In a popular coffee shop while writing this entry and there is so much noise 🙁 It is difficult to concentrate. But such is the cacophony of life. We encounter much noise in our lives every day too. There are lots of things vying for our attention, sometimes the essentials are sacrificed; the small stuff overwhelm the things that matter most. It is so easy to get distracted. It is so easy to miss the point.
The past few weeks have been really tiring for me. I have a full time job in an inspiring publications company. In the evenings, I meet with people, attend to freelance work and accomplish other tasks . On weekends, I give workshops and talks and sing at the Feast. I also blog, copywrite for small businesses, coach others to write their books and edit some of them. Because of all these tasks, there are days that I find myself aching physically, my whole body literally hurts. My energy is depleted.
Please don’t get me wrong, I love my work and the things that I do. 🙂 There are days though when the spirit is willing but the body is weak. I need some rest. I need more sleep. I’m not married yet but I can just imagine mothers who need to attend to their family and children after work. How tired they must feel! Maybe that’s why the number one gift most mothers want on Mother’s Day is no other than sleep, according to a survey.
Out-of-balance and overwhelmed with a long to-do-list, I am reminded of what is written in Ecclesiastes 1:1 — “There is a time for everything. An appointed time under the heavens.” I felt God reminding me to go back to the basics, to know what’s important and what’s not, to let go of the unnecessary and to prioritize the essential.
Sometimes I forget that I am a human being and not a human doing. I forget that I am a daughter, a sister and a friend too.
Life can be very busy indeed with tasks and things to do. How do we manage it all without breaking down? I think the right question to ask ourselves would be, what are we busy with? Do we have time for what’s truly important? How’s the state of our relationships? How is our relationship with God? With ourselves? With our loved ones?
I believe you also wear many hats.
Life is a constant challenge of finding your balance, juggling all the balls you hold in your hands. Maybe it’s your work, studies, membership in an organization, your time with family, colleagues and friends. When you don’t have balance in your life, you get over-fatigued, burned out, and sick emotionally, mentally and physically!
Here are some valuable tools that helped me manage my time, which I hope can help you also manage your life and restore your balance.
When you feel out of whack, you may feel there’s just too much going on and things are in a mess. Papers get piled on top of the other, the books are in disarray, clothes are left unwashed. You feel overwhelmed. The first thing to do is to put things in order. To remember again what goes on top of the list.
What are your priorities?
Identify your priorities. If the list is 100 items long, even 10 each day, then you’re not really prioritizing. For me, it helps to list three up to five priorities each day, those things that impact the important areas of my life — spiritual, emotional, financial, intellectual, and physical.
To help you identify which you should prioritize, here’s a clip that clearly illustrates what you should consider as your rock, pebble and sand.
Schedule and Plan Ahead
It helps to carve a time in your week, maybe an hour or two every Saturday or Sunday, to plan your week ahead. Schedule your rocks for the coming week. They should include your non-negotiables such as your weekly date with your loved ones, prayer/quiet time, hobbies (doing something that you love to do, those activities that give you life and bring out the best in you). Schedule time for exercise, it can be as simple as walking for 30 minutes or running before going to the office or school.
Learn to Trust Others and Delegate Tasks
Trust and delegate things that other people can do, who can in fact do it better than you. Identify those things, which you cannot delegate, those things that you alone can do. For example, you cannot delegate being a wife, husband, sister, brother, daughter or best friend.
After scheduling your rocks, ask yourself these three questions developed by John Maxwell, which have been particularly helpful to me in making decisions. Maxwell shared that before deciding where to invest his time, he asks himself three important things. I got these questions from his book, Today Matters:
- What is REQUIRED of me?
“Any realistic assessment of priorities in any area of life must start with a realistic assessment of what you must do. For you to be a good spouse or parent, what is required of you? To satisfy your employer, what must you do? If you lead others, then what must you personally do that cannot be delegated to anyone else? ”
These are the priorities we must make time for.
- What gives me the greatest RETURN?
