Sharpening Your Ax

If the ax is dull,
And one does not sharpen the edge,
Then he must use more strength;
But wisdom brings success. Ecclesiastes 10:10

So you want to cut down a tree. Is it worth the time to sharpen the ax before you use it? Even if it takes a few minutes and some effort?

ABSOLUTELY!

Please don’t waste your limited energy trying to do hard things without the best tools you can use. When you take a minute to plan the best way to tackle a project, you save time working as well as work itself. Time spent getting a little bit better at different skills will give you sharp tools in your tool box, preparing you for each task down the road.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser… Proverbs 9:9a

Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. Proverbs 19:20

The more you know and apply, the better you can do what you need to do. The wiser you are, the better you will be able to know what needs to be done.

Wisdom seeks teaching and absorbs it, and wisdom brings success.

FYI: Simplifying

Following is a collection of links that may be of interest to you related to our current topic. Note, listing does not imply endorsement. Please evaluate for your own situation.

Simply Does It — using resources wisely sometimes means not using them up

Pruning — there comes a time when this would benefit every one of us

How to say “No” — it can be difficult, but there are alternatives

Simplifying your calendar — helpful tips and templates

History — some background on the concept of a simple life

Addition by subtraction

We so often have a hard time saying “No” to anything. That would be admitting that you couldn’t do something, that you’re not Superwoman. Who wants to do that?

Managing your time and responsibilities well will involve saying “No” to some things. They will be good things, but they do not fit. When you are able to look at your options and take out the ones that are not best for today, you are sharpening your focus.

Just like clearing the dinner table before you pull out the homework, clearing your schedule will enable you to better deal with your priorities.

  • You will have the available energy because you are not spending it all before you get to what is truly important.
  • You will have more time to devote to what you need to do because your agenda is not crammed full — too full to do anything well.

Shona Murray addresses this concept, pruning “with the sharp knife of no” on big and small things, in the book Refresh:

With my life purposes in one hand and my limited capacity in the other, I can prune needs and expectations so that I am doing the most important things well and with joy, and I can have a sense of accomplishment as I enjoy some downtime.

Remember, you are the gatekeeper for your schedule. You decide what you need to do. You run your schedule; your schedule should rule you. Flex your muscles, and practice saying “No” today! It is part of using your time wisely, and you will manage your time all the better for it.

Consider: Refresh

Recently a new book came out, Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona & David Murray, that is an excellent resource for women feeling overwhelmed by responsibility and constant demands on their time and energy. The book discusses a visit to “Refresh Gym” for those facing or in the midst of burnout.

…there is a pace of running that will obtain the prize and a pace that won’t. A sprint pace will not win a long-distance race, although that’s what many of us try (and fail at). We try to run as fast as we can and even try to run everyone else’s race for them too. What miserable bondage! Now, having passed through Refresh Gym, many of us have learned that we must follow God’s race plan, a much more deliberate, grace-paced race, if we want to finish well.

There will be times when we have to run faster and push ourselves harder, but these times will be less frequent as we remind ourselves of the distance we have yet to run. These bursts of busyness and stress will be more frequently interspersed with refreshing recovery strategies, so that we will be much less likely to crash and burn as before. The occasional, sudden, immediate demands of our energy will not deplete us as before, because we have left margin in our lives.

If you feel the need for more intention and balance in your life, or are simply desperate to get your head above water, the book offers many practical insights across multiple areas of life. It’s also designed to walk through the gym one chapter (station) at a time, so you can take it at your own pace.

If you have read or do read this book, we’d love to hear your comments below.

A Little Bit Better

Today’s the day — the first day of the new year! Whether you are a dedicated resolution maker or just enjoy a fresh start, it’s a milestone day for all of us.

My challenge for you this year: Get a little better at something of value. You don’t need to become an expert this month, just improve a bit. Take some time to look at your areas of responsibility, list your strengths and weaknesses, and tackle one weakness. Just one.

Remember, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.elephant-1598359__340

Looking at the Proverbs 31 description is usually intimidating and overwhelming. The breadth of knowledge and skill used there is impressive. But take a deep breath, step back, and think of all the things you already do. There is a wide variety there! If you continue that trend, adding a little more each year, learning something new, sharpening your tool set — think of how much more skill you will have in a few years. You are capable and are able to become even better.

This can be a brand new skill that would be useful but you’ve never tried before (like bread-making or book-keeping) or just getting a little better at what you already do (cleaning the house or studying or calendaring). Either way is progress.

Take advantage of the resources available to you, whether that be through people you know or online or at the library. We are blessed with so much to use for learning. A friend holding you accountable helps a ton (and keeps you from settling for less out of laziness or discouragement).

Sharing what you are learning to encourage others is a fringe benefit of these efforts. We’d love to hear what you will tackle and your plan to do it. Comment below or on social media. We’re in this together.

Happy New Year!