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.

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!

Relax

So, continuing on the theme of the joys to be had with shotguns and clays and a wide-open field…

You’re standing in the hot sun, holding your shotgun, joking around with friends. You know the goal is to vaporize the orange clay on the first shot. You know everyone around you is counting their shots and keeping one eye (or both!) on yours as well. Will you just chip it? Will you miss? Can you hit double after double? There is pressure to perform. If you are competitive, multiply that pressure exponentially!

Time after time, there has been consistent, obvious improvement in my accuracy when I am relaxed. The more relaxed, the more I hit. I’m breathing better, my muscles respond better, my energy is not wasted and can be used for what I want to do.

There’s a life lesson here too.

Relaxed and focused will maximize your time and efforts. Overwhelmed, panicked, tense, disturbed and distracted — all take time and attention from your goal or task or schedule for the day. The more time you spend ‘stressing’ or worrying about all you have to do and how you are going to do it, the less time you use to get it done. You psych yourself out of productivity when you focus on the potential problems.

Time after time, when I am coaching someone on process or time management, we start the hour with a HUGE project that seems impossible to get done. But as we break it down into steps and make a plan, twenty minutes later — it’s no problem at all. It’s possible. Not only that, it often is a project that can be enjoyed! How would you rather spend an hour: worrying and procrastinating, or working and enjoying the results?

My encouragement to you is this: Enjoy the moment! Do the work that is given to you for that time. Relax and get it done.

 

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Another way to support a little less tension in your day is to schedule margin. We have discussed this before, but it has a huge impact on reducing stress in your project or your calendar.