Finding Time for What Matters

Exactly a year ago I wrote about being overwhelmed in week 2 of school, and like clockwork I was back here again a year later. I wonder if this is a seasonal conundrum or if it’s simply a result of my stubbornness to learn the right lessons. At any rate, I found myself consulting my reflections from my journal entry a year ago along with revisiting a book that I’d read years ago, Simplify: 10 Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybells.  It turns out that revisiting past lessons is helpful.

Here’s what I wrote to myself last fall:

The truth is, I am a little burnt out. I could use a little breather. You know the saying, put me in coach? Well I’m like, hey coach can we call a timeout? I don’t want to miss the game, but I also don’t know how long I can keep this pace up. And it’s only the second week of school. Yet, the emotional and physical rigor of life right now seems to be a bit much for me. It’s like I’m not properly conditioned for it, this race I’ve got to run. Which begs the question, how do I get conditioned for the daily race, and the marathon I’m running? I know a part of it is getting back into the gym and physically building up my stamina. I plan on doing that today. I know also that simply having my quiet time helps me to build daily spiritual, mental, and emotional stamina, but things like last night help me sustain it. Last evening when I got home I just sprawled out on the bed and confided in my wife how I was feeling and what was weighing me down and just sharing that with her along with laughing about life’s challenges and reminding ourselves of the bigger picture just helped me out it all in perspective. I felt so much better afterward. Perspective. Putting things in perspective is the best form of mental conditioning. It prepares you to face the immediate by giving you hope for the long haul.

So even though I’m now dealing with the same challenge, I’m a little bit wiser with a few more tools under my belt than before, namely perspective.  Another thing that has helped me to really adjust as my life has gotten more complicated has been this simple exercise that I took from a podcast on 4 rituals or habits for your day (Michael Hyatt’s Lead to Win).   

The exercise was to examine how I spent my time. I began to wonder if the real issue was that I need to simplify my life through adjustment of my daily rituals (or my schedule). I needed to re-examine my priorities and realign my time accordingly. So I did an activity where I wrote on one half of a sheet of paper all the things that I do in a given day. It created two columns: time, and how I spend my time and how I want to spend my time based on what’s most important.  Looking at the two columns, there were some stark differences.

What I noticed was that, I wasn’t spending my time in all the ways that I would have liked. For example, in the mornings I’ve been sleeping later than I used to (blame that on the newborn). I’m used to getting up around 5:30 or 6 in order to give myself enough time to read, write, reflect, pray, and prepare for the day. Lately, I’ve been lucky to get that half hour in and it hasn’t felt like enough processing time to feel fully prepared. Connected to this, I’ve also been going to bed later (my day typically ends between 10-11), and not maximizing my time in the evenings for downtime and reading. Getting less sleep is the number one inhibitor to having a productive day, so in order to change this habit, I know I have to change my evening schedule. Another area where I saw myself falling short was in my mid-morning working hours (9:30-noon). That’s when I’m at my most productive, it’s really when I should be doing my most creative work. Yet, I found this time full of meetings. That has to change because otherwise, when am I going to find the time to do the creative work that I need to do?

When I think back to my priorities, what I want to be able to say about each day is that I spent it well. I want to point to rituals in my day and say that these help me to do the things that matter most to me. And, rather than ending the week feeling like I’m always behind or that there are too many tabs open in my brain, I want to feel as if I’ve done just the right amount of stuff.  For those struggling with the challenge of possibly doing too much, I encourage you to at least complete the activity of evaluating how you spend your time against your priorities,  This could help you determine if there might be a misalignment issue.

As Bill Hybels writes,

My schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become.

The question I’ve started asking myself is, does my schedule reflect the husband, father, leader, person that I want to become?  Last night was a great example of my schedule reflecting who I want to become.  I got home early to enjoy family dinner with my wife and all our children sitting around the table, talking about our wows, pows, and kapows of our day. We put family dinner on the calendar and it happened. That was an intentional move, one that’s connected to becoming the dad I want to be for my girls. I know that my relationship with them is the most important investment I can make after my relationship with their mother, my wife.  So, shouldn’t my schedule reflect that? It’s this litmus test which should serve as a guide for how I make scheduling decisions. Who am I trying to become? That is how I should spend my time.


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