Jim Daly: When do you know you’re too busy, too hectic? All of us say we got so much going on. Maybe you can learn from our guest today on “Focus on the family.
Mrs. Alli Worthington: A few years ago I was trying to cram way too much in my life all at the same time. I had booked myself a 6 a.m. flight, which I’ve learned now is never a good decision. And I had traveled out of town, took a 4 a.m. shuttle to get to the airport, if you can even imagine, thinking that I was superwoman. Fell asleep on the shuttle, woke up when we got to the airport, went into the airport, stood in line, was waiting with maybe 30 other people in a security line and start reaching around in my purse to find my phone, ‘cause what else are we gonna do when we have waiting time. And I realized at that moment that I had fallen asleep on the shuttle, left my phone on the shuttle seat and it was driving away with the driver. So, in desperation I look at this sweet couple behind me and said, “Can I please boron your phone? I just need to call my phone. I’m gonna turn that shuttle around. He’s gonna bring my phone back and everything’s gonna be great. So, they look at me like, “Okay, you crazy, fab woman,” hand me their phone. I start dialing my number, prepared to make my pitch to the shuttle driver, “Mr. Shuttle Driver, turn that shuttle around.” And instead of it ringing and him hearing it, my bra started ringing. (Laughter) I was standing in the middle of the airport with a stranger’s phone in my ear, calling my own bra. And to make matters worse, I had to hang up this sweet couple’s phone, hand then back their phone, reach into my own shirt and answer my phone. And for the next 30 minutes while we wait in that security line, I did not make eye contact with anyone, but I had a lot of time to think about my choices and maybe I was living life just a little too busy.
John Fuller: (Laughing) Oh, that is a crazy story and maybe … I hope you can’t relate to that, but maybe you can relate to being way, way too busy. We’re gonna talk about being hectic, being on the hamster wheel trying to get off and slow life down. This is “Focus on the Family.” I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly.
Jim: Man, it is easy to get maxed out and what a great description of being too maxed out that was. You know, we commit to so many good things and we lose sight of the most important things. So, today we want to help you just consider where you’re at, what your pace it.You probably in the last 48 hours have told at least one person, probably your spouse, that it is so busy right now. It is so hectic. I think we, especially here in the U.S., I’m not sure about our friends in Canada, but especially here in the U.S., we almost take a pride in proving to everybody that we are busier than we should be. That’s a bit of insanity and we want to give you some “saneness” today as we talk about what’s healthy in your own life. Women particularly reported being busier than men in recent surveys that we’ve seen.When the respondents were asked what they were sacrificing to their busyness 56 percent cited sleep, 52 percent, recreation, 51 percent hobbies, 44 percent friends and 34 percent sacrificing their family. We don’t want that to happen to you.
John: And there’s a lot of guilt associated with that. I think our guest will help take the edge off of that and give you some great practical tools for stopping the madness. Alli Worthington is joining us today. She’s a popular author and speaker and blogger and the executive direction of Propel Women. And she and her husband, Mark live in Nashville. And if you thought she was busy because she’s a writer and speaker, she also has five boys. (Laughter)
Jim: Alli, welcome to “Focus on the Family.”
Alli: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Jim: Let’s start there with five boys. I love that. I’ve got only two, but that’s great, five boys, what are their ages?
Alli: Youngest to oldest, 9, 10, 13, 16 and 18.
Jim: So, you’re not very busy.
Alli: Not busy at all.
Jim: See, right there moms are goin’, “Man, she’s busier than me.” We all begin to compare ourselves. Five boys, oh, man, that’s gotta be crazy.
But seriously, you wrote this book,Breaking Busy.You do have a little image of an hamster wheel in there that I caught on the cover, which is funny. It’s almost one of those things, the hidden message of the book. Describe the hamster wheel. There may be some people that never had hamsters, so why does the hamster mean busy?
Alli: Well, the hamster wheel just popped into my head immediately when I thought, how do I … how do I explain this feeling of being frazzled. And for so many women especially, we feel like we’re going and going and going and never actually getting anywhere, that we’re always running. We’re always exhausted. We don’t know when we’re gonna be able to stop.
