Guest post from Jamie of FromHisPresence.com
About ten years ago, I was really struggling with managing my time.
My job required extra hours. I enjoyed going out with friends often, and I wanted to get involved at my new church, too! So I said “yes” to everything: concerts, movies, overtime, dinners, a Sunday School class, home visitation team, two weekly prayer meetings, and singing in the choir… all around the same time.
Needless to say, I took on too much. I was overwhelmed and stressed out. I was eating poorly and not exercising, and the stress was taking its toll.
Then one day, someone gave me the best time management advice I’ve ever received:
“Write down your life’s priorities, in order of importance. Then say no to everything that doesn’t support those priorities in that order.”
It sounded good, so I tried it out. This is the list of priorities I came up with for my life:
- One-on-one time with God in prayer and personal study.
- My health and my husband. (I wasn’t married yet, but I was thinking long-term and couldn’t choose between health and husband.)
- My family.
- My job.
- Church work.
- My social life.
When I drafted this list, I realized that my choices were way out of order. I was spending time on low priorities and neglecting high priorities. My life was topsy-turvy, and I hadn’t even realized it.
So I started changing things. For example, I stopped volunteering for things at church that I wasn’t gifted to do. It was hard to say “no” to enthusiastic recruiters, but it really helped my stress level. I also had to stop going out with friends so much, and I used that time to hit the gym after work instead.
Ten years later, I still use this same priority list to manage my time. I definitely don’t have it perfect, but I’m convinced that knowing my priorities has saved my sanity more than once.
Do you feel like I did? Are you overwhelmed, stressed out, and pulled in ten different directions at the same time? If so, making a list of your life priorities might really help you too. Here’s how:
1. Separate yourself from your current reality for a moment.
Priorities are partly driven by necessity, and partly by choice. Most of us are great at putting out fires — the necessities — but maybe not so good at choices. So, I encourage you to forget about the fires you have burning right now: the kids’ soccer, the grocery list, the laundry pile, etc. and instead, think about your ideal world instead.
2. Let yourself dream.
What does your ideal life look like? In your dream world, are you healthier? More social? An entrepreneur?
Then ask yourself this question: “If nothing in your life has changed in five years, would that be okay?”
If you said “no” to that question, then you’re ready to proceed to the next step:
3. Based on your ideal world, what do your priorities need to be?
Make a list of the various priorities in your life, and then list them in order of importance.
I really encourage you to write your list as deliberately as you can. Decide what your priorities will be, based on what you know is right for you and your family — not based on outside pressure, or on what other people think you should do.
4. Look at your schedule, and revise your calendar to match your new priorities.
This may be tough, but you can do it! Look closely at your time:
- Are you taking the kids to a different activity every day after school? If so, could you change that by having them pick just one sport or lesson each year?
- Are you watching a lot of TV? If so, could you turn the TV off a few hours each week, and make time for reading or exercise?
- Are you doing anything you’re not called to do just to please people? If so, consider letting them know that you’re sorry, but you just won’t be able to help anymore. (And breathe a sigh of relief!)
Time management is challenging for everyone. But, if you will make a list of your life’s priorities, and set your calendar based on those priorities, you will find time and peace of mind that you never knew existed.
What are your priorities? What could you work on this week to move yourself closer to your dream life?
Jamie Rohrbaugh is a wife, financial analyst, Sunday School teacher, musician, and unlikely worship leader from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her passion is to encourage and equip people to live powerful lives and to function in their gifts. She blogs at FromHisPresence.com about how to live ordinary life in God’s manifest presence.