Slow Down

Yesterday, in four or five conversations with different people the subject of busyness came up. The conversations went something like this:

My friend: “Hey, how are you?”

Me: “Okay, how about yourself.”

My friend: “Good, but I’ve been real busy lately.”

Me: “I hear you. I’ve been busy lately as well. It seems like I’m running from one thing to the next.”

Seriously, this conversation with minor variations was repeated several times yesterday. Why do we allow ourselves to become so busy. Do we like being busy, or do we just like the opportunity to tell others that we’re busy? In all our running around, are we making progress towards something that really matters, or are we just trying to keep up with the neighbors?

Staying busy for the sake of being busy is pointless. And even if our activities result in something good, we still need to analyze our list of activities. Are we participating in activities that match up with our gifts and passions? Are we leaving any space in our schedules for rest and reflection? Are we truly making the most of our opportunities – especially when we’re being pulled in a million different activities?

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve read a couple of blog posts and listened to a podcast or two that deal with this topic. Michael Hyatt talked about the importance of calendar triage in his blog in the past week. The FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey Podcast talked about the importance of simplifying our lives in an interview with Dr. Meg Meeker.

These are challenging messages to hear in this culture – especially in the Northeast where everyone seems so ME focused.  So how can we change this?  Here are four simple ideas that could make a huge difference in our journey to take control of our schedules:

1.  Write it down.  Take time at the beginning of each month and at the beginning of each week to write down and review the calendar.  Seeing it in front of you on a calendar will quickly show you if there are any gaps in your calendar for rest and refreshment.

2.  Prioritize and prune.  As you list out your activities and commitments, consider prioritizing them.  You may want to use a number system to assign a priority to each item on your calendar.  Going to church is a top priority in our house, so it gets a 1.  Other things might be a lower priority, so we can assign them a 2 or a 3.  As you review your calendar, consider giving up one of the lower priority activities.

3.  Schedule time for rest, refreshment, and reflection.  Seriously, block off time on your calendar.  Give this a top priority.  Don’t let something else come along and take its place.  This is something we’re still working on at home.  We have tried to make Monday night open for our date night.  This has worked most of the time; however, I must confess that the past couple of weeks we’ve let other things come in the way of this.

4.  Practice sabbath.  I was talking with my good friend, Michael Shaw, yesterday about this very subject.  Michael, who is Jewish, holds the sabbath (sun-down Friday night to sun-down Saturday night) sacred.  He literally shuts down each week during this time.  God’s command for a sabbath was not just meant for us to focus on Him, I believe it was designed to create a regular rhythm of rest in our lives.  It’s important that we find ways to practice the sabbath.

What is one thing that you need to trim off your calendar or schedule this month?  What other suggestions do you have for slowing down?