So, after that story of me calling my own bra (Laughter), I went home to my husband and said, “I’m exhausted. I’m frazzled. I can’t do this anymore. I think I’m burnt out. And I actually pitched the idea—no idea why—but I pitched in the moment that we sell our home, we get an RV and we live off the land except for Starbucks and Wi-Fi. (Laughter)
And luckily, he said, “That’s a terrible idea. We’re not gonna do that.” But we started looking at our lives to figure out what God wanted us to do, what we were called to do and not just what we thought we should do. And he was so smart to realize that we had been making these choices that led to busyness not so much out of a fear of God, but out of a fear of man—
Alli: --and letting other people down. So, we were just saying yes too much and piling responsibility and … and extra things on ourselves.
Jim: You know, women, I think physiologically, brain chemistry, etc., that they’re so well-connected, more so than us guys.They have more white matter and that’s God’s design.
Jim: And … and in that though, you’re thinking about a lot of things at one time.You multitask very well. Men are the compartmentalized guys and we think about one thing really well. (Laughing) But in that context, to help the listener,that woman who may be going, “Yeah, I feel burned out,” what are some of thoseadjectives? What are some of those things that a woman … you can help a woman say, if these things arehappening, you may want to talk it over with your husband. You may want to talk about, you know, getting inthe RV and taking off for eight months and living off corn fields in Kansas, I don’t know, But uh… helpthat woman get to that epiphany that you got to.
Alli: Sure. The biggest one for me is and I’m … I’m not gonna assume anybody else has ever felt this way, but for me it’s out-of-control emotions.
Jim: Never anybody else.
Alli: So, never; no, it’s just me. (Laughter) I’m just speaking for myself. If I start crying at commercials and I snap at my husband and I get upset with my kids and it’s just completely out of line and out of character and, you know, they didn’t … they weren’t drawing on the walls or something (Laughter), that’s when I realize things just may be stressful in my life and my emotions are my barometer that shows it.
So, for me, my out-of-control emotions were my flag that I had out-of-control expectations on myself. That was the connector there. So, out-of-control emotions is huge. A second one is chronic lateness. So, I … now I’m gonna preface this with anybody who has two or more children, you can almost always be late. But, we like to think sometimes that if we are late or other people are always late, it’s because they don’t care enough. They’re not responsible. Normally people who are late all the time are late because they’re trying to do too much. It’s just busyness.
You know, say you have your whole day planned out. You know you can get everywhere on time, because you have to do 50 million things for your kids. But somebody says, “Can you also bake some organic muffins (Laughter) for … for Sunday school?” So, you want to be a nice person.
Jim: Only 4,800.
Alli: Only … right. You want to be a nice person so you say yes, but that throws your whole day off and you end up running kind of late. So, I think that being a little bit late is often a sign that we’re just taking on too much. So, out-of-control emotions, being late, and those little illnesses that pop up that we just can’t seem to well from, whether it’s a sinus infection or the flu or a cold or just the little things that add up. Normally it’s because we’re not taking care of ourselves and that leads to illness.
Jim: For the practical person, the practical mom, she may say, “Yeah, I feel that way, but there’s no margin in my schedule. I … that’s great, Alli, but man, I’m stuck.” What do you say?
Alli: Well, it’s gonna seem oversimplified and everybody listening, don’t even count this off ‘cause it seems simple, but it actually works. The simplest things work. For me, it’s make a Stop Doing List.”
Jim: A Stop Doing List.
Alli: A Stop … now—
Jim: I like that.
Alli: --I’m a list maker. I have a list about where my lists are. I love lists, but for women and men who do a lot, we often say, “I want to get out of this rut and I’m gonna work my way out of it. So, here’s a list of 10 things I’m gonna do.” Well, that … we want to go the opposite direction. We want to go, what are the two or three things that I’m doing now that I just know in my gut, I don’t want to do this anymore? Or the two or three things that may come down the pike later and you know, I’m gonna say yes to this, even though I know I don’t have the time, energy or capacity. So, I’m just gonna plan in advance to say no.
