I Won’t Need a Cart. I’m Just Picking Up a Few Things!
We’ve probably all said that. Right? We’re just going to dash into the store, grab a few things, and be out. If you’re like me, you’ve wound up dashing through the store with your arms full, stacking one item on top of another. Finally, you realize that if you pick up one more thing, you’re going to have to put something down…or get a cart.
Our lives can become like those shopping trips, overloaded and hurried, can’t they? We realize that we have a finite amount of time, but we have a hard time saying, “No.”
Things have a way of sneaking into our schedules. Short-term commitments have a tendency to stretch long past what was expected. Life piles on more ‘stuff’ until we find ourselves exhausted and over-loaded.
Many activities are necessary to keep life going, such as working, studying, cooking, shopping, cleaning and driving. Think for a few minutes about how much ground you cover in a typical week. Add to that the time required to eat, bathe, and sleep. Individual variations aside, our bodies are designed to sleep about eight hours a night. When was the last time you didn’t set the alarm and let your body decide when it was rested?
Finally, add in the host of other activities that are so worth our time! Opportunities to spend time with family, have fun with friends and participate in ministry. Life gets busy. Really busy.
Why do we find ourselves picking things up and squeezing them into our schedule yet we resist putting things down? Who doesn’t want more free time? And we’re not talking about a choice between something good versus something bad. Usually, the options include something good and something even better. The one thing they all have in common is that they keep us in a perpetual state of busyness and on-going fatigue.
If you’re still reading at this point, here are some signs that you MIGHT be over-booked…
• If you find it difficult to make time for someone, anyone, for any reason, you might be over-booked.
• If you’re always making excuses and apologies about your busy schedule, being late, etc. you’re probably over-booked.
• If you feel like you never get any me time, you guessed it. You’re over-booked.
I read somewhere that, “A life that is too full cannot be lived fully.” Put another way, if you are so busy that you don’t have time for family, fun, and occasionally doing absolutely nothing, you’re missing out on some really great stuff. Important stuff. Many of us fall into this trap.
Don’t stay trapped!
Everyone can all take a few steps to lighten their load. If you are serious about wanting to ease your schedule, enlist the help of a trusted friend. I don’t recommend asking your spouse unless a friend is unavailable. Make a promise not to get upset with this person’s input. Remember, they’re trying to help!
First, take out your calendar, planner or schedule. If you don’t have your schedule written down, put it on paper. Include everything. Shopping trips, housecleaning, laundry, carpool duty, everything. Sometimes, the mere shock of seeing how crazy busy your days have become is enough motivation to change a few things.
Prioritize your weekly and monthly activities, then make the decision to withdraw from at least two. This is where your friend comes in. Ask them what they would eliminate. Let them challenge you. If you’re tempted to say you can’t omit anything, think again. Who would do all of these things if you were suddenly taken ill? And if they didn’t get done by anyone, would it be devastating?
After weeding a few things out, schedule some time in for your spouse. If you’re not married, call a friend. Make a ‘dinner date’. (Or breakfast. Or lunch.) Mark and I make a point to eat breakfast together most mornings. It’s our time to chat and fill each other in on the day’s activities. We pray over the food, our family, and friends.
Make a ‘date’ and go out for a movie or a concert. If money is tight and you can’t afford a movie or a sitter, find another couple and take turns with them. This week you watch all the kids at your house while they go and do. Next week, leave the kids with them and go enjoy some free time. Drop the kids off, grab a pizza, then go home to watch a movie. Or whatever.
Take something out of your schedule and replace it with some time for the entire family. Take a few hours and play a round of mini-golf or go to a park and have a picnic. Surprise your kids by picking them up early from school and going for ice cream. Consider what you remember about your parents as you were growing up. Most won’t remember gifts, we remember experiences. Your kids don’t need an expensive trip to an amusement park to make precious memories with you. Just make time together a priority on your schedule.
Use your network.
Are there things on your schedule that could be done by others? If so, let it go! There may be people waiting in the wings for an opportunity to serve on that committee or a chance to work in that ministry. Let them. Give them your notes, folders, etc. and wish them well!
If your children are school-aged or young adults living at home, they need some responsibility. Take a few of your chores and pass the torch to the next generation. They may grumble, but help them understand that they’re making a real contribution to the household. Most people will do more than expected when they feel genuinely appreciated.
Some people have trouble saying “No.”
If this is you, practice smiling at yourself in a mirror while you say it. “No.” Smile and make eye contact. Repeat it. “No.” If you just can’t, learn instead to say, “I’m not able to at this time.” Practice in the mirror or with your spouse or trusted friend.
Finally, develop the habit of taking 24 hours before you say ‘Yes’ to anything.
When asked for your time, simply say, “I’m going to need some time to consider this. I’ll get back with you.” When you look at your calendar, is there an opening for this new commitment? If not, tell this person, “I’m not able to at this time.” (Sound familiar?) This may sound overly simple, but for many individuals, it’s a challenge. Rise to the challenge!
Remember that trip to the grocery store we talked about? The one where you’re going in for a few things and don’t need a cart? Isn’t it great when you can go through the express lane and be on your way in just a few minutes? So many times in life, less is indeed more. Our day-to-day schedules are a prime example.
Imagine how good it’s going to feel when you find yourself at home with nothing to do for a few hours! Picture yourself drawing a hot bubble bath with the time to really enjoy it. Take a nap. Read. Enjoy.
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