“I’m SO busy!”


Over the last 4 days I’ve been in Memphis, Arkansas, Minnesota and North Carolina. I’ve spoken at parents’ conferences and leadership conferences.

The common cry that I heard from parents and ministry leaders is, “I’m so busy!”

This phrase is accompanied by a desperate tone… almost a “help me” vibe.

This coming weekend I’ll be speaking at the National Youth Workers Convention and I’ll be addressing busyness and pace.

Here’s my simple question that I’d love to get feedback on… Why do you think you’re so busy? That’s it! Would love to read your comments (and I might steal them for a sound-byte in my talk this weekend).

Question: Why do you think you’re so busy? Weigh-in here (if you have time).


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  • Conor

    I think I am to busy because I lack an effective system for deciding what I will and won’t commit to doing. Everything sounds like a good idea but not everything can be accomplished. So I over commit because I want to do it all.

    • dougfields

      that’s good… why do you think you want to do it all?

  • http://www.smarterym.com/ Aaron Helman

    I’m getting better at it, but during a particularly overwhelming period of my ministry, the answer was simple.

    I didn’t prioritize Sabbath the way that I prioritized work. In other words, I placed my profession above one of the Ten Commandments.

    Once I understood how warped that was, my life (and my ministry) improved a ton.

    • dougfields

      Amazing how God’s ways seem to work huh? :)

  • Joey

    I think I just lack balance between family and ministry I’m not sure how to balance it or to best budget my time to get everything done… We live in a Pinterest life is perfect world where our kids sandwiches must be in shapes and have happy face fruit all around where our ministry rooms have to have the coolest murals I think we forget that our kids could care less about happy face fruit and cut out sandwiches and our youth group can survive without a designated room with cool murals all they need is Jesus. I think the busyness comes from focusing on the wrong things

    • dougfields

      strong! thanks. I may use this (happy face fruit)

  • Jonathan McKee

    Because we haven’t learned how to say “no.”

  • Ryan Smith

    I am snobbish because of pride. Busyness makes me FEEL important and may show the world around me that I am important. So I put on the mask of busyness because I want to be important. (I know full well that busyness doesn’t equal important but I still buy into the lie)

    • dougfields

      appreciate your honesty… thanks. You’re not alone!

  • http://twitter.com/darrensutton Veteran YouthMin

    We’ve been super-intentional about limiting how many things our boys are involved in – but even with that – 3 teenagers + 1 extra curriculuar each + church stuff + advanced classes requiring tons of homework = busy…and that doesn’t even include work, family outings, household tasks, etc. So for people who measure their worth by their social calendar, how successful and involved their kids are, or how esteemed they are at work….busy comes naturally. If we aren’t intentional about ruling our calendars, our calendars rule us.

    • dougfields

      yep…really smart coaching on calendaring.

  • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

    I don’t like asking for help. I know that I need to, and I have a whole network of people who are always happy to help me in different ways. But having the conversation stresses me out every time. It could be asking someone to watch my sons, lead another group, set up, or anything else. I don’t like conflict, or being told no… I guess I’m worried they will end up not helping.

    • dougfields

      you and I would have a rich conversation on this one… counseling may be needed. :)

      • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

        It’s funny because as I was writing that I thought, “this doesn’t make any sense.” I kept trying to word it in a way that didn’t seem as ridiculous. haha

  • PJ

    i think we get busy because we’re afraid that either we’ll miss out on something or our kids will. we fear what we can’t attain.

  • Brian Richards

    Balancing family, ministry, and seminary

  • DrewE

    Derwin Gray defined being busy as “Being Under Satan’s Yoke.” That’s hard to beat as a sound bite! I think there are a multitude of reasons why we’re busy.

    We’re busy because we waste all sorts of time on things of little value—things that aren’t evil in themselves, but are just the stuff of this world, like sports or TV or random web surfing or car detailing.

    We’re busy because we want to accomplish too many things, often good things, and expect to do so too quickly. We sometimes so yearn to see the Kingdom come here on earth that we attempt to bring it here ourselves rather than simply obeying the King and trusting in His timing and will.

    We’re busy because it’s quicker and easier (at least at the time) to do things than to delegate things.