And if there’s not something off the top of your head that you know is just sucking the life out of you and you want to stop doing, that’s when you want to go pray about it and go, “Lord, what’s on my plate that You haven’t put there?” And He’ll make that clear.
John: And so, Alli, going back to what you said about being able to … to determine if this something God has for you or not, we have people’s attention. They’re saying, “Okay, I’m there. How do I decide what goes on that ‘Not To Do List?’ I mean, there are things I want to put on there. How do I figure out what to offload?”
Jim:Give it to your wife, John. She’ll tell ya. (Laughter)
Alli: She probably has a list already made out.
Jim: She has your list.
John: Well, she does.
Jim: She hasn’t shared it with you.
John: Okay, so, but speak to the wives perhaps whose husbands don’t have that list.
Alli: Um … for me it was … things would pop up in my head. I can think back on times when I said yes to an obligation or responsibility that I knew I just did not have the time for, that I didn’t have the resources for. But in that moment, I didn’t want to disappoint anybody else. So, I said yes to it and thought, well, I’ll figure out how to get it done later.
But by the time it came for me to fulfill that responsibility that I’d taken on, I was already a little bit resentful. So, I had to learn some techniques to be able to give a gracious no in the beginning so I wouldn’t end up doing things out of obligation that I wasn’t meant to do.
John: And what does that sound like? What does a gracious no sound like?
Alli: Well, I took a tip from politicians. So, you know, on news shows they will say, “Senator So and So, why did you vote to take away X, Y and Z.” And he’ll say, “I did it for the children. I believe children are the future.” And they’ll ask him again and he’ll give the same (Laughter) answer.
Then I thought, he’s just not answering the question. So, I thought, I need a script like a politician to be able to tell people no. So, whenever people ask me to do something and it’s something that I don’t want to do, I don’t have the capacity to do, I … I have this little thing that I say to them and it’s all prepared.
“Thank you so much for asking. At this season in my life, I don’t have the capacity to do it, but I appreciate that you thought of me.”
Jim: I think, too, one of the things that I see in my wife is just the good nature part of mom. I mean, she wants to make surehome is fun. She wants to make sure there’s a lot of “yes’s” and hopefully, fewer “no’s.” But how doyou as moms say no to five teenagers like you’ve got or five boys, um … when they’reclamoring for yes’s, but you gotta kinda put your foot down and say, “You know what? We’re not gonna get thatbusy. I gotta say no to that.” How do you begin to uh … kind of prioritize those things?
Alli: I’m very practical, so it all comes down to time and money when we’re making decisions at home. So, we … we’re not jetting off to an amazing vacation as a family of seven this summer because of money. We’re not going to every birthday party that every one of their friends has because of time and money.
Alli: So, we just set expectations. Each boy can do one, sometimes two, if it works out, extracurricular activities per year. And that’s just … that’s what they do. We can’t do it all. And for birthday parties, when the kids are little, they get to choose two classmate birthday parties to go to a year.
Jim: Oh, that was wise. I think we usually have eight to 10 or 12 with our boys’ friends over. That gets a little chaotic--
Jim: --especially if they have it at like a water park or something (Laughing). It’s like, “Yikes!”
Alli: And I was spending too many of my Saturdays going to classmates’ birthday parties and just sitting in the corner going, “Oh, when will this be over?” It wasn’t fun for me. You know, it was fun for the kids, so I just had to put a limit on it. You can go, but pick two a year.
Jim: Alli, probably one of the most common questions we get here is, especially for moms, for women working outside of the home, how do you manage all that? You speak; you write. You’re busy. You’re flying here. You’re flying other places. How do you manage all of that and where do you find a sense of peace in that chaotic environment?
Alli: The main thing to keep in mind is, what we are doing as moms, especially moms who are working, is keep in mind that we are called to do this in a season and that is our purpose in this season. Every season of life tends to look different, but when we know that we are living the lives that God created for us and gave to us to live, it can take away that sense of guilt, of “Should I be doing this? Should I not be doing this? You know, is my child sad because I’m not … I’m not there? You know, in the second-grade classroom, letting other kids read to me, right?”
