We'd be less busy if we understood our callings. Knowing your calling allows you to say No to good, worthwhile things, simply because God has other things for you to do.
In Mark 1, Jesus is in Capernaum, near his hometown. He spends a day healing the sick and driving out demons. The next morning, Jesus awakes before dawn, "left and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." His disciples get up and begin frantically searching for him. There are demons to drive out, and people to heal! When they find him, in exasperated tones, they declare "Everyone is looking for you!"
Jesus replied: "Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come."
Jesus tells his disciples he's not going to stay and heal all the folks in Capernaum who needed his help. Did he care about them? Absolutely (Mark 8:2). But after prayer, he was very clear on his mission – to preach the Kingdom of God in other villages as well (Mark 1:38).
I recently interviewed Kevin DeYoung on his new book Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book on a (Really) Big Problem. We "freak out" about our kids, try to prove ourselves through big cars, houses, and promotions, and respond to every How are you? with a singular response: Busy. Americans have willfully put too much on their plates.
But DeYoung points out that Jesus set priorities. Even the son of God, who could have done it all, chose not to. He turned away from doing good things because he knew his mission. If this isn't permission to say no the the 1001 activities we sign up for, what is?
At work, if we simply chose to do the most important work, and ignore (or at least postpone) the rest, our companies and organizations would thrive. Instead, we get busy and let ourselves be pulled this way and that – between email, side projects, or just long conversations. Because we never define (actually write on a piece of paper) what our God-given mission is (and the goals that mission entails), too often we spin our wheels and never leave the gate. A better way would be to clearly define our priorities – and let all the details that make us so busy stay on the sidelines, where they belong.
Two simple questions: (1) What is your top priority today? (2) What will you put on your "not to-do" list?