Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Break Free From Busyness and Do the Work You Were Meant For

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Alli Worthington. Alli is an author, speaker, and blogger helping women live the life they were created to live. You can find her on her website and Twitter.

I remember the day I decided to finally write a book. I got out my antiquated laptop and Googled, “How to Write a Book”. One of the results said to write a blog and build a following. So I Googled, “How to Write a Blog”. I’m not even kidding.

Break Free From Busyness and Do the Work You Were Meant For

I sometimes laugh at how much I didn’t know. But you know what? That didn’t stop me. I knew what I wanted to do, and even though it took ten years to get there, my first book, Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy just released last month.

Please don’t think that setting a goal and reaching it is a walk in the park. My life is crazy all the time, and crazy busy a lot of the time. With a full-time job and five sons (yes, you read that right, five sons), ages 7–17, my house is in a constant state of motion and mess (if I’m being real).

If you are at all like I was, you’re thinking, “I’m too busy to add one more thing to my plate, so how in the world am I going to (fill in your goal here)?” I get it.

The good news is whether it’s writing a book, or bringing your passion to life, the circumstances in your life don’t have to line up perfectly to accomplish what you were meant to do in this world.

The goal of publishing Breaking Busy changed how I spent my time while actively writing. I couldn’t just take eight months off of work (and life) to write the book. I wrote on Saturdays, edited on Sunday afternoons, and spent little pockets of time scribbling notes of inspiration during the week.

This process really put what I was preaching to practice. I had the good, necessary, and sometimes uncomfortable experience of telling lots of people “no” in those eight months.

“Thank you for inviting me, but I can’t make it.”

“I would love to be able to help, but my weekends are full.”

So how do you break busy and carve out space for your goals?

Make a stop doing list

This is one of my favorite strategies. Often, when we find ourselves feeling busy and overwhelmed, we want to develop a plan to do more things to fix it. What we really need to do is just stop doing things.

Our lives have gotten all cluttered up with things we think we “should” do; so much so that we can’t figure out what the things are that we were meant to do.

Are you doing what you should do or what you were meant to do? And how do you go about subtracting from the clutter in your life to get to the things you were meant to do in the first place?

Deciding what to subtract from your life is one of the key components of Breaking Busy. Distractions are everywhere, waiting to lead us down the wrong path, and keep us from our calling.

The best way to discover what you want/need to stop doing is by asking yourself these questions:

  • What is sucking the life right out of me right now?
  • Does this activity get me any closer to achieving my goals?

My experience is that most people have an immediate answer to these questions. And that answer, once it’s “out there”, gets people moving in the right direction.

Discover what “future you” will think

When evaluating a choice, it is important to think about the future you.

What is the goal? What do you hope to accomplish?

I like to ask myself what “Future Alli” will think about decisions I make.

Many times during the months of Saturdays I spent locked in our master bedroom writing Breaking Busy, I felt huge amounts of guilt. I missed having family time on the weekends, and I struggled with wondering if I was hurting our family by taking all the time away to write.

It would’ve been easy to let worry about being selfish or not being a good mom make me give up and be miserable the whole time I was working. It helped to think about what “Future Alli” would think in ten weeks, ten months, or ten years.

Would I regret giving up?

Of course.

Would my kids be scarred for life because I took a few months of Saturdays to write?


Any decision you have to make, any dream you are building, any goal you have—the best way to keep going and not get sidetracked by fear, doubt and unnecessary busyness is to ask yourself what this will mean to the future you.

Time management is not the problem

While researching busyness, I read approximately a gazillion books on time management and realized one thing—if time management was the real issue, we wouldn’t all still be so busy.

Busyness, at the root, is a result of living in a world that says you have to be more, do more, and achieve more to be enough.

Busyness keeps us distracted from the life we were meant to live. We focus on the tyranny of the urgent, instead of focusing on the things that help us live out our calling in that season of life.

Yes, we have to learn to manage our time differently, but more importantly, we must learn to spend our precious time doing the things we were created for.

I know you can break busy and find your own peace and purpose in this world of crazy busy. I know you can do it, because I did. Breaking Busy won’t be easy, and it won’t be perfect, but it will be worth it.

What is distracting you from what you were meant to do? How does the idea of “future you” change your perspective? Share in the comments

About Alli Worthington

Alli Worthington is an author, speaker, blogger, and the Executive Director of Propel Women. Her goal is to help women live the life they were created to live. Alli co-founded BlissDom Events and has helped individuals, small business owners, and Fortune 500 companies be more successful. She lives outside Nashville with her husband, Mark, their five sons, and a rescued dog and cat who moved onto their doorstep.

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  • Karen Collings Stewart

    Feeling overwhelmed & so stressed I had an irregular heartbeat just didn’t make sense to me as a new retiree. My husband sat me down and had me list everything I’m involved with. I was shocked at how long of a list it was. It’s now a very manageable list of things I’ve always wanted to do but never had enough time. The rest is GONE and it’s wonderful. Sometimes I need a smack in the head with the health hammer to make me realize I’m in too deep. Your article has divine timing — thanks !!!

    • Our bodies do try to let us know, don’t they? Glad to hear you broke busy, Karen. 🙂

  • Alli- Enjoyed your post. I left a service club after many years of membership because I realized it was keeping me from my goals. Learning to say “no thanks” is key. Also, Cal Newport’s research on “deep work” alligns well with your message here. To do quality work, you need to focus and limit distractions. Thanks for a thoughtful post!

    • Yes, John, I’m a huge fan of Cal Newport’s work as well. #LikeMinds

  • Garland

    Alli, thanks for a great article. I especially loved the insight on busyness stemming from living in a world that constantly calls us to be more, do more, etc. I am finishing up a doctorate in which I focused on the busyness epidemic from a biblical perspective. Thanks for calling all of us to rethink the way that we live our lives.
    Garland Vance

    • Wow, Garland, that is fascinating. I wish I could have used some of your research in the book! #NextTime 🙂

  • Jason Cancino

    Alli, I really love the make a “stop doing list!” lol That is so true, we have all these to do lists, but are we really getting any closer to our goals….usually not.

    And the Time management thing, wow, you are so right on. I actually wrote a post called the Time Managment Myth: http://bestonlinemarketingsystem.org/the-time-management-myth

    You can take a look at it if you like, but it confirms what you mentioned above….now if you decide to take a look, know that one of my sub-topics was “My Top 6 List.” I laugh, because even though it’s about a list, it’s very similar to your “Stop doing list.” but it does sound contradictory, and I promise it is not.

    Thanks for sharing about your own journey and what helped you get to your goals!