed two demons with the malicious intent of wreaking havoc in the life of the “Patient” assigned to them by their dark master. Their ploys were crafty, filled with accusations and lies.

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Whether or not you believe they are real, the story compels us to consider what these demons might write about us today. What tricks and treats would they deploy to distract us from our purpose and lead us astray?

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Certainly one key strategy would be this: Keep the subjects burdened with busyness!

In other words, make them feel guilty if they are not producing something. Use every possible means—from e-mails and texts, to calendars and systems—to fill their lives with infinite busyness. Tie their self-worth to what they do rather than who they are. Cast a spell of confusion on their minds so that they no longer believe they have time for the things that once brought them true fulfillment and peace.

This, my friends, is the Curse of Busyness. And it has too many of us in its clutches.

In another letter, more powerful than Lewis’, the Apostle Paul referred to the fact that our life’s struggles aren’t against each other, but rather it is us against the rulers and authorities of a dark world (see Ephesians 6:12). It is these “authorities” that are in part to blame for our incessant busyness.

The good news is that we can do something about this. A rebellion is brewing, but this rebellion is personal. No group needs to be created, and no committee formed (because let’s face it, that would only lead to more busyness). Instead, we must make a private pact to turn away from the calendar-jamming world we have created, and make way for being. We need to get back to reading, reflecting, and playing.

I beseech you to restore to your life a few activities that have no measurement, no economic gain, and no benefit other than the virtue of being. Play an instrument, listen to music, go for a walk, or simply make time to sit and listen to someone you love.

Too many of us have swallowed the lie that we just don’t have the time for this, as our parched souls compress more and more into our days. Let us reject this lie by fighting against the curse of endless busyness. You are a mighty warrior in this battle when you make a choice to enrich your life by doing something that the world says is fruitless.

The best news of all is that this battle requires no great plan. But it does require great courage.

So what say you? Will you join us? We hope you will—and hope is no small thing.

Question: What will it take for you to join the rebellion? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Art

    The problem is… for me at least… is that THE CHURCH is the #1 source of the curse of busyness in my life. I’m on staff at a church of 275 that tries to keep up the activity level of a church of 1275. It is unbearable at times to say the least. What to do?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Just say, “no.” Someone has to have the courage to start.

  •…now-what-to-do/ Katherine Hyde

    My aging body has done this for me to some extent. I just can’t go round the clock anymore. But I still have more crammed into my days than I can realistically accomplish with the energy I have. I’ve been trying to cut back for years, but everything I do seems essential either to my family or to myself. That doesn’t mean I don’t agree completely with everything you said–it’s just finding a way that’s hard.

  • Anonamous


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  • Mike Skiff

    Great post! Enjoyed the references to The Screwtape Letters – which I feel is one of the greatest books of our time. It is still as relevant – if not more relevant – today than it was back when it was published. Busyness is certainly an epidemic in our society – one which I battle on a daily basis when I get to work and am faced with the daily decision to be busy, or be intentional with how I spend my time that day.

  • Donyes

    great post! convicting and true.

  • Brett

    For those for are more characterized by “Achieve! Achieve! Achieve!” …great words.

    But It seems to me that when considering how much time Americans waste watching television, there is a large percentage of the population that needs to consider how to spend more time being productive!

    • Brett

      I want to clarify that I understand the difference between busyness and productivity. But I think the norm is that the highly productive types are the ones that have the hardest time with the curse of busyness.

  • Vicki Walkden

    I love this post. It’s only in switching off, and being in peace and quiet that true creativity happens, even if we don’t know about it at the time. More of these kind of posts please, they’re inspiring. Too many people in my circles don’t get it, like they’re in denial or something. I like inspiring posts. It’s cheered me up tbh.

  • Joy Argow

    Brilliant Michael! My favourite line ‘The good news is that we can do something about this. A rebellion is brewing, but this rebellion is personal. “

  • Meg Steele

    The easiest way to overcome incessant busyness is to spend time with a child. Playing is Job 1 and even work is play to a child. Spend an hour or two playing CandyLand or building with Legos, and listening to children imagining new worlds and solving the problems of their worlds.

  • FGHart

    The saying goes “if you want something done ask a busy person to do it.” I suppose the thinking is that they will be too busy to argue. Sometimes it’s easier to do a thing than to argue against it.

    In not saying “no” or by not finding a way to manage the clutter we can get buried in an avalanche of things to do. I’m thinking specifically of things like e-mail, which have a tendency to get out of control if we don’t stay busy or create a system for effectively managing “incoming”.

    Along this vein I’ve spent the last 2 weeks struggling with NaNoWriMo (& this touches on several excellent posts/reposts from this site: being over-committed, announcing your goals, etc). Ironically, the novel’s theme is on the demons that plague us. This post gives me food for thought that may well be digested into material for the story. I’m blessed by this morning’s visit, as always!

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  • Jennifer

    I commented last week on your Google Reader post mentioning using iGoogle as well.. Here is an example of a great benefit for putting the blogs you love and trust most in the iGoogle box.. I’ve been too BUSY to keep up with my Google Reader for about a week, but I went to search in Google for soemthing and couldn’t resist clicking on this link. GREAT guest post and much needed. Thanks!

  • Janice Campbell

    Coach Scanlon is absolutely right when he says that “Too many of us have swallowed the lie that we just don’t have the time…, as our parched souls compress more and more into our days.” I often write and speak on the topic of “Making Time for Things that Matter,” and I’ve observed the same thing. Busyness is truly a curse, and leads to a pinched, narrow life. Great post!

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  • Ken McFarland

    Ah, yes. The plague Charles Hummel called “The Tyranny of the Urgent.” Hurrymania…always more to do and less time to do it. I’m not immune, and I know how destructive time stress can be. I love your invitation to rebellion and will make some way to join in….today.

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  • Taylre

    For me, playing an instrument IS what makes me busy :| And trying to get into a good college.

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  • Jeff Randleman

    This is an area I’ve recently become convicted in. In fact, I’ve already booked a series of personal retreat days into my calendar for 2011, days that I plan on just getting away with the Word and a journal for the purpose of slowing down and listening to God.

    The problem is that the rest of the staff wants to join me. Maybe I haven’t communicated the purpose of these days clearly enough…

  • Georgiana

    It’s very important to take time out of life’s hecticness to just “be” and have some alone time to relax and rejuvenate. Taking time to focus on God’s meaningful Word adjusts our mindset on what’s truly valuable in life and where our focus should concentrate on — genuine relationships with our family, friends, coworkers and community. :-)

  • Dr. Brad Semp

    Hi Michael –

    Thank you for allowing Steve to share such an insightful post via your blog platform. Busyness is no doubt a “hidden evil” of society and one that unknowingly sabotages the dreams of so many talented individuals. I believe, however, that one by one we can shed light on this prevalent problem to help others to get out of busyness, accomplish one’s dreams, and to do so with a life filled with fun and enjoyment.

    Great post!

    Dr. Brad Semp

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