Balancing Rest + Productivity

Balancing Rest + Productivity

I don’t know when it started–maybe high school? Sometime during college? Towards the end of my degree?

At some point in my life, I began this obsession with managing my time to fit more things into my days. Five minutes to spare was often too much. 

Why wasn’t I being productive?
Why didn’t I have something important to do?
Shouldn’t I be using every moment of every day so that I can….. wait, what?
What’s the point of this “being busy” again?

Never mind that my busyness often had no purpose, it became an insatiable animal that grew in my heart. It clawed at my hope and devoured my self-esteem. It begged the question: if I'm not always busy–do I still really matter?

This obsession with busy took hold of me–and oh, what a tight and defeating grip it’s had.

I’m one of “those people.” We burn the candle at both ends. We’re "all in", no matter what cards we’re holding. We say "yes" to opportunity and "no" to our own needs because… well, let’s face it. When we’re busy, we feel needed. We feel important. Our existence seems validated. We can prove to others how much we matter simply by flashing our weekly planner in all of it’s overlapping, sleep-deprived glory. What, it’s not like I brag about how many cups of coffee I need to function or anything.

I’m not even sure when I noticed it–when you hear it, it’s quite distinct. There’s a tone in our voices, those of us who find our value in the jam-packed scheduling of our time. I can hear myself say, in only the way a humble-bragger can,

“I’m just SO busy with work and Church and everything else we have going on. It’s kind of insane, but it’s really no big deal…”

As if my “squeezing” someone into my overly-crowded schedule is a gift to them or something? Please.

Here’s the reality of it: being overly busy sucks. 

Planning to do too much is a really bad idea. There is such a thing as “too much on your plate” and when you have to eat every bite, it can make you a little sick. Sure, maybe during a five-second response to “So, what do you do?” my hectic week might sound like I do important stuff–but at the end of most days, I find I lack the time to do the things I truly deem important.

What does my week really look like? How about not going grocery shopping this week and living off of whatever we’ve got in the fridge because we flat-out over-committed. How about having to do a month’s worth of laundry because we’ve been too busy being cool kids to do that either? Don’t even get me started on how often I actually wash my hair or take out the trash. 

This. Has. To. Stop. 

We can’t praise “busy” anymore.

It is a life-sucking, dream-killing, bundle of distractions that gives us a false sense of security in regards to working towards our goals. It tells us, “once things have settled down, you can pursue _________” or, "after you’re 'caught up' you can focus your energy on ___________."

But we know that we never will if we keep fueling the flame of our idols; productivity, busyness, the need for approval.

It’s like we’ve all sold out to this as the new norm. When did “busy” become a competition? We wear our crowded schedules so proudly while we casually spout off all the important things we have to do this week.

It’s tough,
it’s pointless,
I’m so sick of it. 

Our culture praises busy and dismisses rest–and we’ve got to do something about it. Otherwise, we’re just a generation of twenty-somethings addicted to “doing” and disinterested in simply “being”. We will feel guilty for taking days off. We will work through our so-called Sabbath without a second thought. We will lose sight of what is means to find rest in the presence of the Lord. I’m learning, only now, to fight and protect my times of rest as the sacred-God-mandated moments that they should be. If a day of rest is good enough for the LORD Himself–it sure as heck is good enough for me.

Trust me, I get it. Resting is hard for some of us. Having a blank space in our planners can be anxiety-provoking madness, but we’ve got to learn how to deal. We must follow the Lord’s example and rest. We see Jesus model a time of ministry and retreat–how, in our fully human state, do we think we can survive any other way? We simply can’t.

We have to learn to be still. To say no. To proudly say, "I did nothing for an entire hour–and it didn’t kill me."

Everything tends to be backwards in God’s Kingdom. Serve if you want to lead. Be last so that you can be first. Lose your life if you want to gain it. You get the picture, yeah? So why would the art of refining our God-given passions be any different?

Something tells me there’s more to sitting at the feet of Jesus than in all the overly-caffeinated sleepless nights I’ll see in my lifetime.

Say it with me, friends:

I will NOT feel guilty for taking a day off.
I will NOT use my busy schedule as an excuse to quit pursuing the passions God has laid on my heart.
I will FIGHT and PROTECT time each day to sit still with the Lord and DO NOTHING ELSE.
I will MAKE TIME to invest in what truly matters.
I will DETHRONE the idol of BUSYNESS and replace it with the only true Ruler of my heart.

Can you imagine this scenario?

“How are you, friend?”
“Great! I feel as if I've had some good rest this weekend. It's been wonderful to unwind, relax, and unplug so I can feel refreshed before starting a new week."

I’m waiting for the day when I can respond like that.

Maybe it’ll be tomorrow, maybe it’ll be next week. But we’ve got to get to a place where we practice the art of rest. I’m a beginner–so my art may be messy and look like scribble for a little while, but here it is regardless.

It’s time to learn to paint in shades of saying “no”. It’s time to color inside the lines of “that’s my day off, but I’d be happy to connect with you at another time.”

I know it’s going to be a long journey, but my prayer is that it’s one full of rest. 



Words by Full-Time Contributor Chelsey Mead