So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
I have become a “two-list-a-day” person and it’s restoring peace and margin in my life!
My quiet times in the morning had become disjointed. I found myself unable to focus on what I was reading and I found it difficult to pray. Instead, thoughts about the day – issues, concerns, and my to-do-list – commanded my attention. I reasoned these distractions as immediate tasks in order to unclutter my thoughts. So I would send a quick text, read an important email, add an appointment to my calendar, a item to my reminders . My quiet times had become anything but quiet and not because of noise in the room; I lacked stillness within. Then I made my quiet time “technology free” and sweetness has since then returned to the start of my days.
For me, it’s a mistake to take in and respond to all the information coming at me.
I’ve tried to keep up the pace but then I find myself up late at night tying up loose threads and getting up early to answer all the emails. It leaves me scattered and exhausted and wholly frustrated- off track. While there is a valuable place for all this technology in my life, I must have self imposed limits consistently in place or the most important things are consistently squeezed out. I must have a YES list but also a NO list. I must learn to say “NO” everyday to the distractions in my life. NO, I am not going to immediately check each text that comes in. Do I really have to know this next bit of information? NO, I am not going to respond quickly to every email. NO, I am not going to google for one more piece of information. NO, I am not going to take that phone call. NO, I am not going to allow distraction into my quiet time with Jesus.
I recently read an article from the Harvard Business Review call “Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning” by Peter Bregman. It really got me thinking about this two-list idea which he named a focus list – what I am trying to achieve & what’s important to me, and an ignore list– the distractions, what get’s in the way. The author wrote, “to succeed in using your time wisely, you have to ask the equally important but often avoided complementary question: what are you willing not to achieve?” This two list approach helps me appropriate my time around those things that matter most as well as identify what prevents them from happening. Given with how easily I can get distracted, I find this second list to be as important as the first. It forces me to consider what I need to say “NO” to.
Now my daily lists are now built in this way:
- I start by spending time with Jesus. Regardless of how much (or little) time I have, each day must be ordered and inspired by Him. Without a time of praising Jesus and taking in spiritual nourishment, my day can quickly disintegrate in some form or fashion.
- Then I examine my own heart in order to hear what the Lord is asking of me for the day. Is there someone I need to apologize to? Someone I need to forgive? Reach out to? Serve? Before the day can be snatched from me, I want to know what the Lord is asking of me. If I don’t listen, I won’t hear and if I don’t hear how can I walk in obedience to His voice?
- Then I pray for others. For reasons beyond my comprehension, God works miracles through the intercessory prayers of His people but the work of prayer is difficult to accomplish in the midst of distraction.
- Next I write down the necessary to-dos followed by the want-tos. (This list used to be my first task each morning but then I found that my own planning took precedence over Jesus)
- Finally I add in margin. Yes, margin. And I obtain margin by writing my ignore list – those things I won’t do or respond to. Without margin, I lack the ability to respond warmly to others. Instead people become an inconvenience to my “so-very-important” task list. Without margin I become impatient and hurried. Without margin, I fail to be responsive and kind to my husband. Without margin I fail to hear what my grandchildren are trying to say and I fail to respond to them in wise, loving ways. My days are peppered with interruptions by soon-to-be- 9 grandchildren who live nearby. I want time for these sweet interruptions. I want them on my focus list but in order to do so I must have a NO list.
All too often the earthly obscures the heavenly; the demands of the day shove aside the essential and human voices drown out the voice of God. Because of our great technological advancements, human voices now come at us rapidly from all directions crowding out solitude. “Only in solitude can you being to sift away the chaff and come at last to the golden grains of truth. The world will confuse you. Silence will speak to you more in a day than the world of voices can teach you in a lifetime. Find silence. Find solitude and having discovered her riches, bind them to your heart. (Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts)
It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?
Henry David Thoreau