Okay, so that peaceful, languid living I talked about a few days ago is long forgotten–as I knew it would be once school started again. And as my schedule balloons, I’m having to move more and more things to the back burner. Unfortunately, most of my choices at this point are reactive rather than pro-active. I begin my day as I would any other, only to realize come nine or ten o’clock that half of the things on my list remain undone. And often the things I should have done first–like reading my school books or taking care of the household chores–are neglected.
There are three reasons for this. First, I over-estimate my time and underestimate the project. Second, I don’t have enough cushion scheduled in my day. Third, I have allowed non-essentials to crowd out the essentials. These three critical weaknesses work together to create an overall sense of chaos, and exhaustion.
My first tendency, to overestimate myself and underestimate the project, will take careful consideration and planning to overcome. And perhaps a little bit of focus. I’m sure my reviews and critiques would get done much quicker if I’d stay on task. Which means I need to ignore that little pop-up window alerting me to a new email message. And instead of cramming each minute of my day to the full, I need to intentionally schedule slack time–especially for the afternoon and early evening. To help my daughter with homework, or to iron the pair of pants my husband absolutely must wear the next day, whatever. And finally, I need to do a schedule-otomy. With prayerful analysis, I need to weed out the non-essentials in order to make room for the vital.
Sometimes this can be difficult, and rather confusing. There are so many good things vying for our attention. Ministries, organizations, and community programs need volunteers. Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ need help and chores need to be attended to. But somehow, I need to learn to strike a balance between them. Which means, occasionally I have to say no.
I’ve been focusing a lot on Acts 20:24 lately. As Paul was about to leave for Jerusalem, he said, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–…” Paul knew his purpose and zeroed in on it with single-minded determination. And it’s time I did the same.
With so many very good, even Christ-centered, opportunities vying for our attention, it can be hard to know which ones to focus on. Placing things in a “priority hierarchy” helps. The familiar, God first, family second, then others, is a great “big picture” beginning, but even this needs to be narrowed down further. Too many activities and opportunities fall under the “God” category. Especially for inspirational authors. With your email accounts (some of us have three. uh-hem.) lighting up with one opportunity after another, how do you choose? In my opinion, you focus on your local church first then extend outward as time allows.
This can be hard for Christian writers. We’ve all heard of the importance–necessity, rather–of developing a platform or online/national presence. But God isn’t interested in your platform. He’s focused on His kingdom, and building and strengthening the body of Christ.
A few months ago I happened across an author’s blog talking about this very thing. The woman said she was so busy with her writing she didn’t have time to serve in her local body. And she said her pastor “understood” this. Although it really isn’t my place to judge, that kind of thinking seems unbiblical. When I read the Bible, I don’t see very many, if any, lone rangers forging their own way. What I do see are believers working within a local community to expand the kingdom of God.
So how about you? What “good” things can you eliminate from your schedule in order to make time for something better?
How often do you get distracted during a task and what are some steps you can take to re-focus?
How balanced are your priorities? Are you “blooming where planted” or “forging your own way”?
Is there enough flex time to allow for that quality time with your spouse, extra errand for you child, or kind word to a neighbor?
Do you have any tips to share with us? When your schedule gets out of control, what do you do to reel it back in?