How Busy Is Too Busy?

As I flipped through the Montreal Gazette this morning while drinking my coffee, I came across a headline that caught my eye. The kids had no school, so it was a pleasure to sit down, slowly, in my bathrobe, with my cup of joe, and enjoy the unfrenetic pace. Definitely a welcomed change from the usual whirlwind of a typical school morning. The headline read, “Crazy Busy is too busy– but what of not busy enough?” I liked it. I read on.

How Busy Is Too Busy?

The columnist Susan Schwartz (whose writing I enjoy), discussed the state of women’s lives today… most of us are feeling overwhelmed, over-committed, with little “me time,” little time for friends, and are overtaxed with deadlines and other obligations. But the “On the fence” issue she mentioned struck a chord– “Listening, I thought how not being busy enough can damage the spirit as much as being too busy, how we all need some purpose, some structure. The work need not be paid or be considered work in the traditional sense, but it must be fruitful, make us feel like we matter.” (Susan Schwartz) I have been saying this, you all know, since I started this blog Sept. 11, 2009.

After I read Susan’s article, I couldn’t help but think back to something that happened two weeks ago. And then that sinking feeling of guilt came over me again. It was definitely my warning sign to slow down. We had been gearing up for our Disney vacation, I was preparing for my weekly radio segment, writing blogs, preparing my Women In Leadership speech, packing up the family, balancing mommyhood and wifehood, and I was just very busy. Too busy in fact to re-read the teacher’s instructions for my son’s Torah Consecration ceremony (a Jewish ceremony in the synagogue at school). It was the first time I’d ever done anything like this. My boys are my life, my priority, my #1.

How Busy Is Too Busy?
One of my precious babies 🙂

In fact, Miss Organized (that’s me), had put the instructions in her Blackberry last month: dress pants, white button down, dress shoes and white kippah. But, the morning of the ceremony, rushing of course, I had remembered “grey pants” (they had to wear grey pants LAST year), and I forgot the white kippah. So, off he went to school in his grey uniform pants, white button down, dress shoes, and no white kippah.

At 9am, my husband, myself, my four year old, and the grandparents all took our seats in the synagogue. We were excited, as the whole class had been preparing for months for this big day. Then out came the kids, walking and singing in a single-file line right to the stage. They were adorable. But there was my boy on the stage– the ONLY one in the grey school uniform pants, and a white kippah the size of Russia, that the school had lent him. My husband looked at me– if looks could kill, I would have been six feet under. I fucked up. How could I have done this? All the kids were in white kippahs sent from home, that fit them. All in their black dress pants. My son clearly stood out. I wanted to die. But there he sang, so confident and completely unaware. It made me feel even sicker.

I decided right then and there, instead of beating myself up, or feeling embarrassed, I would watch and enjoy the show. The kids were brilliant, and my son of course, made us all so proud. When it was over, we hugged him and told him how proud we were of him. But as we were walking out, my mom, always the most honest person to me, said, “Sweetie, you need to slow down. It wasn’t a big deal, but it’s a sign.” And I knew she was right. Busy is great. Too busy is not great.

How Busy Is Too Busy?

I shared my story today in hopes that you will learn from it. Now luckily, it wasn’t a huge error, but as my mom put it, it was my wake-up call. I think we all need to find that fine line between not busy, and too busy. And then it all comes down to priorities, life obligations, life choices, responsibilities, and then I’m back on the fence with how to juggle it all. But I’ll leave this dilemma for another day.

Instead, I will close with something I’ve never done… taken someone else’s closing line, but I think it sums up how we should all organize our busy lives. “In the end, then, let us wish for one another: to be busy enough to feel a part of the rhythm and the beat of the world around us– but not so busy that we don’t hear its music.”

Well said Susan Schwartz.


Tell us, HOW BUSY IS TOO BUSY? Do you like being busy or do you find it overwhelming? How do YOU find time to enjoy the music, and master the fine balance between doing enough and doing too much? Please share with our readers.

