Do you feel you are too busy? If so, you are by no means alone. “Everybody, everywhere seems to be busy,” reports the magazine The Economist.
IN A 2015 survey of full-time workers in eight countries, many respondents said that they find it hard to meet the demands of both their work and their homelife. Causes included increased responsibilities at work or at home, rising expenses, and longer working hours. In the United States, for example, full-time employees report working an average of 47 hours a week. Nearly 1 in 5 claimed to work 60 hours or more!
In another survey, this one involving 36 countries, over one quarter of the respondents said that they often felt rushed even in their leisure time! Children too can be affected if overloaded with tightly scheduled activities.
When we constantly try to do more than time may allow, we can become stressed—victims of what has been termed “time pressure.” But is it possible to live a more balanced life? What role do our beliefs, choices, and goals play? First, consider four reasons why some try to do too much.
1 THE DESIRE TO PROVIDE WELL FOR ONE’S FAMILY
“I was involved in my work seven days a week,” says a father named Gary. “I did it because there was always something better that I wanted to give my kids. I wanted them to have the things I never had.” Despite their good motives, parents need to examine their priorities. Some studies suggest that both adults and children who attach a lot of importance to money and material possessions tend to be less happy, less satisfied with life, and less healthy physically than those who are not materialistic.
In an effort to position their children for future success, some parents overschedule both their children and themselves with various activities. Such well-meaning parents, says the book Putting Family First, “are acting like recreation directors on a turbo-charged family cruise ship.”
2 THE BELIEF THAT ‘MORE IS BETTER’
Advertisers try to convince us that we are depriving ourselves if we don’t buy their latest products. Says The Economist: “The explosion of available goods has only made time feel more crunched,” as consumers “struggle to choose what to buy or watch or eat” in the limited time they have available.
In the year 1930, a leading economist predicted that technological advancements would give workers more leisure time. How wrong he was! “Instead of quitting [work] early,” observed Elizabeth Kolbert, staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, people “find new things to need”—and these things cost money and time.
3 TRYING TO SATISFY THE EXPECTATIONS OF OTHERS
Some employees work grueling hours to avoid displeasing their employer. Coworkers can also exert pressure by making others feel guilty if they do not stay late. And then there is economic uncertainty, which can make people more willing to work longer hours or to be constantly on call.
Similarly, parents can feel pressured to conform to the hectic pace of other families. If they do not conform, they may feel guilty about “depriving” their children.
4 THE PURSUIT OF STATUS AND SELF-FULFILLMENT
Tim, who lives in the United States, says: “I loved my work, and I worked at full throttle all the time. I felt that I had to prove myself.”
Like Tim, many feel a strong connection between their self-image and their pace of life. The result? “Busyness has acquired social status,” says Elizabeth Kolbert, quoted earlier. She adds: “The busier you are the more important you seem.”
LEARN TO BE BALANCED
Leading a balanced life is good for our mental and physical health. Is it really possible, though, to cut back or slow down? Yes. Consider four suggestions:
1 CLARIFY YOUR VALUES AND GOALS
It is normal to want a measure of financial security. But how much money is enough? What constitutes success? Is it measured merely by income or material assets? Conversely, having too much rest or recreation can also increase time pressure.
Tim, quoted earlier, says: “My wife and I took a hard look at our life and decided to simplify it. We made a chart that showed our current situation and our new goals. We discussed the effects of past decisions and what we would need to do to reach our goals.”
2 REDUCE THE INFLUENCE OF CONSUMER CULTURE
The Bible advises us to control “the desire of the eyes.” (1 John 2:15-17) Advertising can fuel such desires, pushing a person to work long hours or to indulge in excessive or costly recreation. True, you may not be able to avoid all ads. But you can limit your exposure to them. You can also carefully consider what you actually need.
Keep in mind, too, the power that your associates can have on you. If they avidly pursue material things or if they measure success in material terms, you may be wise to seek out friends who have better priorities. “The one walking with the wise will become wise,” the Bible says.—Proverbs 13:20.
3 SET LIMITS ON WORK
Speak to your employer about your work and your priorities. And do not feel guilty about having a life away from your job. The book Work to Live says: “Those who put up boundaries between the job and home or take vacations find one consistent revelation: There is no apocalypse while you’re gone.”
Gary, quoted earlier, was financially comfortable, so he decided to reduce his working hours. “I talked with my family and suggested that we simplify our lifestyle,” he said. “Then we gradually took steps to do so. I also approached my employer with a proposal to work fewer days each week, and he agreed.”
4 MAKE FAMILY TIME A HIGH PRIORITY
Husbands and wives need to spend time together, and children need time with their parents. So avoid trying to match the pace of other families who are constantly on the go. “Declare some downtime,” Gary suggests, “and drop things that have a lower priority.”
When your family is together, do not let television, cell phones, or other devices isolate you from one another. Share at least one meal together each day, and use mealtimes to talk as a family. When parents heed that simple advice, their children enjoy greater well-being and do better at school.
In conclusion, ask yourself: ‘What do I want out of life? What do I want for my family?’ If you desire a happier and more meaningful life, set priorities that reflect the proven wisdom found in the Bible.