Alli: But if this is the life that God has given us to live, we don’t have to beat ourselves up. We don’t have to worry what I’m missing, because it’s God’s plan for our lives. So, that’s the first thing to keep in mind. And the second thing, really practical is, bring in as much help as you possibly can. Whether it is a neighbor who volunteers to help out or if you have family in town who can help out. Accept as much help as you can. Normally we like to be kind of superwomen and do it all ourselves and go, “No, no, no, I don’t need any help.”
I mean, I’m … I’m especially bad. My church friends will fuss at me and go, “When you were sick, why didn’t you let us bring dinners?” I got, “Oh, I forget I’m supposed to ask for help,” right? So, just allowing other people to help you, you know, allowing that village, that community of believers around you to come in and help with your family sometimes, is key.
Jim: But it’s true. When a woman declines that help, I think in part, it’s because she feels and women have this incredible knack of looking at their own hearts so wonderfully first. They’re very hard on themselves. But there is … there’s a good value to that, yet at the same time, it’s this thing where I … I … I don’t want to have to rely on others. How does that woman decouple herself from that sense that she has to be a super mom?
Alli: Well, I look at Moses. So, Moses was the first delegator. You know, it’s father-in-law who came to him and said, “What are you doin’? Why are you doin’ all this yourself? You’re doing great things--
Jim: You’re killin’ yourself.
Alli: --but stop.” Like, let’s get some help. Find some great people around you and let’s start delegating some of these tasks. If it was good enough for Moses, it’s good enough for me.
Jim: That’s says—
Alli: And if—
Jim: --it all.
Alli: --and if it’s this … if it’s a full … I … I don’t like to call my life “busy,” ‘cause hello,Breaking Busy. I like to call my life “full.” So, when we are in these full seasons of life where we do need to juggle a lot of things, allowing ourselves, giving ourselves permission to delegate and receive help is the key.
Jim: You know, inBreaking Busy, I … I love the vulnerability that you shared in terms of you and your husband going through some tough financial times.
Jim: But there was kind of a theme that you used in that context which was, “Losing everything, but you found deeper meaning in God.” I love that. We’re Christians. We’re believers. We follow Jesus, so how, by losing everything, did you draw closer to God and learn more about Him?
Alli: Well, I used to be a stay-at-home mom, so for 12 years I’d stay home, took care of the kids, homeschooled them. We moved around every couple of years for my husband’s job. We bought a big huge house. You know, I had the dream house, had all the stuff. We … you know, we thought we had made it.
And I like to say that we lost everything before losing everything was cool. (Laughter) You know, we … we … the whole country went through a financial collapse. We did it at a year in advance, so we had a big huge home. My husband’s job came to an end. The economy started tanking. He couldn’t get another job and we had this way over-priced home that was worth so much less than what we paid for it and it just wouldn’t sell.
That home went into foreclosure. We went into bankruptcy. We ended up having to move in with my grandfather for a few weeks. We lost everything. I used to beg my husband to let me sell our wedding ring. And it was one night, laying [sic] in bed, holding hands in my great-grandmother’s bedroom that we prayed and we said, “Lord, we’ve … we’ve tried to do it on our own way too long. Help us out of this jam. We need adult supervision.” (Laughter) How … you know, teach us how to live for You. Show us the path that You want us to go on.” And that was the beginning for us to rebuild our lives in the way that He wanted us to live.
Jim: What were some of those … again, to help the listener who may be in that same spot, they’re stuck in a segment of the economy where it’s not rebounding and they’re facing the same thing at 35, 45. Where are we gonna live? What were some of those practical takeaways, spiritually, that you could apply in that environment? What did you trust in? What … what became self-evident? How did you suppress your wants and only meet your needs? Those are hard things to do as human beings.
