Busyness is Meaningless

“Busyness is meaningless, what matters is doing things that matter” -Cal Newport

I read this quote several days ago, and it stopped me in my tracks. 

I often measure the quality of my days by how actively I worked throughout the whole day. I feel proud of the day I can recall a long list of accomplishments to Ashley at dinner. Some of my worst days off work have been days without a plan. I feel lost if I’m not producing some sort of work. 

I’m learning that part of what’s going on in my head is a personal struggle. I often feel like I’m not enough, so I try to prove myself by working extra hard to produce. God is growing me to see that He and my family love me for who I am and not what I provide. 

Aside from my struggle with proving myself, busyness is a cultural phenomenon. 

It’s a mark of pride to talk about how busy I am. People respect you when they see you in a flurry of activity. At least that’s the lie we tell ourselves. 

What matters is doing remarkable things, not all the things. 

Think about it this way in reverse. If we stopped doing only a few things in critical areas of our lives, we would lose a lot what few things would destroy your marriage, your job, your friendships, or your health. You could destroy each of the areas above by just not doing a few things in each of those areas.

Because we wrongly prize busyness, it’s hard to see the essential things. 

If I go through my day needing to prove myself with a flurry of activity, I won’t ask what is truly important. If I worry about staying active rather than pursuing what’s important, I won’t take time to ask God what’s essential. 

When I miss the essential things, people get hurt. 

When I focus more on busyness than importance, I don’t always listen to the needs of my family. When I concentrate on busyness over importance, I’m more likely to work on pet projects than important stuff. When I focus on busyness over importance, urgent things beat out essential elements. When I miss what’s important, I can invest in loving and serving others but be hurting them. 

Getting used to long unfinished lists

I’m learning I need to get used to long lists of unfinished tasks every day. I’m trying to spend more time figuring out what the three or four most important things are. When I do those things, I find that a lot doesn’t get done, but I can sleep easier at night, when I do what’s truly important, my job, friends, and family benefit. 


I hope to live a life full of things I said “no” to so I can say “yes” to truly great things. I hope to have piles of planners full of things I didn’t do. I hope to do a few things every day, week, month, year, and decade that make a difference. 

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