Buffet Time

Are you familiar with the scene in Charlotte’s Web where Templeton enjoys his evening at the fair? He was all about the food — a glorious smorgasbord of indulgences. And he did, indeed, indulge. We smile at his feeding frenzy and the consequences that follow, but we also laugh because it is so relatable.

Each day has 24 hours. Sometimes what to do with those hours is like a buffet. There are so many dishes to choose from! We want to try all the beautiful dishes and enjoy every bite. So many flavors!

But the excitement wanes as our stomachs fill.

Just like a buffet line, don’t try to eat everything. There are so many good choices for what to do with your time, but not all those good choices are good for you this day. You have a limited amount of time and energy, so choose wisely. Consider what is best for this season. Decide what you can handle and don’t overextend yourself. Do one thing well, instead of ten things poorly. Make sure your responsibilities are covered before branching out. Run a marathon, not a sprint. Conserve your energy for your priorities — and then a little dessert! Choose a delicious plate and enjoy, instead of spending $15 to get sick.

Moderation in all things, as my mother often says.

Daily Priorities

We’ve discussed priorities several times, but those discussions have been pretty big picture. Today, let’s talk about where the rubber meets the road. What do you do when you’re surrounded by fires and a mountain of tasks? There are several things to think about as you do prioritize your day or task list.

What can’t wait? Some things truly must be done right now. If a family member is completely out of a prescription medicine they need, you must go to the pharmacy that day. Extending out from the immediate, what needs to be done today, or this week, or this month, or just someday? Think about any deadlines. Now you have a timeline for a start.

What are my responsibilities? We all have them. There are two ways to look at this question:

  • My responsibilities vs. someone else’s responsibility — absolutely help others, but put on your own oxygen mask before helping the person next to you. Note: sometimes we tend to enable irresponsibility instead of actually helping; it would be wise to make sure it is loving help before doing it at all.
  • Responsibilities vs. fun — painting the bathroom is going to look beautiful and make the home and atmosphere better and add beauty to life, but is that project replacing work you should do or leading you to ignore family needs? It can be good to browse at the store as you pick up good deals in accessories, but have the last five dinners been frozen pizza because you haven’t planned meals or gone grocery shopping?

What can be grouped together? If you are already going to the pharmacy, how about stopping at the grocery store and dropping books off at the library on the same trip? Although it’s not urgent for any given day, bins of donations can be dropped off on any trip you make driving right by the charity. If you are putting a dish in the oven for dinner, could you throw in the brownies for the bake sale right after you finish putting dinner together? Why not write the three thank-you notes and return the call while waiting for the piano lesson to finish?

What makes a nice break? All things being equal, if you’ve spent an hour sitting and paying bills, it might be good to head outside to pick up sticks after the storm. If you’ve spent the entire morning raking the yard, maybe a quiet activity would be a nice change right after lunch.

What is the value? What will be done in the end? Is the benefit only for today or for eternity? Yes, we wash dishes only to wash them again in a few hours, and that is good work, but we are also called to proclaim all God’s excellencies and speak truth in love. Or in other ways, are you investing time now that will pay off for days and weeks to come?

Remember prioritizing is about putting things in order. It’s not that you don’t do a lot of different things, it’s that you do them at the best time. The responsibilities for each day are puzzle pieces; you make them fit beautifully when you prioritize well.

Deep Breaths

You know those days where the so-much-to-do-so-little-time cliche is overwhelmingly true for you? When you are surrounded by fires and are spinning in circles, beating each blaze in turn? When you don’t even have a minute to think?

Our natural response to this is to go in swinging — do as much as we can as fast as we can and all at the same time. This is counter-productive. Our heart is in the right place, but our head isn’t driving.

Next time this happens, would you try something new? Take a deep breath and rapidly prioritize. I’m only talking about a minute here, no major planning. Just decide what needs to be done next and then next after that. Once you have a start on your priorities, start doing them. I’m all for plowing — but in a straight line! It works better than running in circles or a scatter-shot approach.

The deep breath gets you off on the right foot. So often we respond to others’ urgency or react emotionally before thinking things through. Remember, tension will work against you. Give yourself a few seconds to make sure you react wisely and think through your priorities well.

If you will focus on one thing at a time, knocking them off the list as you go, you will get more done faster. You will be thinking more clearly and be able to handle each item well. Once it is done, you have one less thing to think about, and that relief will snowball the more you do.

DEEPBreath --Now Get it done!

 

Talk to Yourself

whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil. 4:8)

Some days we feel overwhelmed, drowning in tasks, daily demands, pressures and needs. We have been wise to do the planning and preparation — we have allocated our time well — but we still feel defeated and completely unable to fill our responsibilities. The temptation is real to be driven by those feelings. But are they truth?

Instead of telling ourselves:

  • “I can’t do this.”
  • “It’s too much.”
  • “There’s no way to succeed.”

We can remind ourselves that we have been called by God to certain responsibilities today. As we obey, we can take confidence in God giving us what we need to fulfill those responsibilities. That is how we faithfully live a life of godliness.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” (2 Peter 1:3)

Remember our ultimate goal is not the to-do list or the accomplishments. Day by day, we do what we need to do with our eyes on Christ. The words running through our minds can be focused on task lists and worry about when we will fail OR on Christ and His power.

We have what we need to live as we are called to live today — bringing glory to God in all that we do. Speak truth to yourself.

Habits Help

Each day a million thoughts run through your head. You see and hear lots of good things to try. Your goals are many and varied. But, how to do it?!?

We have discussed multiple strategies on this blog that help answer that question, and today we will add one more aspect.

Routines are effective. The more habits you can create in your day and then string together into a routine, the more you will accomplish without thinking about it. Yes, it takes time to build those habits, but the investment pays off immensely in the future.

When you think about eating an elephant one bite at a time, habits are a great illustration of “one bite” a day. If you do one thing every day (or every weekday), how much would be accomplished in a month? Or a year? If you want to do something more (like exercise or read), doing that thing 10 minutes a day will add up. After a few months, you will indeed have done something more.

Habits provide rest. When you get to the point that you have a habit (like brushing your teeth), you don’t have to think about what you are doing while you are doing it. Some days that is a micro-nap for your brain; other days it is free space for creative or deep thinking. Make the most of it!

Also, we are not designed to go full-out all day long. Scattering mental breaks throughout your day gives you a chance to catch your breath — while still accomplishing what you continually need in hygiene or chores or growth — before expending energy on the major efforts of the day.

Structure builds security. When you know the road you’re on, you are comfortable lifting your foot to take a step. In complete darkness in an unfamiliar room — not so much. When your routine is established, making exceptions is safer. When you know what to expect, you will naturally feel less anxious. You can be confident you will come back to the “normal” day. Bases are covered, so a special activity is not a concern.  If you have put wise effort into big picture planning ahead of time, you can relax and enjoy the small trip.

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Not only do these points all apply to us, they also help with children. A regular, daily routine will:

  • minimize repeated instruction (they know what they are doing; they do it every day), and
  • require less energy in creating and communicating a new schedule for every hour and every activity.
  • Children love the security of structure. Once it is established, they will be active advocates for keeping it in place and you on track!