Lately, I have been struggling with discipline in several areas of my life. I feel overworked and overwhelmed and I believe that if I could focus on becoming more disciplined, that would HAVE to change.
I found these shirts and had to laugh… But while it is a bit comical, there is also a lot of truth in them.
What is discipline? Discipline is obedience, a lifetime process that brings us to a state of order by training and controlling our behavior. Discipline is focusing and eliminating, zeroing in on what is important in every area of life. Discipline not only leads to right thinking, pleasing behavior and balanced emotions but also produces a purpose-driven life based on right goals and priorities.
The thing I struggle with the most is time management. And I don’t feel alone in this. I have spoken to numerous women over the past few weeks and I am consistently finding that time management is a dreaded and often ignored spiritual discipline for many of us. We have either forgotten or failed to realize the truth that our minutes, hours and days are precious commodities — gifts from God that can be unwrapped only once. Time is wasted unless it is invested in goals and priorities that are rooted in God’s plan.
A busy life is not necessarily a productive life. I have been “busy doing good things.” But the problem with my list of good things was that it was just that – my list – which was the wrong list for my life. The result has been exhaustion, burnout and disobedience. I have lost my temper and said things that cannot be taken back… And I feel that if I were just a smidgen more rested, it wouldn’t have happened.
Here is something that looked a bit like how I have been feeling over the past few weeks:
Granted, I am at home, not at an office…
But I believe one of the most important lessons I am currently learning is that my perspective of time is skewed. I have poured years into making my plan successful only to discover the truth that God resources and empowers His plan alone. I am still struggling with giving up parts of my plan because it seems like such a good thing. But I know that outlook determines outcome. It is painfully obvious I need an outlook adjustment, an eternal perspective. I need to understand the truth that my time is not really mine to do with as I please. It is a resource on loan to me from God. As a result, every plan, priority and goal should be held against the backdrop of eternity because it is from that backdrop that our priorities are validated, our calling confirmed and our time best invested.
Learning how to trust God with our time is a challenge for us all. I am, by no means, an expert in this area, but I do want to share some simple ideas that I am working on right now.
Just as we tithe our money, we should tithe our time. God blesses and multiplies the time we set aside to spend in Bible study, prayer and service. This one is something I learned at a weekend conference a long time ago. And, I must say, its WAY more difficult than tithing money for me.
In 1 Corinthians 14:40, we are challenged to “do all in a fitting and orderly way.” In other words, being organized is a spiritual discipline, freeing us from the tyranny of the urgent while making room for the eternal things that matter. I am working on this alongside the Flylady… (www.flylady.net)
I bought a calendar to keep everything in one place. Writing things down keeps me from wasting time and “bunching up” activities. It takes the pressure off to remember everything and allows me to see, at a glance, what is important. My weeks and months are more evenly scheduled and I am forced to prioritize, doing the important things first.
I am also trying to figure out a time each week when I can sit down and plan our week. I think its important to pray over the week, asking the Holy Spirit to make clear those things ordained for each day.
As you probably know, I have been working on simplifying. There are MANY areas of my life that this applies to, but time is one of the most crucial. Experts advise us to approach spring cleaning by dealing with one closet at a time. The same principle works with time management. Break jobs up into manageable steps so that the large tasks seem doable.
The hardest thing for me to do has been to tackle the most dreaded task first. I have discovered that tackling the job I dread the most energizes me for the rest of the tasks. I have also learned to use my best time, the time of the day when my energy is highest, for the most important and the most difficult tasks. I am still not successful on a regular basis with this one, but I notice a tremendous difference in the way my day goes if I make sure I am doing the difficult FIRST.
Another difficult thing for me to do, especially since I am so easily distractable is to stop activities when they become unproductive. I know its important though because sometimes I can stare at a screen for hours trying to figure something out, but when I get up and walk away for a bit, its extraordinarily clear upon coming back. So, I am learning that sometimes, a 10 minute break will boost energy, refocus attention and get creative juices flowing.
Yet another difficult thing for me to do is to begin a task, especially when I know I don’t have the time to complete it. I don’t know if its my sense of perfectionism getting in the way, but this one is REALLY hard. I hate doing laundry and frequently long for either a nudist colony or disposable clothing. But, I am getting better at doing the laundry in phases. For example, I will start the wash and go answer email. I then toss the wet clothing into the dryer and work on a writing assignment. You get the idea!
Now, one thing I have learned.. And I am actually starting to get good at is delegating. Obviously when we delegate work to our children, we are teaching them godly discipline as well as basic life skills they need to learn. It applies to all aspects of life though. There are always people waiting to be pushed out of their comfort zone.
Lacey Hartman (www.laceyhartman.com) recently wrote a blog about leaving margins in your schedule, and in your life as a whole. I must confess, I tend to fill every time slot during the day. Therefore, when the “unexpected” comes along, I am overwhelmed and unprepared. Building margins of time into our schedules is a step of faith, trusting God to fill them in any way He chooses.
Another thing I am learning is to yield to seasons in my life. Especially here recently with my work and being a mother, I have had to really determine what my priorities are for this time in my life.I know that I cannot sacrifice my family on the altar of a career or even a ministry. My greatest mission field is our home, our marriage and our children. It does not matter how much I do or how successful I am by the world’s standards, if home and family get the leftovers of our time, energy, emotions and spiritual service, we are walking in sin and disobedience.
Let’s face it. If we don’t set priorities — others will. Time thieves will steal our time as we allow them to impose their plans and standards on us. While it is true that different people have different priorities and different seasons of life, it is also true that one priority remains steadfast. Matthew 6:33 “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…” Once that priority is firmly established, the rest of life will surely fall into place, and we will be trusting God with our time.
I know that I want to live a life of power and purpose. I want my time surrendered to the creator of time. I am choosing to invest each moment wisely. I will no longer put off doing what I know I am supposed to do. I will line up my priorities according to the Word and will seek to be more disciplined with my time. I will set boundaries that please and honor God. I am trusting that God knows what I should be doing with my time far better than I do.