Busyness Does Not Equal Success

I chose to take the week before Easter off and then this week I have been knocked down by a killer sinus infection and bronchitis.  So my week has taken a little detour, but I’m not off track!

TRUTH.  It is amazing when you decide to select a word, pray for God to show you an area to make improvements, how the selection of the word begins to weave a pattern in your life.  The message begins to come at you from all directions and because of your intentionality and awareness you begin to see it bearing fruit in your life.  You begin to realize your own strengths in an area.  The word TRUTH is proving to be just that for me and I am excited to be on this journey, to have an opportunity to share with you what I am learning, coming to accept and finding challenging.  And the truth is, I’m not sure this is going to be a word just for a year.  Each day, each interaction thrusts me into the reality that TRUTH is missing.  There are far too few willing to be truly brave, and speak the TRUTH.  There are too many failing to act in TRUTH despite the words they spray across social media or over microphones.  TRUTH is indeed the core- not just of who we are, but the core strengthening and binding our communities.

The third lie I have wrestled with as a leader is this:  Busyness equals success and if we simply stay busy enough, we can have it all.  Life is fast paced and we expect immediate responses, service, answers, provision.  Tools surround us enabling us to multi-task, work remotely, work around the clock and be in more than one place at a time.  But in all the busyness we have lost site of the TRUTH.

The TRUTH is we can have it all, just not all at once.    God Himself set the example for us throughout scripture-beginning with creation.  God set the world in order over the course of 7 days.  In His infinite power He could have simple spoken it all into existence in one nano second.  But. He. Did. Not.  With focus and purpose He spoke the parts of the Universe into existence one day at a time.  He rested after each, reflecting on what He had just called forth into being.  He savored it, quietly taking it in and proclaiming “it is good.”  The process was as important to Him as the outcome.  And in the end, it was all created, built to sustain and provide for His masterpiece-you and I.  The work, the creation, was all so He could have relationship with us, and us with Him.

So why do we strive so hard?  Why do we attempt to master time management for the sake of efficiency instead of effectiveness?  Why do stay on the treadmill, competing to see who can leave the office latest, whose in-box is the fullest, whose calendar is illegible?   Why?  Because we have lost sight of the TRUTH.  We were not made for accomplishments.  Work was the result of the fall of man-the rift in the relationship with the one true God.  We were made for relationship- with Him and with one another.  We were made to complement one another, no one being greater than or lesser than another.  We were made for the rhythms of creation.  We are meant to rise, to work, to rest, to reflect and to voice our gratitude.  We are meant to walk in daily obedience, letting the worries of tomorrow go and trusting today’s manna to be sufficient.  We are meant to care for and ensure our relationships in all of our roles come first.

I released the busyness lie about 8 years ago.  It was liberating.  How did I do it?  It wasn’t easy.  I grabbed for the old habits often.  But this TRUTH, this next line is what helped me the most.  I am not defined by my accomplishments, my roles or my job.  I am defined by who I am.  And as I have said before, who I am does not change depending on my role.  I am defined by my relationship with my God and judged based upon how I then relate to those placed in my path.  I have learned that I must practice His presence.  God will not shout over the noise and clutter.  His voice is the still small whisper.  He won’t compete for my attention or time.  He won’t fight me for accolades or recognition.  He simply wants time with me to answer my questions, to give me my marching orders.  For every yes, every new task or activity, there must be a no, no longer or a wait.  The decisions aren’t easy, but I can choose what is best over what is good.

When we focus on what is TRUTH, when we quit striving, the daily objectives become clear.  And one day added to another, step by step, the goals get met, the work gets completed.  We get to cherish the process and build relationships.  We eventually get to have it all, just not all at once.

I challenge you to keep a time log over the next three weeks.  (I saw you cringe)  I promise you’ll be glad you did.  Few of us work as many hours as we think we do.  Few of us are as busy as we think we are.  Keep your time log and then begin to time block, giving yourself specific blocks of time to focus on the most important tasks for the day.  For more tips go to my previous post:  https://wordpress.com/post/simplifiedorganizedstyled.com/1837

 

Routines Don’t Mean a Routine Life

A couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law and I were visiting about the challenge of managing our families.  House cleaning, meal planning, calendar coordinating.  It can all be overwhelming.  I was reminded though that systems and routines are critical, imperative.  We all seem to push back on routines, thinking life will become too structured, too mundane, too routine.

We have entered a new season in our home.  Our girls have entered higher ed and we have entered those empty nest years, although they aren’t quite out of the nest.  I went back to work full-time.  New season, new challenges.  As I visited with my sister-in-law I realized I had let too many of our routines and systems fall to the wayside.  Some needed to.  Life is different.  But frustrations were hitting us.  Meal time felt stressful, laundry was piling up and seemed to consume our weekends, entertaining was happening less often.  I’d been avoiding setting up new systems and routines.  I was pushing back, feeling like life was too structured, too much of my time was not my own.  The truth is, routines and systems create room for a full life.

apartment-blinds-cabinets-349749

Clean spaces, simple meal preparation, laundry systems, allow for me, my family, to enjoy time doing the things we love.  The systems and the routines don’t confine us, they free us.  The mundane, the chores are taken care of in small pockets of time, leaving larger pockets of time to relax, to fellowship, to live fully.