Alli: Very hard to do. And not to sound trite and to make it sound too easy, but it was through prayer and focusing on Him. What … what do You want us to do? Make the path so clear that we can’t make a mistake knowing what You want us to do, because we know us. We’ll probably make a mistake. You know, close the doors that we’re not supposed to take. Show us to … open the doors wide open where you want us to go. Make a path where there is no path and we will follow. That … that was the biggest thing for us.
And you know, Proverbs 3:5, learning to lean not on our own understandings, but look to Him, to trust Him and … and ask Him to make it so clear that we couldn’t mess it up.
Jim: Do you think you and your husband drew closer together in that time, when you look at a valley?
Alli: It is the valley.
Jim: You’re probably prayin’ together more often. You were seeking the Lord more often. Isn’t that odd?
Alli: It is. And a few years after that, you know, we’re in a new home and things are great and he looked at me across the table one day and said, “ Were we happier when we were homeless? And I said, “Maybe. Let’s look at those things we were doing back then and make sure we’re still doing ‘em today and we don’t’ get caught up in … in the busyness and the craziness and the consumerism that is um … the culture that we live in now.”
Jim: It’s so true and... Alli, let me ask you this, too. You believe one of the things that causes stress is worrying about thefuture and what could happen. And so many families are full of that kind of worry, I think especiallymoms. I don’t mean to lay it there, but moms are concerned about the future of their kids, their spiritualhealth, what’s happening at school for them. Again, they’re wired to be connected in so many ways. Dad iskind of like, “Hey, you want to play football? You know, let’s go.”
But have you dealt withthat kind of an approachwith your mothering, that you gotta let your kids go?
Alli: Oh, absolutely. Um … I will just … while we’ve been sitting here, I was thinking about my oldest son, who is gonna drive for the first time three hours by himself to my cousin’s house today.
Alli: Today, I woke up this … I woke up this morning and thought, I’m gonna plot it out on Google Maps and then I’ll send it to him to make sure he isn’t checking his phone while he’s driving. And I thought, he’s an 18-year-old man. I … he’s okay. The Lord’s got him. I … I’m just gonna trust that he’s okay.
Um … for any type of worry, whether it’s with our kids or our families or our future or our finances, it is easy to … to have this thought pop in our heads and then we go on that spiral of anxiety, because one thought leads to another and one thought leads to another and …
Jim: Typically negative thoughts.
Alli: Always negative, yeah. It’s a spiral down. So, for me I had to do this thing that I call “Truth Talk,” which I go, okay, this is what I’m thinking about, but I don’t know for sure if it’s true. It could happen; it couldn’t happen, but I’m gonna replace my thoughts with truth.
So, I go to Scripture and go, okay, Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is good, think on these things.” So, we can imagine a million different things that can go wrong, but we need to replace that with the truth of God’s Word and not let … and it kind of catches us when we are spiraling … spiraling down in worries and helps get our mind back in the right place.
Jim: In fact, you have a framework in your book,Breaking Busy.You call it “The Five F’s,” that give you a foundation, like there’s another F, to provide some structure for you to think through these things. What is it?
Alli: Oh, yes, I love alliteration, ‘cause it helps me remember things. So, it’s the five F’s of decision making. So, if I have a big decision, I will use all the five F’s. If it’s a little decision, it’s probably just gonna be one of them, so I pick and choose.
But it’s super handy. The first one is faith. Any decision we make we want to look at it in light of Scripture.
Alli: Is this something that God wants? Is this something that God doesn’t want? We pray about it. We know from the book of James [James 1:5] that we pray and we … we are granted wisdom from the Lord. So, always look at any decision you make through the lens of faith.
The second one is family. Any decision you have to make, you want to … if you’re married, what does your spouse say? If you have children, how is it gonna affect your kids? So, that’s an easy way to know--should I say yes? Should I say no?--how it’s gonna affect the family.
The third F is future. I love the think … the idea that we think about ourselves a little bit in the future. So, I’m … I’m always thinking about future Alli.
Jim: What does that do for you though when you do that?
Alli: Well, it gives me the strength today to be able to say no graciously, because I know the future version of myself is gonna be annoyed that I said yes. (Laughter) Like—
Jim: (Laughing) That is so true.
