You are a busy person with a lot on your schedule. Your phone flashes through the day, demanding your attention; someone is trying to get a hold of you. You have stacks of books you want to read, but haven’t gotten to. Saved articles and blog posts creating a digital pile up. A house to clean, a family to feed, and it would probably be nice to take a shower sometime this week. Our lives have a constant and quickening flow of tasks that insist on entering our minds, hearts and homes.
With this in mind, that there is a good chance you are already drowning in the flow of tasks, I’m going to suggest you add three more things. I’ve been there, trying to keep your head above water and running out of energy, and I’ll probably be there again. It just depends on the season, but during the busy seasons, there are three things you need to schedule. These three things could be what save your schedule, allow you to come up for air and enjoy your life.
#1 Schedule: Blank Space
When you are setting your schedule, whether it is for the month, the week or the day, schedule some non-scheduled time. It sounds ironic, but it is truly so important. The fact of life is that as much as we plan, things will fall through, come up or leave us more drained then we anticipated. Enter the magic of scheduled blank space. There are several primary benefits of scheduling blank space.
Think and Assess
Life can move so quickly that you rarely get a chance to step back and examine what is going on. Schedule blank space in your calendar to give you the opportunity to reflect on your days, assess what is going on and create goals for the future. It’s too easy to live frantically, and then wake up one day not knowing what you did with all your time. Take the time to step back and make sure your time is going where you want it to go. Take the time to step back and express gratitude and reflect on how faithful God has been. Taking a day or even 10 minutes to think, assess and express gratitude will make a world of difference moving forward.
Continuing in the path of irony, I’m going to suggest that you have to plan to be spontaneous. I’m a firm believer that most spontaneity takes some planning. You can’t enjoy a spontaneous vacation if you haven’t been sticking to a budget, and you can’t enjoy being spontaneous with your time if it makes you fall behind. If you’ve created appropriate margin in your schedule, then you can eagerly and sincerely be spontaneous without a heavy price tag.
The Ability to Say, “Yes!”
Have you ever had a last-minute invitation come up that you really wanted to say yes to, but you just didn’t have it in you? You didn’t have the bandwidth to eagerly and sincerely say. “Yes!” Your scheduled blank space doesn’t have to remain blank space. If an exciting and last-minute opportunity comes up to invest in a date night, a friendship, or anything else, you are free to say, “Yes!” Or perhaps the rest you had during your scheduled down time enabled you to do more later in the week. Either way, it’s a good feeling to be in a position where you can sincerely say “Yes!”
#2 Schedule: Un-Plugged Time
Un-plugging for a set period of time is a growing trend, and there is a reason why. Keeping up with the news, all the social media feeds, and being accessible 24/7 (Allie Casazza wrote a great post about this) is leaving us drowning in information and to-dos. More and more gurus are advising screen free time and a lot of them have opinions on what that should look like. “No screens at all for a weekend.” “No Facebook for a month.” “Turn off your phone every evening.” Some of these might work for you, but neither I, nor any guru, knows your life and your responsibilities. Through thought, prayer and a conversation with your spouse (if you’re married), decide on what “un-plugged time” looks like for you.
Don’t un-plug for the sake of un-plugging; know what you want to get out of that time. Here are some ideas of benefits you can try to get from some “un-plugged” time.
Reduce Anxiety and Depression
Social media streams fill our heads with what we think our friends and family’s lives look like, but that stream is everyone’s highlight reel, not behind the scene footage. The streams naturally lead to comparison in our heads, leaving us either worse than our friends (causing us to resent them) or better (causing us to feel self-righteous over them). I’m not suggesting that all social media is bad, but it’s SO important to be aware of how it can distort your view of reality and effect relationships.Because of this natural comparison, research shows that 33% of Facebook users feel worse after using the site. Users report feeling jealousy, envy, and loneliness. Personally, I know I have experienced all of those things after getting off Facebook. Not every time I use it, but knowing where my heart and head are at makes a big difference.
Creativity is most often born out of resourcefulness. You don’t have to be resourceful with a virtual world at your fingertips. Creativity takes time, scarcity and a slower pace. My most popular recipe was created out of a scarcity of ingredients. I believe that people were made in the image of God, our CREATOR. Since we are in the image of God, I believe it stands to reason that we were made to be creative.
Creativity doesn’t look the same to everyone either. I could never fathom getting into sewing. I have great respect for those who can do that, but it’s not my thing. Finding your outlet for creativity, even if it’s unconventional, is easier to do when your mind can run on its own for a little while.
You Might Be More Addicted Than You Think
Only you (and maybe your spouse) can answer the question of how addicted you really are to technology. It’s definitely worth investigating. See where you fall in regard to some of these statistics.
- 84% of cell phone users claim they could not go a single day without their device.
- 67% of cell phone owners check their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.
- 88% of U.S. consumers use mobile devices as a second screen even while watching television.
- Some researchers have begun labeling “cell phone checking” as the new yawn because of its contagious nature.
The Power Of Presence
“Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairytale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.” – Shauna Niequist
It’s important to keep up with the news, friends and family, but balance is key. Your life is what’s happening right behind the screen; in your living room, at the kitchen table, in the backyard; those are the moments you want to remember. When you choose to engage in a screen, you are choosing to give less attention to what’s happening in front of you. That is okay sometimes! Sometimes it is decision you need to make, but make sure it’s a decision you’re consciously making. Don’t fall into a habit that eats those moments away without you even realizing it.
#3 Schedule: Planning Time
“Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000% return on energy!” – Brian Tracy
One of the keys to not feeling like you’re on a hamster wheel is to be pushing towards something. I’m a big believer in having goals and holding them loosely, because you never know what God has planned. Take time to really pray about your goals. Talk with your spouse and/or a trusted mentor. Take the time to recognize your gifts and passions; ask God what he wants you to do with them. Then…create a plan! Break your goals into bite sized pieces that, little by little, will get you closer to where you want to be. My advice: don’t limit your dreams! Dream big, give it to God, and work hard.
Cut The Waste
Once upon a time, or just in high school, a mentor had me keep a time log of everything I did for a week. I definitely used my time more wisely that week, but it still wasn’t pretty. I would never suggest that you need to be 100% effective, 100% of the time. Some book somewhere might say that, but it’s not realistic for real life, especially if you have kids. Those quality moments with your friends and family, legitimate pleasures, and effective rest isn’t always held in high esteem in productivity books, but will be what makes your effectiveness sustainable. However, (and I’m SO not perfect at this) watch for ways your time is being spent without rejuvenating you, helping you grow, or adding to what God wants for you.
I recently heard this convicting statement by Ravi Zacherias. “Anything that refreshes you without distracting you from, diminishing or destroying your final goal in life is a legitimate pleasure.” So take the time to assess where your time is going and if you find waste, don’t be afraid to cut it out.
At the end of the day, only you know your bandwidth, your goals and your values. So without strict guidelines (because everyone’s life is different), schedule some blank space, un-plugged time and some planning time. Know your goals, refresh your soul and enjoy your life.