Feelings and Thoughts

Just Say No: 7 Steps to Stop the “Busy” Train

Picture this:

You run into a friend you haven’t seen in a while and as pleasantries are exchanged, one of you asks, “So how’s the family?”

If someone offered you a million dollars to guess their response could you do it?

I know if you guessed:

“Oh we’re good. Just BUSY,”  you just might win the big bucks. It’s like the magic word.

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Sadly, we look at busyness as a badge of honor. We feel lazy, bored, anxious unjustified if we relax.


I am in awe over the number of activities in which kids participate. I sit here comparing sometimes, asking myself if I need to sign my children up for more even though they are each involved already. Extracurriculars are important, for sure, but when there is no time for homework, rest, or simple free play and creativity, I think it’s a huge problem.

I realize I have a different approach to this than most. I think a little differently for sure, but I truly believe that some down time, where we are just present together as a family, allows us to hear snippets from their days, talk about random questions, have dinner together, and foster an environment and space where there is time for the kids to talk when they’re ready. (P.S. Why do all of the deep conversations start after 10pm?)

I guess I believe quantity time is important too, not just quality. Kids are little for such a short time.

I know that this isn’t easy for everyone – maybe not even possible. Maybe you have no choice but to work long hours. Maybe you’re a single parent who shares custody. Maybe you have a child that just benefits from extra activity.

No judgements here.

I just feel that, in general, adults and children are too busy. We have forgotten what it’s like to just rest.

So, how do we keep from falling into the trap in our home?

1.We say no.

This is a new one for me. For years – your problem was my problem. Need a babysitter? Need cookies for a bake sale?  A  meal for a shut in? Your car oil changed? Someone to pay your bills? Yes, Yes, Yes, and Why not?

I definitely experienced major burnout and started to not enjoy anything.

Just because something is “good,” doesn’t mean it’s “best.”

Free time does not need to be “filled” just because someone asks you to fill it to meet their need. Understanding this has helped me to choose to do what I am truly called to, and do it well.

2. We find time to rest 

I’m really working at trying to rest doing something that brings me life! I don’t feel guilty anymore. Resting when I can actually motivates me to be more productive the rest of the day.

3. We teach our kids that it’s okay to say no.

I don’t want my daughters to grow up feeling like it’s necessary to participate in every activity available. I don’t want them to feel guilty for saying no to something, thus sacrificing their sanity and the things they love most. If they bring something to me, I encourage them to really evaluate their passion for the activity and whether they realistically have the time to see it through well.

4. We don’t overcommit.

I think it’s a good idea to limit your kids’ activities ahead of time to a number you feel comfortable with as a family.

Look at your own responsibilities and say no to the things that just don’t fit well with your current stage life.

5. We *try* to lead by example.

We aren’t perfect. We make mistakes, but we try to let our kids see us thoughtfully, even prayerfully, choosing what we do and how we manage our time.

Let them see you rest. Show them that you can give 100% to the things you feel called to most, when your body is rested and recharged.


Be sure that you are saying yes to the things that enrich your life and the lives of others. Say yes to what you are passionate about and called to…and that is NOT everything.

7. READ THIS BOOK! It changed my life.

In some seasons of life busyness is unavoidable. Just be sure to evaluate, limit, and make time to recharge when you can – and stop looking at busyness as a sign of success.

Make your yes count.

9 thoughts on “Just Say No: 7 Steps to Stop the “Busy” Train

  1. Love this more than I can say! We have been so intentional about not signing our kids or ourselves up for too many extra activities. In fact, we’re coming out of a season (based in necessity) of none of us participating in anything that was an ongoing commitment. It was hard, and I definitely feel like there may have been a bit of judgement thrown my way here and there, but I don’t regret it and don’t think I ever will. We’re slowly getting out there again as it feels right. Interestingly enough, what I noticed most during that season was how little time my friends had for me or our family. I really learned who my true friends were and who were my friends just because we happened to both be at the same place at the same time due to a commitment. Now that we’re allowing ourselves to commit more, I’m trying to make a conscious effort to leave time open just for friends who want to get together or who need a meaningful friendship. It was so hurtful and lonely to be told over and over again that someone was too busy and maybe we could get together next month because of “fill in the blank” (church, PTO, sports, Bible study, moms group, etc etc etc.) Both my kids and I lost close, long time friends during that season, and it was sad and surprising. I don’t think I had realized how busy we as a community or society had become until I purposely had more unscheduled time and no one else did. It was so eye opening to how hard it is to develop friendships if you’re always running from one thing to another and don’t intentionally create time just for people. (Wow, that was long and wordy, ha! But our pastor is talking about the same thing, so I’ve been reflecting on it so much this week! 🙂

    1. YES YES YES! Honestly, I’m noticing that often “play dates” are now combined with extracurriculars. I agree – you can really see how much people value your friendship when you back away from the “busy” scene a bit. Sometimes, though unintentional I’m sure, you can feel forgotten. I’m so glad that you share your insights! They always encourage me!

  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly, Melissa: “I just feel that, in general, adults and children are too busy. We have forgotten what it’s like to just rest.” Your #1 says it all: We say no. It’s the hardest thing to do, but the most effective thing. Now to actually do that myself. 🙂

  3. Such a good post! Everyone is so very busy, we all need time to enjoy one another and rest, which can be so hard, this world is so demanding, sometimes, we just have to unplug! I am your neighbor, on both sides!, at The Life of Faith Mommy Moments link up today!

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