Do I Hafta?

This post originally appeared at my friend Ashley Pichea’s blog on January 17. Here is the Link. I hope you will go by and visit Ashley, one smart and creative mom!
And today, I am linking up with Jen and my Soli Deo Gloria friends. Stop by and be blessed!

Maybe you have fallen into the same trap I have: Important things fall by the wayside because something else seems more urgent. Both men and women (but especially moms with young kids, I think) seem prone to this. Even as an empty nester I find myself neglecting the truly important. How do you know you are over-committed and over-scheduled? If you find yourself rushing around, saying sentences that start with the words “I have to…” then this could be you! And it can be contagious, infecting even our children. Here’s a flashback from my world…

“Hey, Kid — it’s time to come help me with dinner,” I said.

My son didn’t look up from the game he was playing. “Just a minute — I have to play until I win a round,” he told me.

My eyebrows went up. I have to, huh?

Who says? Not me, and I’m the mom. That “have to” was strictly self-imposed.

I could get mad, and maybe I did, but he probably got the “I-have-to’s” from me.

To be fair, sometimes the “I-have to’s” sneak up on you because your schedule genuinely becomes unmanageable. Like the Spring semester of 2007. I took three college courses, a load that had proved easy enough in the past. But the required “English Major Boot Camp” course turned out to be filled with overlapping and simultaneous assignments. The pressure was relentless. Things at home… well… didn’t get done.

But it is all too easy to passively let “I have to” take the place of making conscious decisions about how to use our time. At those times, “I have to…” begins to sound like an excuse. I remember saying things like “I can’t play with you right now, Sweetie, I have to wash these dishes (or finish the laundry, or start dinner, etc…)” or more recently “I don’t have time to read my Bible this morning, Lord; I have to meet this deadline first.”

Oh, really? Who says? Not God, and he’s the Lord. (Okay, I don’t actually say that last excuse in words. But that’s what it amounts to.)

A few years ago, a crowd of “conflicting duties” frustrated me. But when I thought about it, I realized that there are no conflicting duties. God can count; He would never assign more than 24 hours’ worth of stuff to do in one day — including sleep! So, if I’m trying to squeeze in 28 hours’ worth of activity a day, that indicates four hours of unnecessary stuff that I have imposed on myself. When the schedule gets really pinched, I need to ask myself, do I really have to do this? Maybe some of my duties are obsolete, or I’m being too much of a perfectionist about them, or someone else needs and wants a chance to serve in my place. It’s time to step back, sift through those things that keep me too busy, and ask the Lord whether I should let go of some of them.

One helpful tool I learned about from my college adviser is the “week-at-a-glance” time budgeting chart. She recommended using it to figure out whether you can realistically manage your proposed course load. It is just a table that has seven columns and enough rows to show half-hour blocks of time, from your usual rising time to your latest likely bedtime. My adviser handed me one of these and told me to block in my scheduled obligations first (like classes and work), then time for meals, study and travel, and then optional activities like my social life. (Although at my age, my social life consisted mainly of family time and was NOT optional!) Using this to assess how you are already spending each day is also a worthwhile exercise.

I don’t know about you, but I could use a “filter” for items before they go on my calendar (or before I realize I have just spent an hour on some unplanned and time-wasting diversion!) Here are some questions I try to remember to ask myself…

1. Does this activity benefit me, either physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally?
2. Does it benefit others, especially those for whom I am responsible?
3. Does it support my God-given purpose and either a long- or short-term goal?
4. Does it balance with other things I am doing, or does it tend to make my schedule lop-sided (too heavy in one area of life while neglecting another)?

Bear in mind: I do NOT advocate packing your schedule with drop-dead-serious endeavors. Quite the opposite! If you don’t have time to laugh, pray, rest, eat, exercise and feed your soul with the beauty of art or of God’s creation, then let go of some of the serious stuff. Seriously. It’s okay — and healthy — to say “Enough.”

I hope this perspective from an “older mom” will encourage some of my younger sisters. I welcome any comments and questions you may have.

Thanks for reading!

About Jan C. Johnson

Welcome! If you like food, reading, laughing over life's little disasters, and maybe thinking about the bigger things of life, you have come to the right place. Besides blogging, I write humorous fiction, though real life tends to leave fictional humor in the shade. But I'm not a total goofball. No, really. I'm also working on a biography project. I live in North Texas with my husband, Brent. We enjoy bicycling, Mexican food, and traveling to visit our kids and grandkids.
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18 Responses to Do I Hafta?

  1. Okay..okay…okay…this is the second blog post that I have read about managing my time well. (Hmmmm….the Lord is speaking….) And the “I hafta…” of the self-imposed schedule. I have been busy, too busy. I have been pondering what to do about that in my moments of quiet…Thanks for the encouragement from the older to the younger sister. My life is FULL in every way. My oldest is 12, my youngest is 5 with two in-between. What is it that the LORD would have me do? Great insight.

    Thanks for the encouragement.


  2. Bobbi says:

    I wish that list could be applied to everything on the calendar…but it seems like some things just drop from the sky before you get to ask…yes, no or maybe. UGH! Thanks for this helpful, thought provoking post today!


  3. Jean Wise says:

    Hey I really needed to read this post. I do use the week at a glance calendar but so often leave off what is really important to me to attend to the urgent. Right now I am hungering to work more on my dreams and less on others expectations. I do like your questions too. thanks for visiting my blog and I really enjoyed discovering yours. I wll be back!


  4. Jen says:

    My favorite part of this whole thing is this: There are no conflicting duties. God can count…

    It just completely reinforces the fact that if I listen first and act later, things might be a bit less stressful most of the time.


  5. Thanks for this practical reminder.



  6. Amy Sullivan says:

    I’m so glad you reposted Jan. It’s funny we work on posts and sometimes if people miss them, that’s it. . .the content buried forever. This one is a goodie, and I’m going to bounce over and check out Ashley’s blog now.


    • Jan says:

      I might as well confess, I forgot I had posted a link to the piece on Ashley’s blog… AND that I had set the draft to auto-post on my own blog. Imagine my surprise when I got an email Sunday afternoon, telling me I had published a new post!
      The really surprising thing is that you remembered reading the post before, when even the [clueless] author didn’t.


  7. Katharine says:

    This was really good, thanks for the reminder!


  8. Erin says:

    This is such a great lesson for women of all stages, I think. Thanks for this, and thanks for committing to pray for me and coming by to encourage me!


  9. Pamela says:

    I need to practice that “enough.” Why when we have the Scripture, “not of works, lest any (wo)man should boast” do we still think we need to be “doing?” I’m really asking that question of myself.


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