An honest Present Over Perfect review and how it spoke to my tendency to bask in being overly busy and mistake busyness with success.
*This post contains affiliate links*
Review of Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
I recently finished reading Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist. When I bought this book, I thought it was a self-help guide to learning how to unplug and slow down. Instead, I was taken on Niequist’s journey of reclaiming her life. The practices that she implemented were insightful and inspiring, though not completely applicable to my current life. However, the book really spoke to my tendency to bask in being overly busy and mistake busyness with success.
Addicted to Being Busy
My biggest takeaway from Present Over Perfect was that it’s possible to be addicted to being busy. I’d never thought of that as something a person could be addicted to, but it made perfect sense. Busyness is like a drug. You fill your days and your life with things to do until that’s all you know. And in the end, you aren’t doing a great job at any of them. Niequist mentioned many times that she used most of her energy for work and gave her kids and husband whatever was leftover. I’m guilty of doing the same thing with my family. I rush around, working to keep the house tidy, or filling the day with activities, and never stop to savor any of it. Or, I burn myself out and end up grumpy. Then, my afternoons involve me snapping at everyone. Much like Niequist, productivity is my idol.
Present Over Perfect encouraged me to not measure my self-worth in how much I accomplished in a day. Instead, I can focus my days on how being present. The important things in life are making memories with my daughters, spending time with my husband and taking care of my mental health. That’s not to say that I don’t still prioritize having a clean and tidy home. It truly decreases everyone’s stress to have clean clothes and dishes! But those chores don’t need to happen all day, everyday. I set aside one day a week for cleaning now. Once the house is clean, I push it out of my mind to focus on other things.
Saying Yes, Also Means Saying No
In her book, Niequist also wrote about her desire to be the person that people could count on to always be there. She said yes to events and volunteering her time because she wanted to be someone people felt they could rely on. She did this until she reached a point where she couldn’t figure out how to say no anymore. People always talk about saying yes more often, but sometimes in order to say yes, you also have to say no. Meaning you can say yes to being more involved at home, but that may mean turning down invitations to go out.
I struggle with this off and on. As an extrovert, I love to spend time outside of the house. I used to thrive on having plans almost every night of the week. In fact, before my oldest child was born, I used to not being able to be alone. When my husband would go out of town I would fill every single night he was gone with a social event. Now, I can’t keep up with that way of life. I have to say no to being overly busy so that I have the energy to be up with my kids in the morning, or to have some alone time with my husband in the evening. A good balance for me is going out one to two nights a week. I get to recharge socially, but still be there for my family.
My Overall Thoughts
Overall, my Present Over Perfect review is pretty a positive one. The book was an excellent read, especially if you struggle with being overly busy and want to slow down. I don’t think this book would resonate with someone without a significant other or kids. Due to the fact, those are Niequist’s main reasons for needing to slow her life down. The book is also very Christian, so if you aren’t into that I’d steer clear. If you can look past it and take it from a more “spiritual” perspective, then it may still be worth your time. If you’re looking for more of a guide to stepping back from busy written in a similar tone (Christian and family-focused) Grace, Not Perfection, or A Simplified Life by Emily Ley may be more your speed.
You can find more of my book reviews and recommendations in my Book archives!