Life can demand a lot out of us. We are expected to spin so many plates in the air that we are bound to drop something somewhere. Even so, being overwhelmed is a sign that things in our lives are not in balance. Somewhere in that long list of responsibilities and requirements lurk things that aren’t really as necessary as we think they are.
In order to truly find freedom from the stress of an overbooked schedule, we have to learn to be brutally honest with ourselves. What are the real motives behind that To-Do list? If we are honest with ourselves, we will find things on our list that are necessary, but we will also find things that really are not -- they just feel like they are. Sometimes we do those things because it impresses other people, or because it fills some void deep within us that we either don’t recognize or don’t want to address. Sometimes we do things because they are “good ideas”. But, as someone once said, a good idea isn’t necessarily a God-idea. The only ideas we can expect God to give us grace to do are the ones that originated with Him. We need to prayerfully look at our busy life and allow Him to be the Lord of it -- which means that at His prompting, we need to be willing to cut off some things that we wanted, but aren’t right for us -- at least not at this season in our lives. We need to learn to let go.
The world tells us that we can have it all, do it all and be it all. There can be a great deal of guilt if we don’t live up to that standard. But God never made us to do everything, and be everything. He is to be our everything. It is humanistic thinking to imagine that we can be what only He can be. Only He can really “do it all”. And He, thank goodness, doesn’t expect us to do it all. He designed each one of us for a purpose. When we hone in on that specific purpose, we will find that there are enough hours in the day, but there will never be enough hours in the day to do everything. As I re-evaluated my life and my over-booked schedule, I first had to admit that I had allowed myself to become over-booked. It wasn't God's plan. It was me trying to be a hero. I had to let go of my own ego. It did something for my pride to be the busiest woman I knew. It looked good to other people, but they didn't know that I felt like I was drowning. I had to accept that my new schedule would leave some people thinking I didn't do enough. I had to accept that sometimes people would not understand. I also had to cut away some things that were cluttering up my schedule unnecessarily.
6 things that I learned to let go:
1. I watch very little TV. Whole weeks go by without me ever watching it. It just isn’t a priority on my list.
2. I learned to be a very efficient shopper. I go grocery shopping about once every 2 weeks, and I rarely shop for anything else. This alone saves a tremendous amount of time. I know people who make multiple trips to the store. But have you ever calculated how much time that really takes. Just getting out the door takes time, then there is the drive and the time inside the store. Multiply that by the number of times you go to the store in a week. You might be amazed. By streamlining my shopping to once every two weeks, I shave off a lot of wasted time. When I must shop for other things besides groceries I often use the internet, or I will plan a trip to hit all the necessary shops in one afternoon. I will map out a route so that I don’t have to back track and can work in the most efficient way possible. I usually have 4 kids with me, so it becomes especially important for me to move at a smooth and steady pace. LIttle ones have a short “happy” window when it comes to shopping. Our ministry life requires a lot out of my kids sometimes. I don’t like to add to that by dragging them on marathon shopping trips. When I must shop, I try to make sure I know exactly what I need, where I need to get it and what I expect to pay. I get in, get out and move on.
3. I rarely talk on the phone except for church business. My kids need me to be present with them, not chatting the day away with someone else.
4. Even though I work from home, I have “office hours”. I have certain hours when I can be reached for church needs (except in REAL emergencies). I used to think I had to immediately take every call that came in. People would phone me at all hours for counseling without an appointment. It became an almost daily occurrence for me to be doing phone counseling during what was supposed to be our home school time.
I desperately want to help people, and I am willing to do whatever it takes. But by the end of a particularly hairy school year, I realized some things. Every one of those people I was counseling over the phone was not in a new crisis. Every situation had been going on for years. Not one of them was really willing to do anything proactive about their situations. They just wanted to talk. Because of that, all those hours of counsel did not change their situations. Something did change, however. It was my kids. They were desperate for the attention of their mother. They were bickering. They were upset easily. They were off kelter. Their school work had suffered. We were so behind, we had to school that entire summer to catch up. Something had changed, alright, and I didn't like it.
I made a decision that I would never do that to my kids again. I had lost ground with my children and gained no ground with the people I was trying to help. Now I don’t take calls until school is over. Those who wish to counsel with me are sent through the church office to set up an appointment with me. And an amazing thing happened. My counseling sessions are much more effective. Now the people I counsel with realize that I am a professional, not just another one of the girls that they can call whenever they want to talk. It has caused them to take our time together more seriously.
5. I severely limit my time online. I don’t spend a lot of time texting, twittering, facebooking, etc. I use texting for church business, but I try to keep it within reasonable boundaries so that my kids aren’t orphans to a text conversation like they were that year to the phone counseling. I hop online occasionally to check on people that I have on my heart, I run my blog and I manage my emails. We have a wonderful lady who manages our church website, so I don't do that. I have learned to be the queen of fast and efficient online research. I avoid wasting time surfing the web, and I don’t play video games.
6. I don’t do a lot of social running around. There will be more time for that when my children are grown. Right now I am needed at home.
There are many other things, of course. Those things are highly personalized for each individual. Anything that takes a lot of time needs to be evaluated. It doesn’t mean you have to cut it off. You may just need to learn to be more efficient in that area. Other things may need to wait until a season when you have a little more time. If you have small children you simply won’t have a lot of time. Keeping your schedule much more simple will help you have the energy you need for your children. There was a time when I had little ones and no outside help whatsoever. It just wasn’t a season for a lot of projects. Now I still have a little one in the house, but I also have teenagers. I have help. It is much easier for me to add a project these days.
Each one of us has 24 hours in the day. Not a single one of us has more. Not a single one of us has less. It is how we use that time that makes the difference.
Next time we will talk about the things I learned to make a priority. Until then,