Taming the Beast of Busyness (Part 2)

During the first quarter of 2016, Foothills is exploring the spiritual discipline of simplicity.  One of the main roadblocks to pursuing simplicity in our homes is the family schedule.  Does the “beast of busyness” lurk in your home? Are you enslaved by the demands of your family calendar? Do you know how to tame the “beast of busyness?” If not, then read and/or listen to this very helpful interview that I conducted years ago when I hosted a radio program called, “Parenting Teenagers.” I did 2 interviews on this topic with 2 different authors.  This is the second one.  Click here for the first one.

ryanrushRyan Rush is the author of Home on Time, a book that offers several suggestions on how to help your family fight the “beast of busyness.”  He’s the pastor of  Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, TX and an Adjunct Professor at Liberty University where he teaches a course entitled, Theology of the Family. Ryan and his wife Lana have three daughters.

You can listen LISTEN NOW to the audio of the interview below or right-click on the bar below and choose “save as” to download the audio file.



Here’s the transcript of the conversation Mike had with Ryan…

As a former family pastor, what about your observations in that role prompted your focus to turn to helping family manage their time and balance their lives?

I’ve worked with thousands of families around the country, and I’ve found that families are wearing their busyness like a badge of honor. It’s almost as if we’ve bought into the idea that the more full our schedules are, the more successful we are, especially when it comes to raising teenagers. Of course, that’s certainly not true.

Being busy doesn’t mean we’re necessarily effective. We have to go back to our core values of what we’re trying to accomplish with our kids, especially as they get older. We only have a few short years and opportunities left to go. What I’ve done is look into God’s Word and ask what the primary core truths are that we can live by to help us live out these important days.

What is the breakneck pace of our culture today doing to the family?

We are living in such an isolated culture because of this very thing. We’re not spending any time with the ones that we love and the things that matter most because when the schedule begins to fill up and all the extracurricular activities come into play, guess what gets squeezed out first? It’s always family time because they’re the ones who will understand; they’re the ones who love us.

When we look back on our own childhood and upbringing, often our most precious memories are during down time moments where we got to enjoy the ones that we love.

God is the author of time and time management. This means that He desires for this to be a very spiritual thing. What we do with our time is ultimately how we conduct our lives. Ben Franklin said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time for that’s the stuff that life is made of.”

You say in the book that “during the time on earth that we are living now, very little of it is actually spent on what we would consider living.” Explain what you mean by this.

As I researched the book, I was really struck by one of Moses’ statements in Psalm 90. He said, “Lord, teach us to number our days that we main gain the heart of wisdom.” The idea of numbering those days and quantifying them helps us realize we have less time than we think.

I began to chart all the things I call “inevitables”; those are the aspects of life that would be considered mundane – tasks that are not a part of our priority list – but we all have to do. We all have to sleep and eat, etc. We have to go shopping and run errands as a part of our lives. We have to pay bills, do chores, etc. As you begin to add all those things up, in the terms of one year, you’re looking at 289 days of your year gone with the “inevitables.”

In light of this, most people would say that one of the biggest concerns in their life is the issue of time management. You say that managing time is simpler than we think. How is this frustrating concept simpler than we think?

The reason it’s simpler than we think is that we can take small steps and improve in this area. The great news is that if you find one or two things to improve on, you’ll see enough results that it begins to build momentum. In contrast, with financial management for instance, we have to do all sorts of things to improve, and we have to wait a while before we see positive results. If people were to simply make a not-to-do list (things they can say no to), that will work wonders in regard to their schedules.

How does understanding the things that we can’t control help us get a better handle on the things that we can control?

Most often when we think of time management, we think the goal is to be in complete control of our lives. I don’t see that promised anywhere, and I don’t see anyone living that out. What we must do is identify those things that are out of our control but do have an impact on our lives and begin to respond with wisdom and adapt to those things.

One major example that applies to many of us is traffic. Many people today get up in the morning and they drive in maybe an hour of traffic a day. It’s very frustrating because there’s nothing we can do about it. You cannot change the traffic, but you can respond to the traffic by adjusting your work hours so that you’re not driving in traffic every day. Or you can move closer to your place of employment, or you can change jobs. That would be the simple way of learning the power of response toward something you really have no control over.

Often, people think there is nothing they can do, but rarely do things happen in our lives that we can do nothing about.

That’s exactly right. Teenagers are such a great example of this. We cannot control everything about them, and parents who try are completely frustrated. Many parents forget that there are creative ways to parent a teen that could come about with just a little extra thought.