  1. Don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all missed things for those we love. The great thing is that you didn’t ignore the warning sign. I also struggle with finding the balance between living a full life and then complaining about it. The joys of being a multi tasking woman. 🙂 Great post.

  2. When life feels too busy, I try and take a break and do some of the things I enjoy like hiking, reading or making myself a cup of tea to recenter. I agree with Shannon that it was an honest mistake and just let it go. Personally I like being busy and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s all in how you manage it.

  3. Erica, we are all so busy in our home,work and social lives. You are a great mom! Dont ever feel guilty. Your son performed as if he was wearing the proper pants and Kippah. Those insignificant
    things did not take away from his performance.That is what matters most! Take a deep breath and know these things happen all the time. Although, it wont happen to you AGAIN! Great lesson learned by all of us.

  4. I think it’s also the pressure of always feeling like we have to be perfect in all that we do. So you didn’t perfectly remember the uniform, you’re human – and human is good. I think we need to set the example for our kids in this crazy busy life that it’s alright to mess up once in a while – one of the best ways to learn is through our mistakes. And most importantly, be able to laugh about it.

  5. Very relatable. We’ve all been there. Don’t beat yourself up. Slow down is a phrase I like to repeat in my head often. Good words!

  6. Erica, I heard you on Martha Stewart radio yesterday afternoon & found your blog afterwards! Love it – you are very inspirational! And I can totally relate to this post – I’ve always been the person who would never say no to anyone – at work or in my personal life. I reached burn-out about 3 years ago & somehow took a stock of the situation & began saying “no”, especially at work. Then 2 years ago I did the same in my personal life – I was buying birthday gifts for literally about 30 folk each year, & then doing the same at Christmas. And for someone who doesn’t like shopping, this was extra stressful, as well as ridiculously expensive. Enough was enough. I emailed everyone & let them know that from then on I was going to donate each year instead of buying Christmas/birthday gifts. I feel much better now!

  7. I’ve decided to look at all of my “misshaps” from being a busy working mom as signs that I needed to slow down and create some additional balance in my life. They’re my little wake up calls just when I need them. Twice in the last year I headed out to the car while still talking on the house phone and and drove out of the driveway. When 1/2 way down the road finally figured out how I lost the call I realized I need to stop and take a deep breather. Life is too precious and I can’t give my teens any more ammunition to tease me about 😉

  8. I had a similar situation last week when I forgot it was free dress day at school! As the kids were running out the door to carpool I remembered and pulled them back in for a quick change to their favorite outfits. I think when these things happen, we do have to see the message that life is moving (maybe) a bit too fast and we have to slow it down.
    Busy at work is a good thing becaus eit makes the days go faster BUT when the work day is over – it’s over. And then my next job starts – Mom and wife. The trick is to find the time between the two “jobs” to appreciate all the good and fun stuff. As my mother used to say to me…the laundry and dishes can wait, use the time to play with the kids because that’s what they’ll remember! And she was right!

  9. I think women are notorious for adding to our plate without taking anything off or asking for HELP. Even though my son is my #1 priority, sometimes I get so caught up with writing, freelancing, organizing, keeping everyone fed, walking the dogs…you get the point, that I actually have to remind myself to sit and play with him. Just SIT and PLAY! Isn’t that awful:\

  10. It was good you caught the warning signs. My wake up call was last week. I overscheduled myself to the point I missed my best friends birthday and found I did not spend anytime with my family. My goal is to allow myself to say “no” and understand it is ok to say no.

  11. This reminds me of the time that I failed to notice my 6yo son went to school with his shirt on backwards. Not a huge deal because you couldn’t really tell but I felt so bad when he came home from school and I realized that I didn’t check him before school that day, I knew I needed to SLOW DOWN. Great post.

  12. Only just came across your article Erica & I loved it ….
    I have had many warning signs over the years….ranging from leaving my car door wide open, sending my kids to school in the wrong uniform, and even turning up a day early for an interstate business meeting!
    thanks for sharing!

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