An Addendum to Crazy Busy?

Thoughts on Kevin DeYoung's book on busyness

I’ve not mastered “busyness” myself and fully expect a lifelong battle to maintain a healthy work/life balance, but here are some practical ideas that have helped me over the past few years. Obviously they are ministry focused, but many of them can be applied more generally as well:

 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kevin DeYoung’s new little book, Crazy Busy. It’s especially good in diagnosing the spiritual roots of the over-busyness or workaholism that many of us have a tendency to fall into. It’s also well-written – such an enjoyable read.

However, Tim Challies,  Aaron Armstrong, and others identified a weakness that I didn’t really pick up on when I read it, and it’s the book’s incompleteness. It’s lacking in practical remedies. And the one suggested, more quiet time with the Lord, just seems to add another to-do to the already endless list. It suggests that while the author has analyzed the problem, maybe he hasn’t yet discovered or lived the solution.

That could have been solved by Kevin telling us how he fixed the problem: how many things he stopped doing, how many things he said “No” to, how he decides what to say “Yes” to, and how he is managing that change.

However, although the book doesn’t take us to the finishing line, I did find that the wide-ranging, heart-searching diagnosis helped me to identify sins to be repented of that will, I hope, produce ongoing fruit in my life. That was invaluable.

An Addendum?
I’ve not mastered “busyness” myself and fully expect a lifelong battle to maintain a healthy work/life balance, but here are some practical ideas that have helped me over the past few years. Obviously they are ministry focused, but many of them can be applied more generally as well:

1. Listen to your family. Ask your family, your wife and kids, if they think you’ve got work in the right place and if you’re giving them enough time.

2. Listen to your body. Have you been suffering a series of health problems? Is your body bearing up under the stress or is it beginning to break up as you wear out your machinery?

3. Take one full day off work every week. “Six days you shall labor” applies to pastors as well. And if you are a pastor, Sunday does not count as your “sabbath.” You need a real day off.

4. Set a reasonable number of working hours per week, stick to it, and give an account for it to your wife or a friend. Treat time like money: budget it, spend less than you take in, and constantly review.

5. Allocate a couple of limited time windows a day for email. I try to do 30 mins in the morning and 30 mins in the late afternoon and keep it shut down in between. I also set aside an hour a week for answering more complex emails.

6. Turn off all social media notifications. Decide how much you are going to spend on social media, blogs, etc each day, and enforce it by running a large visible timer on your computer or device.

7. Take a regular vacation that is kept totally free of work. No matter how much you enjoy work, writing, etc., you need a total break.

8. Schedule daily exercise time with a mix of weights and aerobic exercises. Although that seems to be adding something major to the day, it actually ends up making you much more decisive and efficient in your work.

9. Set up a small accountability group (2-3 people) that you share your calendar with, and run every ministry opportunity (writing books, speaking engagements, etc.) past them. Let them help you decide what to say “No” to. If you are a pastor, agree a set number of days away each year at conferences, etc., and stick with it.

10. Set a time every evening that you will not work past if you are at home.

11. Keep regular sleeping hours, going to bed and rising at the same time each day, and taking a minimum of seven hours sleep.

What else have you found helpful that could be added to the addendum?

PS: If you want a good laugh, watch Kevin and Justin Taylor’s video interview and especially watch the outtakes.

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article  is used with permission.