This year, I have the privilege of serving as the clergy partner for a ministerial intern from a local seminary. In our first meeting of the semester, we spent some time talking about the importance of personal devotion and theological reflection. One of the most valuable practices for a person who seeks to advance in any area of their life is dedicated, set aside time for introspection and quiet listening for divine guidance. But the reality is that dirty dishes, back to school nights, carpools, and piles of laundry don’t always lend themselves to quiet listening. Not to mention, those of us who serve in local churches and community organizations also have to balance meetings, projects, and a host of other time consuming tasks. So when we finally break the binding on our bible to “hear from Heaven,” we often awake to “sugar plum fairies dancing in our heads.” So, how do we balance competing priorities and still find time for holy listening?
The first thing we do is deliver ourselves from the myth that there is a such thing as balance. Work/Life balance is an elusive unicorn. It’s the thing that many people talk about but no one has ever seen for themselves. It just doesn’t exist. As a single person with no children, people assume that I have more free time, which is simply not true. The truth is that we all have 24 hours each day and we should spend them where our efforts will have the deepest and longest lasting impact- on or lives and the lives of those we love. But sometimes, that’s easier said than done.
Since we can’t be everywhere at once and we don’t have the privilege of adding hours to the day or days to the week, here are three simple questions I ask myself at the start of every week to help me maximize my time while I’m on my daily grind.
- What can I prep? I have found that taking a few extra moments on my most leisure day of the week, Sunday, to prepare meals that will stretch a few days helps to ease my frustration on my most hectic days. While I’m not a meal prep guru like @knockout_nutrition, I can cut up a watermelon and pack it in Tupperware bowls, throw some grapes in ziploc bags, and make four salmon burgers on the George Foreman while I cook Sunday dinner. Then, when a monster Monday rolls around, I can grab and go and know that at least my nutrition is taken care of. I have also found that taking an hour and a half on Sunday to iron 7 days worth of clothes (an outfit for each workday and two backups in case I hate the others) saves me 20 minutes in the mornings. Finally, I like to pack two gym bags on Sundays- one that can be used at the gym (including the pool) and one that can be used for an impromptu run. That way, I don’t have to waste time between leaving work and arriving at the gym looking for my swim cap…because I’m always looking for my swim cap.
- What can I automate? If you’re like me, due dates often fall of your radar, especially when you’re juggling personal, ministry, and business expenses. But missing deadlines can be costly and more time consuming on the back end. Many companies provide an automatic debit option where payments can be deducted on the appropriate date without your initiation. Using this options, keeps late fees from piling up, and saves the time you would normally spend on the phone or the computer paying bills.
- What can I outsource? There’s some stuff you just don’t have to do! When speaking with a physician colleague this summer, she shared a time-saving tidbit that revolutionized her schedule. In select markets, Amazon Prime members can order household items, groceries, and products from 23 other categories and have them delivered in 1-2 hours. The service is called Amazon Prime Now. Listen…paper towels on your door step! No more standing in line at Family Dollar for cleaning supplies. You can spend that time cleaning! LOL
Hopefully these time-saving suggestions will help you carve out 30-60 minutes in your day for direction, reflection, and inspiration. Be kind to yourself and remember that balance is an illusion. We can only do so much in a day. So, save your time for the people and causes that matter most. I pray that you also use 1-2 of the minutes you save to submit your schedule to the Lord as well.