This year I’m “snowbirding” in Florida. It was either work from my home office in Missouri and be a part of the “cold-warm-snowy-warm again-icy-warm-again” rollercoaster weather we have in the midwest or sit in my makeshift office on our back deck in Florida and do my work from there. Hmmm….stare out my office window at a drab brown landscape or look at palm trees and a tiki bar. The decision was easy.
I took a backpack filled with pairs of shorts, my favorite sunglasses, and a few paperback books and then loaded my little dogs into pet carriers and boarded a plane. When I got down here I decided to give myself a few free days to walk the beach and lounge poolside and basically get acclimated to Florida life again. After that, I decided it was time to cinch up my belt and get down to work.
Besides doing daily “must-do” tasks for my coaching business, blogging, checking in with customers, and adding content to a few private Facebook groups I run, I had a list about as long as my arm of things I could do to stay busy. After all, the last thing I wanted was to be criticized for being an inactive snowbird so maintaining an appearance of activity seemed like the thing to do. My list looked something like this:
- Organize drawers and cabinets
- Stock up on bottles of sunscreen and beach towels
- Pick out new dining room lighting
- Powerwash the decks and patio
- Walk and ride my bike daily
- Do a daily Bible study
- Join the gym
- Get a library card
- Do jigsaw puzzles
By week two I had hit the ground running and began to check ✔ things off my list. By week three something started happening. The checkmarks lost their luster. Marking things as done was surprisingly anticlimactic. Sure I was accomplishing things but something just didn’t feel right. I began to feel empty. The busywork “buzz” I had been feeling was starting to wear off.
If you look up busywork in the dictionary here’s what you’ll find:
busywork (bĭz′ē-wûrk″) noun
- Activity, such as schoolwork or office work, meant to take up time but not necessarily yield productive results.
- active work of little value, performed merely to occupy time, avoid boredom, or to look busy.
I hate the part about “of little value”! If you’ve been reading my blogs you know that adding value to the world and others is something I write about often. Adding value to the world around me is important yet recently I’ve been staying busy for the sake of looking busy. Ick.
Sometimes I can wear busyness like it’s a badge of honor. Call it an “I’m busy so I must be important” kind of thing. Sometimes I stay busy to drown out the noise of the crazy things happening around me. Sometimes I stay busy to soothe myself from the uncomfortable things happening inside of me. Better to stay busy than to deal with things. Can you relate?
If you think long and hard about it, every circumstance and almost every waking moment presents us with an opportunity to do something (big or small) of value.
First, we have to make a choice though. We can: a) jump into the circumstance and decide to make a valuable contribution or b) ignore it and get caught up in our day, do our “thing,” and stay “busy.”
Now is a great time for me to point out that before we can bring values to others, we must first make a conscious decision to believe that we ourselves are valuable and that what we do or say matters. Each of us has something unique to contribute to the greater good of the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re retired, working, a busy parent, childless, married, or single. Your ethnicity, your age, and your economic status don’t matter either.
Little Things Matter
Sure, sometimes contributing value to the world can be done in BIG ways like donating money, inventing a new time-saving gadget, discovering a cure for a disease, volunteering for the Peace Corps, going on mission trips-you name it! But, let’s not forget, we can contribute in LITTLE ways too.
It’s not rocket science coming up with small ways to contribute value. If you’re stumped and need ideas here are 3 simple ones that jump out at me:
- Our Smile. The first little thing that comes to mind is our facial expressions. As you go about your day, do you look kind? Does your face show that you’re approachable? Are you wearing an inviting smile or scowling and giving the message to “back off”? A smile can change someone’s day.
A friend gave me a workout shirt a few years ago that helps to make this point. Across the front of the shirt in big bold letters, it reads “I promise I am a lot nicer than my resting gym shirt?” Catchy, right? Let me explain why she bought it for me. For years I had a reputation in the gym for being unfriendly and unapproachable. I walked in the doors with a mission to get in a good workout and then get out. In. Out. That’s it. I didn’t want to be bothered. Now, on the surface, there’s really nothing wrong with being focused and wanting to get things done, but I’m sure there were people that I crossed paths with that could have used a friendly smile or a friendly hello from me but I ignored them. Thankfully, I’ve changed my ways. I’m not quite a chatterbox, but I’m much more amiable than I once was. Moving right along…
- Our Words. What words are coming out of your mouth? Words that build-up or words that tear down? Unfortunately, many of us spend gobs of time beating ourselves up so we sure don’t need others to do it for us! One of the best things you can do is to let other people know that they matter. To let them know that their feelings are valid and assure them that they are normal. To let them know that they will be okay. That they are braver than they think. That it’s okay to ask for help. That they deserve success and happiness. That they are perfectly imperfect (like the rest of us!). And, above all, that they are enough. Click here if you’d like some free (and adorable) printable affirmation cards. Watch your words-be an encourager.
- Our Presence. Do you make yourself available to people or are you too busy? Do you lend an ear to those who need someone to listen to them? Do you offer your shoulder for someone to cry on? Are you free or stingy with hugs and pats on the back? Sometimes your presence is all another person needs.
I’m an early riser and up before the sun most days. The other morning I went outside (with serious bedhead, sporting a ratty robe and wearing fuzzy slippers!) to take my little dogs on their first potty break of the day. While I was waiting on them to do their “business” I looked up and literally caught my breath. The moon was not quite full, the stars were bright and shiny and, except for the rustling of the palms, the world was quiet. It was truly an overwhelming experience. My heart was filled with awe and gratitude and out came these words: “Good morning, God! It’s just little old me down here and great big You up there. I know You don’t really need any help because you can do things on your own. You’re always helping me, but how can I help You today?”
Here’s the deal: I don’t want that question to be a once-in-a-blue-moon question. I want to ask it every.single.day. I want to be an asset to His Kingdom and know that I did my part. I don’t want to miss opportunities.
Here’s what the Bible says about contributing and serving: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)
I don’t want to waste my gift! I don’t want to bury myself in busywork of no value. I want to contribute more of myself. I have talents. So do you. Let’s share them with the world around us to bring more joy, love, kindness, compassion, empathy, equality, and inclusion!
What have I been up to since I put my busywork list aside, you ask? I’ve applied to be a substitute teacher (I can’t wait to get back in the classroom – 25 years is a long time!), I offered to babysit for a friend, I baked loaves of bread for a few neighbors, I contacted a mission group located in Key West to volunteer, and I donated boxes of clothing and canned goods. Full disclosure: I’m a work-in-progress and have a long, long way to go before I get this “contributing value” thing down, but that’s okay. Every day is a do-over day and is filled with more possibilities.
I know many of you reading this have responsibilities that far exceed mine. Maybe you’ve got a job that takes up a lot of your time, or you’re a parent juggling children’s needs, or you’re a student trying to make good grades, or you’re battling a sickness, or maybe you’re in the middle of a crisis.
I get it. I really do. But here’s an action plan that will work for every single one of us: Plan time in your schedule not to have plans and then see what happens.
Hey, send me a note when you get a chance. Tell me how you like to add value to others around you. What is your special gift? How can you share it in your world? Contributing value matters.
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