Years ago I was complaining about not being able to get all my work done and feeling pressured by too many things on my “to do” list. My dear aunt simply said, “Carol, God gave you 24-hours each day. If you have more things to do than you can fit in that time frame, it’s just not in His plan.” It was then I started rethinking the things I was involved in and how I could effectively get through each day without feeling overwhelmed by work, obligations and commitments.
Filling Our Time With “Good” Causes
Recently, this problem has been creeping back into my life so I had to go back and assess how I got back to this stress point. Thinking about why we get over-committed, overwhelmed and overworked is one way to start breaking down our lives into manageable pieces. Here are eight steps to help us figure out how we can reduce stress and make more time in our 24-hour days.
- Know your purpose.
There are so many great causes. There is certainly no shortage of work to be done to make our communities and world a better place. But God doesn’t expect you to be involved in every one of them. Seek His will for your life and how to use your God-given talents. Most of us have something that we are passionate about, things that deeply move us, things that motivate us to want to see positive change. If you slow down long enough to ask Him where he wants you to be…He will give you the answer.
2. Assess why we have the need to be so “busy”.
In the fast paced world of work and technology, it really is possible to work 24-hours a day. I wake up in the middle of the night and the first thing I tend to do is reach for my cell phone to see what emails need to be answered. I find it much more beneficial to reach for my Bible or journal to use that “awake” time for quiet time and save email for working hours. I recently read an article that many corporate workers purposely send and answer email after hours and way into the night to show they are always working and thinking about their job. In the work world, being extremely busy somehow equals respect. In reality, being too busy will make us sick both emotionally and physically. Healthy productivity is striving for a God centered life that produces good fruit at work, in ministry and at home.
3. Learn to say, “no”.
There is an old saying, “If you want something done, just ask a busy person.” And it’s true. Many of us are good at working full-time, managing multiple projects, managing our families and saying yes to everything we are asked to do. If your head is saying “no” but your mouth is saying “yes” take a step back, rethink the decision and have the courage to politely decline.
4. Work at what you love and are good at.
Realistically, we all don’t have jobs that are fulfilling and truly suited to our gifts and talents. However, that doesn’t mean that we cannot seek change. One good way to find out what your passions are is to volunteer for a worthwhile organization or cause and see what truly makes you feel fulfilled. I recently attended a nonprofit employee day at a large corporation where employees could volunteer their time to the nonprofit of their choice right through the workplace. If your company doesn’t have a community outreach program, you could be the one to suggest they start one. You may not be able to give up your day job but you may be able to meld work and outreach together.
5. Turn off the technology.
Social media, email, text, news, videos…the list goes on and on. These can all be precious time wasters. Being efficient is a key to keeping the busy monster out of our lives and turning off the technology can help you increase your output by a significant amount. Try not looking at your phone more than once every few hours. WHAT??? Yes, a recent study by Nokia revealed that the average person looks at their cell phone 150 times a day or every six minutes. How much more could you accomplish if you concentrated on each task of the day and completed it without the thought interruption of the all important cell phone?
6. Begin and end each day with a period of quiet time.
Spending time before your day starts and when it ends with a period of quiet time can add what seems like hours to your day. I know the time equation doesn’t work but there is something magical about getting your attention set at the beginning and end of each day. This year I committed to doing a one-year walk through the Bible. The days I don’t manage to get my reading done just don’t turn out as well as when I take the extra time to be in God’s word. Yes, I know I am talking about another commitment but I find if I don’t stop every morning or evening to spend this very special personal time with God, my day just isn’t as efficient. Reach for something more inspirational than your cell phone or Facebook each day upon waking and heading off to sleep.
7. Exercise and eat right.
Being too busy does not count as exercise! Adding a light or even better, intense exercise plan to your week will boost your energy, your thought process and your overall well-being. Incredibly, you will find that you are more efficient, energized and much less stressed by the dilemmas you encounter during the day. Eating well is also a key to good mental health and balance. Eating foods high in fat, sugar, caffeine are only temporary fixes for making you “feel” better. These foods actually slow you down both physically and mentally.
8. Unmask the real problem/s.
When my Aunt made that profound statement about God giving us 24 hours a day she truly helped me to see that I was filling my time with good work but not God’s plan for me. I also had to figure out the real problem. If I slowed down for even a minute and was left alone with my thoughts I was faced with a lot of unresolved issues in my life I hadn’t had the courage to face. Keeping my busy meter up at 110% kept me from having to deal with some real pain in my life that I was just not able to face. This helped me realize that I still had some much-needed work to be done in my personal life before I would ever be truly useful to anyone. I write about this in my newly published book,
Where is God?
When Hope Hurts
Taming the busy monster from your life will help you find balance, feel better and achieve what it is God wants you to accomplish in life. It will also be a tremendous blessing to your family and those who you interact with. I have found that an unhealthy balance in my own life has a direct impact on everyone around me and I spend more time worrying and talking about be overwhelmed than actually doing something about it. My new goal is to keep my mind, body and spirit in top shape to truly have the time to share the good things…the best things I have with others.