CHALLENGE: The Balancing Act

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She flounce-trudges into the light of my airy, after-school classroom.

She comes in and she seats herself and she says heavily, “I have so much homework.”

We discuss the ins and the outs of this, and arrive at the looming cavern known as time management.

“I know what my problem is,” she says and throws her hands in the air in despair. “I simply don’t know how to manage my time well!”

She is just young, but already so very human. I have to chuckle. “Well, my dear, you are not alone in that. I have a hard time with that too.” What I don’t say is that at the rate I am currently going, learning to manage my time well is shaping up to a life-long struggle. I had hope to have mastered it by now.

As tempting as it is to wallow in our despair, I decide to move things forward by asking her the question that I have been pondering myself.

“Are there any changes you can make in how you spend your time?”

“Yes!” she says fiercely. “I spend too much time wandering around. Outside. Thinking. Talking to myself.”

I love that she does those things, but frustration and irritation are evident in her voice, so I don’t dare smile. “I know that I should be doing other things instead, but I just don’t do the things that I should be doing!” Exactly! Me too!

We talk specifics, such as, do your work right away before even considering pushing it off until later, and don’t just think of it as something yucky, let yourself enjoy it, and then she must go.

I am left with my stacks of books and herds of sticky notes stampeding across my desk. And my thoughts, of course.

What are my thoughts on time management? (Random, for one thing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

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  1. The older I get, the more I am convinced that spending your time wisely and in a disciplined way makes it easier to be exercise self-discipline in other areas (particularly spiritually).
  2. If something needs to be done, just do it right away. Don’t allow yourself to waste time simply because you are avoiding doing something. The job won’t get any easier after avoiding it. For example, sometimes after school, when it’s time to come home and make supper, it is so tempting to flop down on the couch and scroll through Instagram for awhile before starting to make supper. But I cannot describe how much harder it is to get up and make supper after scrolling through Instagram than it is to just start making it right away. There is a huge difference. It’s best to just dive into the task at hand.
  3. Even if you have a huge list of things that need to be done, just do one thing at a time. I feel much calmer when I choose to handle things one at a time.
  4. I don’t want to be so busy that I have to be doing something profitable all the time. That sounds very lazy of me, but it’s true. I want to have time for just sitting and thinking and walking and talking and journaling and reading. These things are profitable in their own way.
  5. I think that it’s important for us to take time for the things that make us come alive. Make a list of the things that make you feel the happiest and the most alive. I believe that God has given all of us things like that, and that we are meant to enjoy them. Don’t squelch them by treating them as though they aren’t as important as those projects that have deadlines attached to them. Make a list of what those life-giving things are for you, and figure out how to make them a part of your life.
  6. Often, I find myself craving the weekend or the next holiday. Sometimes I need to ask myself if I am truly working hard and tired or if I am just feeling entitled to a break. Am I experiencing actual exhaustion or just laziness? I’m afraid that line for me is blurrier than it should be. Am I “gluttonous” of free time?
  7. When I do have free time, how do I manage it? Do I dedicate it to those life-giving, soul-rejuvenating activities that bring me closer to God, or do I waste it online or taking naps that I don’t actually need? (Not that I am against napping. 😊 I just know that I am probably too quick to allow myself to rest physically, when really, it’s my soul that needs the rest. And soul-rest, for me, often comes through activities that still require some physical/mental effort.)
  8. Am I just mindlessly doing the things that life brings my way, or am I prayerfully considering how God wants me to spend my time? Sometimes I worry that we just feel obligated to say yes to everything that we are asked to do, and then we are busy with those things, and we don’t have time to allow God-given dreams and desires to grow and develop and become real.
  9. The final thought I have on the matter is this: Watch for Him as you go through your days and choose how to spend your moments. Watch for Him and make room for Him and worship Him all through the day and night. One morning at school, as I was preparing for the day, I caught a glimpse of the sky through my window. Just a glimpse. But it was enough for me to know that something beautiful was going on and I did not want to miss it. I put my coat on and zipped outside to witness a brilliant, fierce sunrise. I was so glad that I went out to see it, even if I did sacrifice a few minutes of work time. Those beautiful moments of just me and Jesus were completely worth it.

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That’s the end of my random list.

I wasn’t sure how to end this blog post, so I asked Ricky how I should end it. He said that I should just say, “Hey, ya’ll! Manage yo’ time well!”

So there’s that.

And also- what are your thoughts on the topic of time management? Have you learned anything over the years? How do you balance responsibilities and rest?

Also, I like what Wendell Berry has to say about how we should spend our time. Life is so much more than just being efficient and productive and practical.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

-Wendell Berry (select lines from “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”)