Have you ever felt like someone else is pulling the strings while you dance around life doing and doing and doing?
Sometimes I get to the end of the day and feel like I’ve not accomplished anything that I had set out to do. Oh I was busy all day, it just seems as though there is nothing to account for what I actually got done. Maybe you have the same problem.
As I’ve pondered this issue, I have come to realize this has a lot more to do with WHAT we are doing than the lack of time we have to do it. In his best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey puts it this way: “We get caught up in the thick of thin things.”
That statement really had a profound effect on me. Thin things. I can think of so many ways to define that, but what comes to my mind the most is “shallow.” Wasted. Thin things are things that are completely useless for what I want to be and do in my life. They are the things that don’t matter to me. And yet somehow I am caught up in them.
The more I thought about it the more I became agitated over this waste. I don’t want to be doing “thin things.” I want my day to be filled with things that have meaning, purpose, direction… and results!
So, what can we do to take control of our schedules?
Start the day with God.
The Bible says that if we acknowledge God in all our ways, He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). It also says that it’s the Lord who directs our steps (Prov. 16:9). If we believe this is true, then it only makes sense that our day must begin with God.
Of course we want to pray and read the Word, but we also should take it a step further and ask God to show us what to do. We should ask God to direct our steps, show us opportunities, and close doors that we ought not be opening.
If you need some practical ideas for how to fit this time in, you’ll enjoy this post.
Evaluate to see what you should eliminate.
The next step is to constantly be evaluating what things in your day should be eliminated. My friend Cheryl recently reminded us that we need to drop some balls if we are going to get to the important things in life. We can’t juggle them all. And if we put our focus on the small ones, we are likely to drop the ones that are most important to us.
I track my daily to-do list using an online system called Nozbe. Each morning I look at the list, pray over the items, and find at least one thing to cross off. Then I drag and drop the items into order of priority.
I also evaluate our overall schedule once a quarter to see if the things we are spending time on are actually the things we want to be doing. This has been helpful for eliminating extra-curricular activities that just don’t line up with our goals and it has freed up time to do the things we enjoy most.
Make a schedule that flexes.
Having a flexible schedule has been a lifesaver for me. I’ve found that some of the most important things in my life come up when I don’t expect them. Like a talk with my daughter about what makes a good husband. These moments are not only important, they are the most important. If I have a flexible schedule, I can have conversations with my kids when needed and take advantages of teachable moments when they arise.
Flexible scheduling also makes us available to help others in need or spend time talking to someone we didn’t expect to run into. If our time is too tight, we will miss these sweet moments and the blessings that go along with them.
Consider a routine with chunks of time.
I began chunking our time when I first started homeschooling. Basically a chunk is just a designated period of time when certain things happen. For example, we have a morning chunk that includes devotions, breakfast, chores, and school. Our routine is to do them in that order. By not putting a detailed time on each item, we allow them to be flexible in length. One day breakfast might go longer, the next it might be devotions. In the end, it usually balances out.
We also have chunks for lunch, afternoon, and evening. I have a sample schedule here. Although it is for homeschooling, I think you can use it to get ideas no matter what your schooling choice is.
The key is to write a list of the activities that need to get done each day and then fit them into a logical sequence. Next, “chunk” a period of time to do those things. When your day is interrupted by a doctor’s appointment or other unexpected task, it’s easy to speed up the routine or even skip a chunk of time without feeling like you’ve lost control of the entire day.
Use digital tools to help.
I can’t tell you where I’d be if it wasn’t for the digital tools that we have available to us today. I’ve already mentioned Nozbe for a daily to-do list. I also use Wunderlist to help me organize grocery lists, errands, and even packing lists. You can even use Wunderlist as a to-do list.
I use Google Calendar on my computer and sync it with Calendars app. This way I always know what is going on and don’t end up with a dentist appointment in the middle of a piano recital.
Believe it or not, the most important app for me is the alarm app on my phone. I set this to reoccur each day at certain times as a reminder of what we should be working on. For example, the first one is set to remind me to wake up the kids for school. Sometimes I get busy writing and forget. Then we are all in trouble.
I have alarms for family devotion time, school, even for starting the laundry. They are set to go off each and every day so I never miss important tasks.
I’ve written specifics about my favorite digital tools here in this post.
Your turn===> So what are your best tips for controlling your schedule? I’d love to hear them.