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!