By Laura Bailey, Crosswalk.com
Every year I look forward to the blank boxes of an obligation-free calendar. The new year greets me with time slots itching to be filled, appointments, activities, and social engagements begging to consume the pages.
Until March 2020, like the rest of the world, my curated calendar with its perfectly laid plans, color-coded chaos, and never-ending to-do lists became obsolete. I’d spent decades idolizing business, filling my schedule to the max because I was afraid of disappointing someone, feeling pressured to say yes. In the weeks that turned into months of canceled plans, I learned that a calmer calendar meant a more peaceful me.
As an overachiever, “planning is my hobby,” task-master type of gal, it has taken work to transform my calendar from chaotic to calm. But, in learning to guard my schedule, I’ve experienced more peace, comfort, and contentment, and I hope you can as well.
1. Focus on Biblical Priorities
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
We have limited time on earth. The Bible is filled with guidance on how we should spend our time; we should share the gospel, disciple others, teach our children about God, support those in need, take care of the body of believers, and abide in Christ. Spiritual things aren’t our sole responsibility, though. Scripture acknowledges the need to work and provide for our physical needs. But, when we begin to look at every opportunity through the lens of Scripture and our purpose, we can better choose where to allocate our time. Bob Goff said, “The battle for our hearts is fought on the pages of our calendars.” We can say that our values align with God’s Word, but our actions tell what’s really in our heart’s desires. We should be continually asking ourselves, is it evident from our schedules that we prioritize the things of God?
2. Say, “No”
“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:40
We live in an age that offers non-stop opportunities to engage. Can’t be there in person? No problem, join via zoom. Don’t want to miss a meeting while on vacation? Hop on a conference call. Need to be in two places at one time? Say hello via Facetime. It is becoming harder to say no. And as if the fear of disappointment wasn’t enough, social media ushered in “FOMO” (fear of missing out), shaming us into accepting and attending events we would have otherwise missed. Protect your calendar, and say yes to things that matter (see point one). Saying yes to every opportunity will only lead to burnout at best and likely exhaustion and illness. God didn’t create our bodies to live at a break-neck pace day in and out. Sometimes the best answer is to respectfully decline, without shame or guilt. After all, there will always be more opportunities.
3. Acknowledge Your Season
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Just had a newborn? Probably not the best time to take on more responsibility at work. Found out your grandmother is sick? Don’t try to tackle the house renovation. Have you been offered your dream job? You might need to delay the two-week vacation until next year. We can’t do it all. The world tries to sell a different story, but the reality is, we have limits. And, in different seasons of our lives, we have unique roles and responsibilities that we must acknowledge and be sensitive to regarding how they affect our schedules. Just like seasons, our lives change. If something doesn’t fit in your plans today doesn’t mean there won't be a future opportunity. Aligning our time with our current season keeps us from over-extending ourselves, holding to realistic expectations in our current place in life.
4. Make Plans that Help You Reach Your Goals
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3
A friend sent me a card that read, “ A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Knowing how much I enjoy power-planning sessions and goal-tackling, my friend meant to encourage me to pursue my current dream. Besides giving me the push I needed, it also reminded me that I wouldn’t have the chance to pursue this new venture unless I made a point to protect my time. Often, we fill our calendars with things that we feel we should do or the things we’ve always done. Before penciling in, pause and ask, “ Is this something that is going to help me reach my goals this year?”
Want to eat dinner as a family during the week? Be careful about committing to nightly activities.
Want to train for a half-marathon? Probably need to say no to team soccer mom.
Feel like your marriage needs more date nights? It might be a good time to politely decline that weekly book club meeting.
5. Block off Time for Rest
“Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:3
Sunday mornings are chaotic in our house, and after lunch, there are only a few hours before we return to church for Sunday night worship. I use these hours to rest, relax, and recharge. If possible, I plan for 2 hours of uninterrupted alone time. It looks different from week to week, but typically, I read a book, walk outside, or maybe even take a nap.
It took me a long time to get to this place. I would feel guilty for napping in the middle of the day or feel like a bad mom for making my girls play quietly in their room while I read. But, the truth is, unless I make a practice of “forced” rest breaks, our family begins to fall apart. When our schedule is packed, ushering in late nights, too much fast food, and not enough downtime, our emotional, physical, and spiritual health suffer. God gave His children the gift of rest, and He didn’t expect us to live busy and consumed all day long. There will be times in our lives that relaxation is not possible, but let’s strive to make that the exception and not the rule as we arrange our days.
As we sit down with our planners, let’s be mindful of how we fill our schedules. Holding our plans loosely, remembering, “ Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21).
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