    We’re busy because busyness seems more reasonable or approachable to us than godliness.

    • dougfields

      interesting… thanks for the input.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jwkaat Jason W. Kaat

    Trying to convince myself that I am valuable.

    • dougfields

      thanks for your honesty!

  • http://www.facebook.com/amable82 Jeremy Rodriguez

    being busy usually is equivalent to good things are happening. If good things are happening, that gives you value and i know I liked to be valued. Plus, I think making things a priority can be difficult. Allowing other work or distractions to take up your time adds to being busy later.

    • dougfields

      good. appreciate the honesty

  • C_Jane_tweet

    It is more than learning to say no and yes, I do struggle with that. It is also learning to say that it is time to stop something. This is really inportant before tackling a new opportunity, In the excitement of something new, it is easy to let something old lapse without 1) stopping it altogether, 2) asking someone else to take it on with fair warning and handover, 3) asking if I need to be the one to take on the new opportunity. (Saying no and letting someone else take it on). In all of this it is too easy to forget if we checked through patient prayer and scripture reading if it fits in Gods plans, particularly for me. The most interesting thing is that these seem to be remedial lessons that I sometimes need to review more often than not.
    Praying that I tackle what God wants me to becasue he also created us to rest too.

    • dougfields

      yep, rest is part of His plan… it’s hard to find rest in the midst of busyness.

  • Aaron Stetson

    First, thank you for addressing this! Second please tell me you are going to address this at NYWC Dallas as well, cause i’ll be there. Third, I am so busy for a number of different reasons, I am “full time” with not quite full time pay because I am a licensed electrician, so I do electrical work to supplement my income at the church. My electrical work is getting out of control, too much of it, but we need the money, so i have a hard time turning down jobs. Also, I’m so busy at the church because I want to try and impress the elders in hopes to prove myself in hopes to get more money or move up someday. I want to prove that I can handle more responsibility. Lastly I’m so busy because I hate sitting around doing nothing, this is probably not healthy, but i’ve always been that way.. i need a project or an activity.
    Thanks for addressing this, it’s become a problem for many of us. Also becoming a problem for our students, the pressures schools and coaches are putting on students seems to be getting out of control. In our district any high school student who is involved in sports is up til 1-2 AM doing homework.

    • dougfields

      yes… I’ll be talking about it in Dallas too.

  • Renee`

    Because I cannot say “NO” !

    • dougfields

      that’s a biggie!

  • betsy

    It simply isn’t in style to not seem overworked and overwhelmed. Although there are many demands in balancing families, youth ministry and the rest of life, I believe it is still possible to choose a more balanced, less hurried approach to life. Sometimes it involves planning ahead and prioritizing which may not naturally fit with people who choose youth ministry but it is still possible. I keep in mind that Jesus needed time apart with God to deal with the stress of his daily life – so do I!

    • dougfields

      Amen… I do too.

  • http://twitter.com/_jimmylane Jimmy Lane

    I have failed to create a schedule to balance my priorities, I procrastinate too much, and I don’t schedule time to rest to get ready for the craziness.

  • http://twitter.com/JoshuaDennis Joshua Dennis

    Busyness is a fact of life. I think we contribute to it and cause it to become overwhelming by a lack of planning and failure to eliminate the things that aren’t necessary.

  • http://twitter.com/youthleadergina youthleadergina

    As a full time youth worker and mom to an almost middle schooler, I think we as youth workers are guilty of focusing too narrowly on our little world of youth ministry. My biggest worry as a parent? Not having enough time and not enough $. Instead of planning more events that drain my wallet and take kids away from family time… why don’t we find what families are already doing and join them? I feel pressured as a youth-worker to “do more” but the mom in me says “less is more” in youth ministry. I am not sure our “bosses” in ministry agree.

    • Scott

      Thanks for your thoughts. what stood out to me was your statement: “why don’t we find what families are already doing and join them? I feel
      pressured as a youth-worker to “do more” but the mom in me says “less is
      more” in youth ministry.”

      I totally agree with this statement, but with students involved in so many different events, how do you choose which ones to go?

      • http://twitter.com/youthleadergina youthleadergina

        Every youth group and church is unique…but I would start with the kids in my small group and encourage my other small group leaders to do the same.

