The Stress of the Schedule
by Kimberley Woodhouse
Those may be dirty words to you. Words you never want spoken around you. Ever. You’ve tried. You’ve failed. And life still happens. I get it.
No matter if you are a planner or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of person, both sides still struggle with managing their time. Because frankly… life. Especially in the last year, right? 2020 was a booger. Juggling working from home, schooling with kids at home, and simply surviving has been close to impossible.
I’m going to share from my heart. I’m a pastor’s wife. I’m a mom. I homeschooled my kids all the way through. I’m a full-time author. For umpteen years I was a year-round volunteer for Operation Christmas Child. I teach piano and voice lessons. I’m a Precept Bible study leader. Etc. etc. etc. (I’m sure you have your laundry-list of things you do too!) To make it all crazier…I’m an organized freak. I have a planner for my planners. Seriously. Yes, there are multiple ones. I’ve taught classes on the subject. Which would make everyone think that I have time management down to a science. But I have struggled with it too. Why is that? Are we too busy? Too distracted?
Going to Scripture, I find simple answers. We are instructed in 1 Corinthians to do all things properly and in an orderly manner. Colossians reminds us that everything we do should be done for the glory of the Lord. Proverbs gives us reminder after reminder to not be lazy, to work hard, and to be honorable in all our interactions. But we are also instructed to rest. Be still. And take time for the Lord.
Some of you may be wondering, “But there isn’t a nice little list of exactly how to accomplish all of the above.”
To encourage every one of us, let me say this: time management looks different for everyone. Don’t try to fit your life into someone else’s techniques. Find what works for you and for your family. To do that, you’ve got to look at the big picture. Which a lot of people don’t want to see because they will get overwhelmed. The adage eating an elephant one bite at a time means to only focus on what’s in front of you, right? But for those who struggle with this, let me give you a few tips to give you a place to start. (You can do this on the computer or on paper—it doesn’t matter, but it is necessary to get it all down. A lot of times you need to see it to make sense of it. It’s best if you can use a calendar with the whole year visible, divided up into months, weeks, and down into days.)
- Make a list of everything that you need to accomplish on a regular/daily basis. (You may have to do this separately for each member of the family.) Work, family, volunteering, church, all of it. Make sure you list time to take care of yourself, get dressed, have your quiet time, spend time with your family, etc.
- Designate an amount of time for each task.
- Do the same thing with listing your weekly and/or monthly meetings/activities/to do.
- Next, make a list of big/long projects. For me, I have constant deadlines for writing, so I have to “backward plan.” Meaning I have to start at the deadline and move backward through my schedule for when the edits need to be done, when the first draft needs to be done, when the research needs to be done, when the synopsis/outline needs to be done, etc.
- Now see how you can fit these long projects into your daily schedule by dividing them up. (For example: If I need to write a first draft in eight weeks, then that gives me forty days—based on a five-day work week—to add writing into the schedule. If the book is 80,000 words, then I need to accomplish writing 2,000 words a day.) When you divide it up like this, it’s much easier to swallow the big project.
- Next, add in any vacations, family visits, trips, etc. that you are hoping to make.
- Add anything else that you need to accomplish—or want to accomplish to your schedule.
- Now examine those lists and your schedule you’ve allotted. This takes time.
- Do you have extra time in the day? Week? Month? You need plenty of white space. Because again, life happens. Chaos happens. Emergencies happen.
- Do you have too much on the calendar/list? Not enough time in the days to get it all done?
- This is the moment to dig deep and realize that you may have too much in your life. Or your kids might have too much in theirs. Running ourselves ragged is not honoring to the Lord. It’s tough, but you may need to remove things out of your life and schedule. Yes, even things you may love or think are really great. (I did this the past year—eliminating good and wonderful things is HARD. But it’s necessary. I’m the queen of overloading myself and then paying the price for it later.)
Now that you see it all on paper, it’s easier to digest how to actually plan and manage your time. For those of us who love to organize, we love this part. For those who don’t have a knack for organizing, that part might have been the most daunting, but now you have a big picture to see. At this point, there are plenty of planners you can buy, printables online, apps, etc. to help you make sense of it. The Pomodoro technique is great for helping you to manage your time in small increments. If you are new to time management, it’s a great place to start. The Todoist app is also very handy (on computer and on smart phones) to help you stay on top of things. There’s also the Hours Tracker app, BeFocused app, Freedom app for your computer to eliminate distractions, Forest app to eliminate distractions on smart phones, etc. There’s plenty of technology to help us with time management. The biggest step is actually tackling it head-on. Making the time to see the big picture and what we need to manage, then making a disciplined decision to do things properly and in order.
All to give glory and honor to the Lord with our lives. It’s a relief to be still. A joy to refresh and know we’ve accomplished good work with our hands.
Carol Award-winning Kimberley Woodhouse is a CBA and ECPA best-selling and multi-award-winning author of more than twenty-five books which have earned her many accolades including Christian Retailing’s Top Pick and Publisher’s Weekly starred reviews. A lover of history and research, she often gets sucked into the past and then her husband has to lure her out with chocolate. Connect with Kimberley: https://kimberleywoodhouse.com.
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