Twenty-four hours. No one has more. No one has less. Or, as my friend Steph likes to quote, “None of us has the corner on the market of busy, we all have the same 24 hours in each day.” As much as I would like this fact to not be true, as much as I would love to add another twelve hours to my day (while my kids are sleeping), that just isn't going to happen. I have to trust in God's infinite wisdom that 24 hours– no more and no less – is exactly what we need. It doesn't always feel that way, but that doesn't make it untrue.
As I look at my priorities – and the way those priorities affect my family – I have to be honest with myself that I can't do everything. I just can't. I had to laugh at one line of a strength assessment I recently took which said, “Your inventive mind usually generates more possibilities than you can handle or fund.” Yes, that's me.
And that is why I need to prioritize. I need to think, pray, decide, and know what the most important things in my life are – and what they are not. I refuse to whittle away my time on frivolous things that won't last. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40). Right there are my priorities: loving God and loving others. And as I wrote about earlier, love is more than a feeling.
As I look through my stated priorities for this year it is easy for me to feel overwhelmed. I feel sad realizing how some of the things I love have to take a backseat to things I love more. I feel scared that I won't be able to balance it all or that I will lose “me” in the process. However, God has made it abundantly clear that this charge to prioritize my life is from Him and therefore I step forward, sure that the wisdom needed to make wise decisions will be there when I need it.
In order to make these priorities work in my life, I am committed to three things. Before I share those, let's refresh your memory on what I stated as my priorities.
1. Pray for wisdom: My first commitment comes from a life-changing conversation with a former supervisor. I was lamenting the fact that there was simply too much work to be done and not enough hours in the day to do it all. There really wasn't enough time. The job was too big and I was always feeling as if I was failing in some way or another. My supervisor said to me, “What you need to do is to pray that God will give you the wisdom to do know what is most important to do today.” I have treasured that advice for many years now. She was so right. There will always be more to do, things that could be done better, and things left as dreams instead of realities. We can't control that. God gave us the same 24 hours and it is only possible to get a finite amount of things done. In light of that, I am committing to praying for wisdom to know, each day, what God would have me do on that day. Today it may be spending a long day cooking in the kitchen with my kids. Tomorrow it may be school planning. The next day it might be meeting with a friend who needs a listening ear. I don't always know what needs to be done, but God does.
2. Cut out what is not needed or beneficial at this time. This may in fact be the hardest area of commitment because it involves sacrifice. Often the things that are “not needed” or “not beneficial” are things that we really enjoy. However, they can be the “empty calories” of our time and they provide us with nothing. I have already cut many, many things out of my life and schedule. I watch almost no TV (I probably average one hour a week). I skip many websites and blogs that I enjoy but aren't pushing me towards my top priorities. I've cut out many activities that drain me. I've put most of my craft supplies away knowing that now is not the time. Cutting out the worthless – or even the good! – in order to make room for the great is a hard but profitable action. I still have areas to work on, but I know I have seen improvement and I look forward to the continued refinement.
3. Make the most of my priorities. On my bubble sheet I listed fourteen things that I want to prioritize over the coming year. There are three “big bubbles", five “medium bubbles,” and six “small bubbles.” In order to make the most of these priorities, I am striving to combine them in ways that makes the activity far more advantageous. Let me illustrate, using baking as an example.
If I spend an afternoon by myself baking in the kitchen, it is just a “small bubble” in my life. I really enjoy it and I find it both relaxing and satisfying. This is not a bad thing, but it could very easily take up a good amount of time and keep me from focusing on bigger priorities. If, however, I can combine baking with other priorities, then the time spent becomes much more beneficial and reflective of the intentions of my heart.
If I let my kids help me in my baking, then I can add the family bubble (spending intentional time with my kids) and school (teaching them kitchen skills). If we bake on a day when we are having people over, I can then add the bubble of hospitality (welcoming people into our home and cheerfully sharing food, shelter, and spiritual refreshment with those God brings into our lives). If after baking, I take pictures (I love food photography!) then I can add the photo bubble too. And finally, if I then write about what we made and share the recipe with others, writing gets to be added as well. What we end up with is a really BIG bubble and time that was well spent.
There is so much more than can be shared on this topic. Many books and articles have been written on time management, life plans, prioritizing, and organizing your life. In sharing this little bit of my journey, my hope is to encourage you in your process of thinking and praying through your priorities. After thinking and praying comes writing and after writing comes implementing. Without a plan and purpose for our time, it is far too easy to let other things get in the way of us prioritizing our priorities. To say that we are “too busy” to do something (like spending quality time with our children) is, in effect, saying “you are not a priority.” And that, I pray I will never do.
If you have any words of wisdom for me, I'd love to hear them! I'll be returning to this topic at a later time and I am excited to know how you have progressed!