    • dougfields

      So what happens when our bosses don’t agree? Do we continue believing “less is more” but living like “more is more”?

  • Jill Rich

    I just left a conversation about this same issue. One friend pointed out that it’s not a matter of being to busy, but a boundary and intentionality issue. I felt the 2×4 hit me upside the head.
    I have let my boundaries down and life has blurred. Instead of being intentional with my time, I’m running from one thing to another and really doing any one thing well.

    • dougfields

      your friend is wise!

  • Scott

    Some weeks I feel like a chicken with his head chopped off because I am so busy, while other weeks I feel like I do not have enough to do. This helps me to see why I am so busy:

    Lone Ranger mentality- There are things that need to be done, and other people are not doing it so I need to step in and do it myself.

    Procrastination: waiting until the last minute to make sure everything is organized.
    Over planning: Having the need to feel like there has to be an event for students every day of the week.

    Viewing the work I do as a job rather than a ministry. This is God’s ministry, not my own, he has just given me the great privilege to lead this ministry. When I get it in my head that it is my ministry or my job to do administrative work, I feel like it becomes busy work, rather than a crucial part to the ministry.

    • dougfields

      good… I wonder at times if we don’t pass up “ministry” to get “our work” done.

  • MirBean

    What is TOO busy?? I have time, and there are SOOOO many needs I figure if I don’t have a real reason to say NO, I should say YES. Which usually brings me to this point where I am so busy and don’t know what to do. I do know that if I spread myself too thin, I will not be as effective BUT when you see so many needs and NO one stepping up to fill those needs….my heart can’t say NO, even when my head (and loved ones) chime in and remind me I am super busy already….

    • dougfields

      and I would ask, “what is it about your heart that can’t say ‘no’?” Is it a pleasing heart, broken, wounded for the affirmation that the “yes” brings… this has been a BIG struggle of mine for years to determine why did/do I say “yes”?

  • Aaron

    For me it is trying to please too many constituencies. Kind of like your professors in college who give assignments without awareness of what others are giving. I find myself feeling called upon by 3-5 unrelated groups with different demands and expectations. And I’m aware that even “no” is not an escape from business, as that can create tension and conflict that later has to be resolved. Or requires trust that only comes from relationships which are the result of…more business.

    • dougfields

      strong answer…good thinking.

  • michaelbest

    I have struggled with at points establishing rythms of rest and recovery into my life and ministry. This became painfully aware to me several years ago when Ruth Haley Barton spoke at SYMC, and upon your recommendation I read Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. I was convicted that much of my busyness was not only had I not set up patterns of rest and renewal, but that nearly all my time in the Word was spent “working” on lessons, curriculum, and sermons, and never simply to abide and be with God. When we are too busy to be with God, then I think it really spills over into the other areas of life.

    • Aaron

      I wonder too if that lack of rest doesn’t make me busier in other areas of life. Because when I’m worn out or feel over-worked, I’m much less efficient and tend to procrastinate. It can all snow ball from there until I feel totally overwhelmed by a to-do list that, on a normal week, would be really manageable.

    • dougfields

      yep… Ruth killed me too. I’m glad you read it… now to live it, right? Blessings.

    • Scott

      Michael you hit on a great point when you mention your time in the word. Having gone to Seminary I find it difficult not to read the Bible just to be in the word with God, I find myself constantly asking how could this translate into a lesson.

      I don’t think that it is a bad thing if our time in the word is spent on the areas we are teaching, but how much more of an impact it can make if we actually let it be a study time with God, rather than planning a lesson. I have found actually that a lesson will come, and often times a much better one than I would have if I was just going about reading the scripture to plan my lesson by just spending time reading the word first, and conversing with God.

  • Mike D

    I believe that busyness is often the result of two things: unrealistic expectations on my part for what I can handle…and simply a lack of healthy boundaries on my personal time. Currently, I am working full-time for a non-profit, part-time college pastor at my church, married with 5 kids, online Master’s degree program. I have a strong schedule, a very supportive wife and I actually have more time now with my family than ever (home for dinner 5 out of 7 nights), weekend bike rides, etc.
    When boundaries dissolve, busyness overcomes.

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