Each of these points below could be developed much more fully, but this is a brief overview of four things that seem to really eat up time and energy and sabotage our efforts to live productive lives.
Know Your Calling and Priorities
I already touched on this a little in Part Two, but it is essential that we recognize that every one is at a different stage in life, has a different set of circumstances, and different people and responsibilities demanding their attention. One of the most common hindrances to a productive life is comparing ourselves to other people and putting pressure on ourselves to do things like them. This usually results in neglecting or rejecting the opportunities we already have in favor of always striving for something more, something different, something better. As I recently wrote in our music association’s newsletter, “If the grass looks greener on the other side, it’s because I’m watering on the wrong side of the fence. If I would put as much energy into growing right where I’m planted as I do into wishing that I was someone or somewhere else, I would be enjoying a lush green lawn right now!” I have experienced incredible freedom and increased productivity since I stopped measuring myself against other people or their expectations. Instead, I try to continually learn and grow from the influence of others, but then pursue creativity and excellence in whatever areas I am already involved unless it becomes clear that I should take up another pursuit or assume another role.
Know Your Limits
One of the most crippling feelings is that of not having the ability to complete everything that I’ve committed to do. In fact, it causes me to basically shut down, and all I can do is sit on the couch, eat pretzels and peanut butter, and read a book (that’s my way of ignoring reality!). It was especially enlightening several years ago to discover that different people have varying levels of tolerance for multiple responsibilities. Some people can only focus on one project at a time (they tend to be very detail-oriented, operate in a thoughtful and methodical manner, and are very thorough) while others can juggle many different activities and projects (they tend to be more rash, value speed and efficiency in work, and easily visualize steps of action required to complete tasks). It’s important to understand your own style of work, and to have a clear idea of the time and skill that will be necessary to take on various responsibilities or projects.
One of my biggest pet peeves is people who go around bemoaning their busy lives, then feeling compelled to recount their myriad activities and difficulties to anyone who will listen and feel sorry for them. They can be classified as “energy-takers.” You wouldn’t think of asking them to do anything because they already seem so overloaded and stressed out with life. The problem is that attitudes like this don’t only drain the people around you; they drain you too! Proverbs 11:25 says that, “he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” And we’re all familiar with the biblical principle that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” A complaining, self-pitying attitude robs us of the blessing and joy we can experience if we instead look for ways to encourage and serve those around us. It may feel fulfilling to have people sympathize over our hectic lives, but real fulfillment comes from a deep-seeded contentment. If we are living to please the Lord, He sees the outpouring of our lives on behalf of those around us for His glory. That’s what really counts for eternity!
No Making Excuses
Have you ever grilled a student about their schedule because they claimed they didn’t have time to practice during the week? The truth of the matter is that we all have the time to do the things on which we place the highest priority. I love the definition for dependability – “Fulfilling what I consented to do, even if it means unexpected sacrifice.” In my opinion, there is almost no legitimate excuse for neglecting to do something you have committed to do. Better to say “no” upfront than agree to do something and then not follow through. Sometimes it means sacrificing sleep; sometimes it means foregoing a fun activity in favor of a less-than-exciting event you’ve already agreed to attend; sometimes it means working on a mundane task instead of sitting in front of the television, etc. The important thing is to be a person of your word, and not develop a habit of making excuses for unfulfilled responsibilities. This is the underlying character that will drive us to find the time to do the things we need or ought to do in life.
And that’s the conclusion of our Finding Time series. I hope that it has been helpful to you. If you have any additional tips to share, please do so!