This has been a year for cutting up days and attempting to hammer them into some sort of framework for the priorities wrestled and pinned down for now. I am learning to accept that having a framework is enough because things are going to change. In the effort to get time to cooperate I have had to piece together a plan, rip it apart and piece it together again. I know with certainty it will have to be altered again, but I have learned a few things during these frustrating attempts to find a practical rhythm for the people I love and the work I do.
1. Our use of time is meant to be shaped by the priorities we set. It was encouraging when I heard a well known female Bible teacher say we are doing something wrong when we don't have time to be in the Word. She also said getting enough sleep and eating well are essential. I just rode that train all the way into the station.
2. It is absolutely right and good that I have time for basics and do them reasonably well: cooking, grocery shopping, menu planning, cleaning the house, getting together as a family, devotions, exercise, etc. I do accept the fact that an emergency will change this for a period of time, but we are not usually stuck in a lifetime emergency; though many live and drive like everything is urgent.
3. Setting boundaries around determined priorities means I will often have to say “no” to some really good things. In her book, The Soul Tells A Story, Vinita Hampton Wright pens, “. . . there are times when, for the sake of loving others well, your creativity will have to wait.” There are also times when I must use my creativity to serve a specific need and I may not meet my own deadline for the other creative work I have been given to do. Christine Valters Paintner, author of the Artist's Rule, writes “Every time we say 'yes' to something in our lives, we are also saying (often unconsciously) 'no' to something else. In other words, each time we commit energy to projects or people, we take energy away from something else. When we bring conscious awareness to this truth, we can commit with more intention.”
4. How I am hard-wired determines how much I can cram into my life. For instance I am a highly sensitive introvert. (To find out if you are a highly sensitive person check out http://www.hsperson.com/). I am a counselor and writer; my work requires a lot of creative energy, so I get tired even when the work day is short. I tend to need more alone time than many people, and I need quiet time to think and putter around our home. It has not always been easy to accept these things about myself in a world driven by high octane doers, but this is who I am.
Determining priorities and building a schedule based on understanding of how God made me helps me make better decisions about the things I need to make room for in my life or the things I need to let go. Just last week I faced this challenge when I had to choose between writing for the new blog or doing a creative act of service for a young father battling cancer. I chose the creative act of service, knowing it was the right thing to do. There were moments when I felt bad about not getting the blog written, but remembering the words of writers Vinita Hampton Wright and Christine Valters Paintner helped me fight off unjustified guilt. It was the “yes” thing to do and it gave me joy to participate in a creative project meant to encourage and comfort a man and his family.
There are people who manage to keep a pretty tight schedule, but mine tends to get bent out of shape a bit and then I have to take some time to reign it in. Each of us has our own limits for various reasons. I hope you will learn about and accept how you are wired and then build in pauses as needed. We were made for pauses. A pause can be a day of rest or it can be a break between projects. I do not believe putting in more hours makes one more valuable, just less connected to the heart. So if you are feeling a bit harried, get on your knees, make a blueprint and hammer your priorities into a viable schedule. And pause.