Here are a few routines I have put back in place:

  1.  A load of laundry washed and transferred to the dryer each morning. (5:30 am)
  2. Weeknight meal themes:  Sunday-Pasta, Monday-Fish, Tuesday-Beef, Wednesday-Salad/Sandwiches, Thursday-Chicken, Friday-Eat Out, Saturday-Rice Bowls
  3. M,W,F-vacuum, M touch up bathrooms, W dust (I am fortunate to have a housekeeper)
  4. Sunday coupon clipping and pick-up grocery order
  5. Friday planning-fill out calendar and schedule for the week to come
  6. 4:30 workouts (as soon as I get home)

I encourage you to create some routines.  Don’t look at them as confining. Instead, look at them as a tool to help you create time for the things you love, as a tool to help you delegate, as a tool to create habits.

Routines don’t mean a routine life.

White Space, Room to Really Live Schedules, Daily Habits & White Space

 

A few weeks ago I shared some tips for creating white space in your home, clearing the clutter so you have room to breathe, appreciate what you have, love and use.  We need white space in our days as well.  A few years back I shared the following post.  I still practice these disciplines.  I think the only thing I would add is this:  all too often we fail to acknowledge everything we need to do.  We tend to leave daily chores and errands off our lists.  I think women are more guilty of this than men, as we try to cram these daily chores and errands in with other activities, failing miserably to multitask, or draining ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically.  Our daily task list/calendar/schedule should include the daily-the Walmart run, laundry, vacuuming, picking up birthday gifts…  These are the things that tend to fill what little white space we thought we had.  These are the things that never really get completed, and so can’t be ignored.

Does the above set of pictures make you cringe?  Do feel the tension in your body building?  For so many of us, the idea of living by a schedule, sitting down to determine when we will do what, feels confining, makes us uncomfortable.  As much as I like to live an orderly life, to be as productive as I can, I honestly resist the idea of living by a schedule.  I sense rigidity, lack of creativity in schedules.  I want to leave the door open for those “God appointments”.  I want to be able to meet the unexpected needs of friends of family.

Consistency.  My word for 2016.  Here in lies the truth-the hard truth.  I can not be more consistent, I can not consistently move towards meeting my goals, completing my tasks without some measure of schedule.  More importantly, tracking my time, setting specific times in which to do specific tasks keeps me mindful.

I just finished reading “I Know How She Does It”, by Laura Vanderkam.  It is an inspiring book and exactly the motivation I needed to get back to scheduling.  Most interesting in her research was the reality that most Americans work fewer hours than they say, with very few people working more than 50-60 hour weeks, and most people overestimate their work hours by 10 hours!  On average, highly successful, full-time working mothers cap at an average of 44 hours per week.  As I continued to read, I realized the core of the problem, the explanation for this over-estimation of time, sense of being overwhelmed, living out of fatigue feeling there is never enough time is a result of really having no idea how we spend our time and thus making very few intentional decisions about our time.

Laura Vanderkam is also a firm believe in the 168 hours principle, challenging us to plan weekly instead of daily.  I was convinced of this principle after reading her first book, “168 Hours”.

When you treat all 168 hours as your canvas, and don’t hold to rigid assumptions of what must be work time, and what must be nonwork time, you can create some fascinating mosaics (schedules).

While I resist the idea of living confined to a schedule, unwilling to move away from it for the unexpected, I know from experience and am reminded that schedules, daily habits and white space are the key to consistency, the key to my taking care of what matters most and moving towards completion of my goals.  So, this week, I focus again on doing what I know I should do (that seems to be a recurring theme!).  I challenge you to do the same.  Step back from your life for a moment.  Look at your week, your 168 hours and decide how you want to spend your time.  Here are some of my tips for successfully planning out 168 hours/creating a schedule or road map by which to live those hours out.

  1.   Daily morning quiet time to center my thoughts, read scripture, pray over my day.
  2.   One load of laundry every morning first thing.
  3.   Plan each week on Friday (I have let this habit slip and I pay for it.  Planning on Friday allows me so much freedom from nagging thoughts on the weekend and kick starts my Mondays.)
  4.   Use a weekly planner with hourly increments, blocking off appointments, tasks to work on, exercise, hobbies, free time etc…  This gives me a great visual, helps me to see the whole of my week.
  5.   Plan for the unexpected by building in PLENTY of white space.  I always leave 30 minutes between appointments.  This allows for transition time, gives me some buffer should the task take a little longer etc…  I also leave gaps of time (an hour to two) in my schedule at least every other day.  I typically use these gaps to take care of household chores, but often end up using them to have lunch with a friend, cook a meal for a sick friend, care for a sick child, …

Schedules, daily habits and white space keep me grounded, focused and moving in the right direction.  When I look at my time weekly in lieu of daily, I am reminded I have plenty of time.  While I still resist “being scheduled”, I always find there is actually a great deal of freedom in scheduling.  Life is always better when I am aware of where and how I spend my time.  A schedule allows me to be intentional about my time and I find that I get more enjoyment from my “free time/play time” when I have lived my week by my schedule.