“As you progress in your career, you begin to discover that some activities yield a much higher return for the effort than others. After determining requirements, focus on choices with a high return on investment.”
I believe that relationships are the greatest investment of our time as well as responding to our calling or mission in life.
- What gives me the greatest REWARD?
“If you do only what you must, along with what is effective, then you will probably be highly productive. But you may not be content. I think it’s also important to consider what gives you personal satisfaction.”
We must also make time for joy, for the people and things that renew and recreate us, for the things that make us whole and balanced.
Someone once said, as we schedule our work, we must also schedule our rests.
We must make time for rest and play and not just work. We need to set time for our most important relationships because at the end of our lives, it’s our relationships that will matter most.
The Need for Focus
May I invite you now to think about your dreams? What is it that one thing that if you did it would make your 2016 unforgettable? What is your most valuable priority for this year? Allot 90 minutes of focused work to it once a day. Let that be one of your priorities.
Learn to say No to other things so that you can say yes to that one thing that God has called you to do. De-clutter your life. Let go of the unnecessary. Allot only a certain time to check your messages and newsfeed on Facebook. Social media can be a time waster if you don’t control your use of it.
Where does your Worth come from?
Sometimes we do too much because we want to prove ourselves. Sometimes we can’t say no because we want to please people and we want them to like us. We need to examine our hearts, the reason we do the things we do. Is it really what I want to do? Is it my passion? Or am I doing it so that others will accept me?
It is difficult and dangerous when we place our identity on the work that we do. I’ve realized that my identity is not dependent on my tasks and the roles that I play. Ask yourself, what if those things are taken away? Would you lose yourself, too? Even if those things are taken away, you can start again. Your worth is inherent. It is in you.
I used to have no identity of my own. I used to please others so that they wouldn’t leave me. I wanted to be accepted. I did not love myself. Until I realized by God’s grace, that my worth and my identity wasn’t based on outside circumstances. It is already in me. I am worthy simply because I am God’s child.
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God, and such we are!” (1 John 3:1)
When I realized that I am God’s beloved and discovered my true identity in Him, I felt that my inner being was strengthened. I felt my identity was set on solid rock, that no outside circumstance could shake it. Knowing this, I feel relaxed, calm and peaceful. I can rest in this truth. It gives me a stress-free life because I don’t need to try hard to prove my worth. I am already worthy. And because I know I am worthy, I come from a place where I do things because I want to love, I want to give.
Learning to love myself by knowing my true identity in Christ, and coming from a place of love, I can give without expecting anything in return.
I know that you and I are capable of doing great things because we are made in the image and likeness of God who made the stars, the oceans, the Universe and all that’s in it. I am great because my God is great!
Take Care of Yourself
Sometimes we can attend to many people’s needs that we get depleted. It is important and essential that we also rest and replenish ourselves. Even batteries need to be recharged.
Each morning, we need to receive love so that we can give it away. In my experience, prayer in the morning recharges me. It sets the day. God loves me so that I have His love to give to others.
It’s so important to find time to rest. Please don’t wait to get sick to find time to rest. Make time for those hobbies that give you life, that re-create you again. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You did your best, now reward yourself and celebrate.
I realized that if I don’t take care of myself, I wouldn’t be able to take care of others. I would be resentful and I would be needy. But if I took care of myself by doing the essentials like eating healthy, getting that much needed sleep and exercise, I am able to give more of myself and I’d be happy doing it.
If I am happy about myself, I can share this happiness with others. But if I am filled with insecurities, I would project my insecurities to them. That’s why it’s so important to take care of yourself and to accept yourself, all of you, including your strengths and weaknesses. Do your best and then rest. Reward yourself too.
“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” (Max Ehrmann)
Lastly, do not worry. Worry is the greatest time-waster. Nothing good ever happens when you worry. It just snowballs into fear and anxiety. Pray instead.
St. Paul counsels us: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7
Friend, Love yourself and you’ll be able to love others better too!