Alli: Future Alli us all like … morning Alli is always mad at las … last night’s Alli, ‘cause I stayed up too late. So, morning Alli’s like, “What are you doin’ last night, Alli?” But it can’t … it’s not just in the morning. It could be in a month.
So, I use this thing called the 10-10-10 analysis with little decisions. I ask myself, “What am I gonna think about this in 10 minutes? What am I gonna think about it in 10 weeks? What am I gonna think about it in 10 months?”
And so, normally anything that I say yes to in 10 minutes, I’m gonna feel great because I’ve made somebody else happy. So, any request, I say yes. I’m a hero. Everyone’s happy. It’s a parade. But then when I think, okay, how am I gonna outwork this decision in 10 weeks. That’s when the rubber starts meeting the road, ‘cause maybe I don’t really have the time or the resources or the energy to do it.
And then 10 months, that’s when I’ll really be aggravated if I said yes when I should’ve said no. So, but this concept of thinking of ourselves in the future, it helps me to go, “You know, I want to say yes to this, but I’m pretty sure I need to say no because I’m gonna be upset in the future because I just … I … I don’t have any way to fulfill that obligation.
Jim: That’s great and so, it gives you some accountability for your responses. Okay, you’ve covered faith, family, future. Two more F’s, what are they?
Allie: Um … the fourth one is fulfillment. I believe that God has given us all such unique passions and abilities and talents, that when wecanmake a decision based on how God made us, we should. I mean, why would He give us … why would He make us all so unique if we weren’t gonna outwork that in our decisions in life.
And then the final one is friends. We know that many counselors make for good decisions [Proverbs 15:22], but that was before the era of Facebook.
Jim: Yeah, too many counselors maybe.
Allie: Too many counselors maybe don’t make—
John: That’s a good distinction.
Allie: --wise decisions.
Jim: That’s good.
Allie: So, I like to look at the two or three people who’ve earned the right to speak into my life, whose lives bear good fruit with the decisions I have to make. So, that’s it: faith, family, future, fulfillment and friends.
John: All right and we’re gonna post that list online for our busy friends to be able to go and just capture the summary of the five F’s.
Jim: And I’m tryin’, you know, put my thinkin’ hat on. So, which of the five F’s do you live in mostly today?
Jim: Good; that’s actually a healthy, healthy thing, isn’t it?
Allie: Uh-hm. Absolutely.
Jim: Allie, this has been so good. I mean, your book,Breaking Busy, I think will equip moms particularly, but women, men, too, of how to think through practical steps to take to get their life under a bit more control. And the thing for me personally is not to kind of use that as a badge of honor, to say, yeah, look how busy I am. Actually to scorn it rather than to laud it and I so appreciate that. That’s a good reminder for us as believers, what we need to trust in, what we need to be about. So, thank you so much for that.
And let me turn to you, the listener. Today’s program is a great example of what we want to do to help you in your walk, in your journey in this life. We know you’re busy. (Laughing) We’re all busy. But this will give you some very practical ways to make your life less hectic. And I think the most important benefit, John, is especially again for parents, to be able to declutter, “de-wind” their busyness, so that they can concentrate on the most important job that they have and that’s to raise their children in a way that they will honor the Lord, follow the Lord. That’s job one for all of us. So, that is the core reason that we wanted Alli on today, to help you in that way.
If you can help us with a financial gift of any amount, we want to say thank you by sending you a copy of Alli’s book,Breaking Busy,so that you can get started right now making your life less busy.
John: And so, look for the book,Breaking Busy,and a CD or a download of our conversationat focusonthefamily.com/radioand donate generously when you’re there, please.Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459.
Jim: Alli, it has been great to have you here at Focus. Thanks for comin’.
Alli: Thank you. It was great to be here.
John: We’re hoping you have a great weekend and we’ll invite you back on Monday as Ken Costa shares valuable advice on finding God’s purpose for your life.
Mr. Ken Costa: If you know your why, you’ll find your way in life. If you don’t know your why, everything else is in the way. But if you know your why, somehow those mountains don’t appear to be as big as they were.
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