We encourage parents to be proactive when it comes to raising their teens. Talk about how anticipating what is coming can help parents not only with their teens but with all areas of their lives.

The power of anticipation means that when you know what’s coming, you have an opportunity to act on those things. Aim for those milestones, and set goals along the way.

When we aim for those, we can begin to say, “What are the most important principles that we want to impart on our kids between now and then? What are some guidelines and values that we want to set aside in our household so that we still have time together?”

The definition of a fool is someone who is always surprised. In contrast, the definition of wisdom is the ability to have some level of anticipation and expectation for what is coming so that we’re not always surprised. Then we can plan and move forward with some level of wisdom.

A key to pulling this off has got to be that parents tame their schedules so they can think about these things.

Exactly. That means building in large blocks of down time. People tell me all the time that they have to abide by strict work and school schedules, so why would they want to make their home life just as rigid by becoming time managers there?

I like to use the analogy of a closet in response to that question. Every one of us has messy, cluttered closets at home. If you’ve ever tried to clean out one of these closets, the first thing you do is you take everything out, and then we find things that we can throw away. Before we put everything back, we begin to put them in a logical order so we can retrieve them more quickly the next time. I have never cleaned out a closet where when I was done, I wasn’t surprised at how much room I had in there.

The same thing happens with our calendars. When we begin to have some discipline and structure with our calendars, we’ll be surprised at how much downtime we can find where we can really enjoy the things that matter.

Talk a minute about downtime. What does downtime look like?

The only time in our culture where we normally see downtime is during the holidays. This is why many of our great family memories are surrounding holidays like Christmas. The family is together and there’s not a whole lot to do, so we shut off the TV and enjoy one another.

Downtime doesn’t have to be boring, it just means that we are removing all outside distractions. Down time for me is where I go home and throw the Frisbee with my two girls and just have a great time. It’s a chance to have casual conversation where there isn’t an agenda or a script. It’s about enjoying the moments together.

One of the main ways that you say people can manage their life better is by setting lifetime, long-term, and short-term goals. I think everyone knows that setting goals is key, but very few of us really know how to do it in such a way that we can actually meet those goals. Give us some help on this one.

We make it so complicated that it becomes no earthly good sometimes. What I do is I have 50 year goals. In the back of my planner, I have a sheet of paper that says who I want to be in 50 years. It has the top ten roles that I want to play in my life.

I look at that first and then I build 40 day goals. I take the back of a business card and divide it into four sections. I take Luke 2:52 that says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men,” and I set that as the guide for the way I want to grow in the next 40 days. I set body/health goals, I set mind goals (How am I going to grow as a person mentally?), I set God goals (How can I cultivate my relationship with God?), and then I set people goals; family goals, church goals, etc.

This allows me to take very small steps every 40 days toward my 50 year goals. I’m constantly taking baby steps, but I am ever moving closer to who I want to be.

When it comes to setting goals for our families, you talk about common thieves that parents and families need to watch out for. What are they, and how can these things stop families from attaining their goals?

The one that is so prevalent and painfully obvious is TV. The average American watches 3 hours and 46 minutes of television every day. Obviously, when we recognize how valuable our time is, that’s pretty amazing. If we’re spending even 3 hours a day on media (Internet, TV, etc.), this equates to 46 days a year that are gone from our calendars because we’re sitting there missing out on life. That is the biggest time waster.

These time-thieves like the media don’t come barreling through the front door, but rather they sneak into our lives, don’t they?

They’re very subtle, and we find ourselves driven to distraction by these elements. We never end up doing the things that are most important by accident because those things involve effort and they involve tremendous intentional action.

Why is it important to make specific daily plans, and is it really possible for busy families to do this?

I really believe that if people will take 20 minutes in the morning and spend that time investing in prayer, Bible Study, and then making sure their calendar matches up with their goals, it will save them at least 2 hours a day in found time. There is nothing more valuable than that 20 minutes.

One thing that will thwart a good plan is procrastination. First, talk to parents who procrastinate about how to overcome this disabling character trait.

When Moses wraps up Psalm 90, he says, “Establish the work of our hands. Yes, establish the work of our hands.” If we plan away and come up with goals but never do anything, we’re no closer to our goals than we were to start with. There has to be logical first steps involved. The most important thing you can do is to ask yourself what the first thing is that you are going to do that will help you accomplish your goal.

How ought the facts that 1) we are mortal and will someday die and 2) God has placed on us the responsibility to help build His kingdom impact the way we plan our lives?

They should impact everything. Time is the most valuable and the most perishable of all our possessions. Once we recognize that, we will schedule differently.