A few years ago, Alli Worthington says she found herself “at wit’s end.” The blogger and founder of BlissDom Events was working all the time and raising five boys, who are now ages 7 to 17.
“I’m just done,” she told her husband, expecting that she’d have to convince him that it would be OK for her to quit the company she built. Surprisingly, he was feeling done, too.
He retired from his hospital management job and became a stay-at-home dad. She quit her job and became a consultant to help new businesses get off the ground.
In her book “Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy,” Worthington writes about the process she went through and continues to go through to prioritize what she spends her time on and get rid of what isn’t worth her energy.
The book is written from a Christian perspective — faith is a huge part of who Worthington is — but much of the advice crosses religious boundaries. Each chapter ends with a box of action steps to help give readers specific starting points.
Now, as the executive director of Propel Women, a Christian women’s empowerment organization, Worthington she says she can tell when her life is getting too busy. She can no longer control her emotions. She snaps at a co-worker or she’s constantly rushing her kids to the next thing.
That’s when she knows she needs to create a stop-doing list instead of a to-do list.
“It’s a battle to fight busyness,” she says. “It’s something I need to constantly fight.”
Sometimes she realizes that she’s busy for the wrong reasons. She regularly tracks how she’s spending her time. One day she discovered she wasted a total of two hours watching random stuff like cute animal videos on YouTube.
Another way she decides what she needs to stop doing is to think about what Future Alli would say about a certain activity. “Am I going to be happy about it?” she wonders.
And if the answer is no, she drops it. She’s open with friends and co-workers about what her capacity is at that moment and that there is no more room for that activity. She says she doesn’t ever get backlash from people once she explains that she needs to stop.
“I feel that I need to give myself permission and give women permission to live life on our terms,” she says.
That means not trying to keep up with the Joneses. Some moms in her sons’ classes are great at throwing big parties and her family loves to enjoy them, but she knows that throwing a big party for her boys wouldn’t be her. Instead, she keeps it simple for birthday parties and focuses on what’s important, not how it looks.
She also recognizes that all of us are putting on a charade that makes it look like we have it together, when really our life is nothing like our Facebook posts or our outward appearance. That helps her not worry what other people think when she chooses not to do something.
Even when life is really busy, it’s important to realize the difference between things that are urgent and things that are important. Often, she says, we get trapped in the urgent and forget about the important. Those “urgent” things might be some of the things to put on the stop-doing list. The important things are not.
“We stay so stuck in the cycle of busyness that we don’t have time to discover our destiny,” she says.
For Worthington, the important things are about family and about self care. She has two things she won’t drop no matter how busy she is. The first is spending 10 minutes with each child each night going over the three things they are grateful for that day. It’s about teaching them gratitude, but also about connecting with each one separately.
The other thing she won’t give up is her quiet time in the morning. It sets the tone for the day. She listens to music, has time for prayer and drinks her coffee slowly. She remembers the years of waking up and going, going, going all day. It didn’t work for her.
One of her most important reason to fight the busyness: “Kids notice if their parents are happy or if they are feeling stressed all the time,” she says.
About every six weeks, Worthington find herself going back into the cycle of being too busy. Then she makes her stop-doing list again and thinks about what Future Alli would say. And she tries really hard to focus on doing the great things.
“We do so many good good things all day, but we’re not doing the great things,” she says.
“Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace & Purpose In a World of Crazy”
by Alli Worthington
Online: Worthington invites readers to share how they are breaking busy on Twitter #BreakingBusy.