Skittles, time management and unmoveable appointments.

Now, I’m a pretty organised person. Pretty much.

I mean, there are days when my desk looks a little more littered-with-piles-of-paper-and-empty-tea-cups than others, but on the whole, I like to think I’m quite efficient with my time. Usually.

Take today for instance. Today is marked in my trusty-synced-to-all-my-devices-online-calendar as an ‘admin’ day. Which means just that. It has been given to the not-so-fun-but-essential parts of my job that involve Health and Safety Audits, monthly performance reviews and budget reconciliation. Fun… Maybe… Kind of… When you remember the big picture and the young people you do it all for 😉 I have fuelled my enthusiasm with a large bag of skittles and copious amounts of earl grey tea. And it has worked. The ‘to-do’ list is considerably shrunk.

The thing is, I use my lil’ ol’ virtual calendar to plan, and organise and just make sure I have time to fit everything in. About 5-years-and-a-new-job ago, I began to split my day into 1 hour slots (I know, it sounds a bit neurotic, but I promise that it works!) which tend to colour code the various parts of my day into some kind of meaningful pattern.

It means that I can balance my time, use my time and plan my time.

But more importantly, it means I don’t waste my time.

(Well, I do sometimes… But, less than before!)

It means I have unmoveable appointments.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I fully believe in rest and fun and spontaneous-outing-days. I love to write songs and paint canvas’ and go on friendship-filled adventures. But there’s something about putting it in my diary that means I stick to it. Like, if I schedule in a ‘rest day’, then I will honour that. If other people try and book meetings in with me, or invite me to speak somewhere or whatever… I say, ‘No’. Because I’ve prayed and planned and prioritised a time of rest. If I don’t stick it in the diary, my resolve fades when the crunch comes to it.

Just being honest.

And if I’m being honest, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Without fail, the one question I always get asked when I meet someone new and explain a little bit about life is, ‘How do you fit it all in?’ ‘Isn’t it stressful being so busy?’

And, I can honestly, honestly say, reflecting on the last ten years of balancing full time work, part time study, life, other-bits-and-pieces… No. Just no. Life right now is busy, but I don’t feel stressed. And fitting things in is a joy and not a burden.

I guess I can honestly say that I do not agree with the commonly held view that you burn out if you’re too busy.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t believe you should be busy just for the sake of it or to meet your own need-to-be-needed, and I do believe in a Sabbath principle that values regular times of real rest… But the belief that you burn out just because you’re doing too much? I don’t buy it. Sorry.

I believe that you actually burn out, when you’re motivated by the wrong things.

Have you ever noticed that people who are working in their area of passion, have so much more energy and joy and life? Or… Have you ever noticed that when you’re in a season where that isn’t the reality, the smallest ‘to-do’ list can make you feel drained and lethargic?

I think about my own life. Yep. Like most people there have been a few points when I have felt pretty close to burn-out. None of them have been because I was too busy. They have been because I was being motivated by the wrong things. I remember being 21 and super-super stressed about doing well in my Degree (if you have only met me recently, I know the thought of me crying over a mere essay seems more amusing… But seriously… I did!) Was I busy? Yes. A bit. But was that why I was in such a state? No… it really wasn’t. I was stressed because I was a perfectionist, and my drive to do well in my studies, was actually overtaking the reality that God had called me into that place to love and serve a church and work with young people. I remember being 26 and feeling at breaking point. Was I busy? Yes. But was that why I was in such a state? No… it really wasn’t. I was in that place because I had been trying to build a pack of cards on a crumbling personal situation instead of running straight to God for rescue and listening to wisdom.

But being motivated by the right things, or ultimately by the right person, who is Jesus. I think that makes all the difference. I love working with young people. Even when it’s busy. Especially when it’s busy. And vibrant. And challenging. I find it energising to be around my team, to be training, to be writing. I love studying my Masters. I get excited by throwing my mind into the Word of God and allowing my heart to be changed by this whole journey of learning. I love learning Japanese. It’s frustrating sometimes, and I wish I was better, but I just… Find that I have more energy to do the things that I need to when I know that I know that I know that He is the one who has asked me to do them. Like when you could just worship for hours with the simplest chords but never be bored. Because He has asked.

And how do I know that He has asked?

Well, I think it goes back to those unmoveable appointments. Because, above any other diary-time that I may schedule in, the first and most unmoveable slot, goes to God. Right at the start of the day. 5am – 7.30am (if you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll have been following this ‘tithing time to God’ journey I’ve been on). It means that if I get invited to an early breakfast meeting… I’m afraid I have to cancel. Or if I’m running late on a deadline and need an extra hour… I’m afraid it can’t come from there. Or if I really need to write a bit more on a Masters essay… It’ll have to wait. Now, I’m not legalistic. Some days I lie in and start the day a little later. Some days it’s tough to press through into that place of prayer of worship. Some days I fail.

But is it ever too busy for that appointment? No. Quite frankly, I’m too busy to not make it.

Because I want to make choices and commitments and give myself to timings… That are totally in alignment with His will. I long to work from that place of rest that He can draw me into at the start of every day because it’s all about Him.

Nothing wasted. And everything gained.

He is a good God. And He is faithful to the end.

And today… My next lot of books arrived for uni… Urban church theology, here I come!!

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