Breaking out of a cycle of constant busyness takes more than flipping a switch. Today
on Homeschool Heartbeat, join author Alli Worthington as she shares insights on
focusing your life and kicking stress to the curb.
Mike Smith: Our guest today is Alli Worthington. She’s an
author, entrepreneur and former homeschooling mom. Alli, welcome to the program!
Alli Worthington: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here
What is “breaking busy”? [0:25]
Mike: Well Alli, you recently published your first book called
Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy. So let me ask
you, what does it mean to “break busy”?
Alli: Well, the phrase comes from a period of life from a few
years ago. My husband and I have five sons—they are from 8 to 17 years old. And at
that point I just felt like I was on this treadmill all the time, going nowhere. I felt
like we were so busy trying to be all things to all people that I was letting everyone
down. So I said to my husband that “I have to break busy before the busy breaks
me,” because it was going to. And breaking busy is really about breaking the
cycles of unnecessary busyness that keep us from living the life that we were created to
Mike: So why is it important for parents to understand their
own abilities and limitations in breaking busy?
Alli: Well, it’s so easy for parents to feel the immense
pressure to provide everything for kids—not just home and food and spiritual
teaching and education, but we also put way too much pressure on ourselves to make life
perfect for our kids. So we end up spreading ourselves too thin, getting
so over-busy that we don’t actually enjoy our lives. When that happens,
it steals the joy from a household, and it’s just not a great example for kids to
see parents over-stressed all the time. We want to live the lives God created us to
live, not the lives that the world says we should live. I think that’s the
Getting off the treadmill [1:54]
Mike: Alli, could you share with us why you decided to break
busy and reorganize your life?
Alli: Absolutely. My husband and I found ourselves crazy busy
between work, the kids, church, extracurricular activities, and volunteering. We were
exhausted and not even really enjoying family time together. I finally broke down and
admitted to my husband that I was completely burned out. And luckily he had been feeling
the same way—the stress and pressure to be all things to all people. And it was at
that point [that] we began to re-prioritize our lives to look for where God called us to
focus our time and energy and not try to do everything all the time.
Mike: So Alli, how did it work out for you? What were the
results of those changes?
Alli: Well, here’s the thing. Breaking busy is a process.
I learned that you never wake up one day and go, “Hey, I have nothing to do or a
million needs that I need to take care of. I’m just going to hang out by the pool
and have someone peel grapes for me.” I learned that we have to find practical
ways to edit life and focus in on what God calls us to do and get off that treadmill of
busyness. And I provide a lot of those practical tools in the book and they work really,
really well, but it really is a battle that we have to fight every day to break out of
5 warning signs of stress [3:12]
Mike: Alli, in your book, you list five ways to know that your life
is just too crazy. Could you describe what they are?
Alli: Absolutely. The first one, for me personally, is an
inability to control my emotions. When I am a little bit grumpy or am easy to cry, I
know that I’m over-busy. I like to say out of control emotions often reflect the
out of control demands that we put on ourselves.
Another one is a lack of self-care. When I’m not taking care of my health, when
I say, “I’m too busy to eat healthy or exercise or get enough sleep,”
I know it’s because I’m too busy.
And that often leads into number three, which is annoying, ongoing little illnesses.
I went through a season in my life where I could not get better—it was a cold or a
flu or a sinus infection. I went to the doctor and I just wanted a magic pill to make me
better, and the doctor said, “Alli, you’re stressed. Until you learn to deal
with your stress and get some rest and take care of yourself, you’re going to stay
Another one after that would be self-medicating in excess. This can be through food,
or exercise, binge-watching TV, or it can be—for me, it was spending hours and
hours on Pinterest, admiring other people’s lives instead of investing in my own
The final one is really important. It is a combination of neglecting your important
relationships in your life, like your family and your friends, but also neglecting God.
So, when we feel like our friends and family are suffering from our schedule or our
busyness, or if we realize that we’re not investing time to pray or even go to
church because we’re so burned out, it’s a huge indication that we’re
Any of these signs are a red flag that we need to break busy in our lives. But if you
have a combination of them, that’s the big wake-up call that it’s time to
really get it under control.
Breaking the cycle [5:03]
Mike: For many parents today, being busy is just a way of life.
But in your book, you say that being busy actually holds parents back from their true
potential. Now what do you mean by that?
Alli: What I learned in my life is when I stay too busy I
don’t invest time in prayer, and I believe that the real strength in our life is
through prayer to find out what God wants for us, what His plan is for us. And if I
don’t invest that time, if I am too busy doing other things, I’m never going
to reach my potential in life.
Mike: So how can parents break the habit of being busy all the
time and really thrive as they realize their great potential?
Alli: The best thing to do is to make sure you’re
spending quality time resting, meditating, praying, and making life quieter than it has
been. Normally, we live lives that are so loud and so busy that we don’t get to
connect. That is the key.
Getting past the to-do list [5:59]
Mike: Alli, we’ve talked about how to know you’re
too busy and what it means to break busy. Now let’s get really practical. Do you
have any specific tips or suggestions for parents who want to conquer the busyness in
Alli: Absolutely. I’ll give you two things really
The first thing is a “stop-doing” list. I love to-do lists, I could use a
to-do list for every little thing in my life. And normally, when we’re too busy we
want to work our way out of being busy but what I started doing is every day writing
one, two, sometimes three things that I did that I wanted to stop doing. So when people
came to me and said, “Do you want to bake cookies for the neighborhood
fundraiser?” I would have to say, “No, I can’t do that anymore but
I’ll give you some money,” because I knew my cookies weren’t going to
make me happy to spend time baking them and anyone who ate them wasn’t going to be
happy with it. It was on my stop-doing list.
Another really helpful tip is to ask yourself what your future self will think about
your decisions that you’re making today. So for me, I like to ask myself what
future Alli is going to think about something. If I say “yes” to this one
activity or this one obligation, how is my future self in 10 weeks or even 10 days going
to feel about this decision? Sometimes I have a tendency to say “yes” when I
should say “no,” but if I think about what I’m going to feel about it
in the future, it gives me that strength to give a gracious “no” in the
moment, instead of saying “yes” to things automatically.
Mike: Well Alli, I just have to say this has been
a tremendous pleasure having you with us this week. Thank you so much and we
look forward to sharing with you in the future, but until next time, I’m Mike