I’m going to postulate about your weekly schedule: it is too full.
And I’m going to make another assumption: there is something you are regularly doing that can be removed.
Am I accurate? If I was accurate on the first point, I can guarantee you that I’m accurate on the second. (If you’re not convinced, keep reading.)
In the previous two posts of this clutter buster series, we looked at decluttering our hearts and declutering our minds. Truly, this is where lasting habits of living clutter free begin. (If you haven’t read those posts, I encourage you to read them before continuing this one.)
But when it comes to our weekly routines, we won’t serve efficiently unless we declutter our schedules. Overloaded schedules lead to stressed out lives. Stressed out lives lead to worry. And worry is a sin.
Dentists, Schedules, and Margin
If you’re like me, it’s a frightening thought to go to the dentist. As if the pain from his poking, prodding, and drilling weren’t enough, he adds the pain of a long, dreadful wait between the time you sign in and the time you’re seated in the chair of torture. (I think waiting in the dentist’s office must be something like purgatory—only the dentist’s office is real.)
There is a reason we wait at dentist offices—their receptionists double schedule.
Dentists have found that many patients never show for their appointments (you can see why!). The dentist can’t afford to have an empty chair, so he instructs his receptionist to overschedule the day. Ideally, the patients who actually come won’t be more than the schedule can hold were it not overbooked.
Overscheduling may work for dentists, but it is not a good practice for spiritual leaders. Actually, it’s not a good practice for any human being. (I am not indicating that dentists aren’t human; you can form your own opinions here.)
I used to regularly overbook my schedule. The more I filled it, the less I slept—partly because there are only so many hours in a day and I used many of them to work, and partly because even after my head hit the pillow, my mind continued to spin with plans for how to get tomorrow’s work accomplished.
I’m learning now that it is wiser to avoid overscheduling and to instead plan margin in my life.
Does planning for margin in your schedule seem impossible to you? It is…without practicing a simple principle:
Declutter your schedule through priority.
The only way to streamline your schedule is to take a good hard look at your priorities.
A Word of Caution
Usually when people consider simplifying their schedules, the first activities they want to let go relate to the last activities they should even consider releasing.
Be cautious about making schedule decisions based on what you most enjoy doing. Sometimes our God-given responsibilities become monotonous. Don’t start shedding what God has given you to do just because it is wearisome to you.
Sometimes we must ask the Lord to renew our passion for His instructions and faithfully obey His calling until He does.
The best activities to remove from your schedule are the ones most of us actually want to keep—time wasters.
Time wasters come in so many shapes and sizes, and what would be a time waster for me may not be a time waster for you. For instance, if I were to watch several sports games a week, that would be an incredible waste of my time as a pastor. But if you are a sports coach, watching games could be part of your strategy for professional growth.
Time wasters are most commonly found in areas in which we are consumed with ourselves. These could potentially include sports, news, social media, a hobby. None of these are inherently sinful, but excessively engaging in them—especially when they leave us insufficient time to fulfill our God-given responsibilities—is sinful.
If you really don’t believe there are any timewasters in your life, I have a simple challenge for you: On a 3×5 card write out every fifteen minute slot for the rest of today (or for tomorrow, if your day is almost complete). Carry your card with you, and at the end of every fifteen minutes record how you spent those minutes. You may be surprised.
What Has God Assigned to You?
The clearest way to see the priorities that should be in your schedule is to ask the question, What has God specifically given me to do?
Look carefully at your roles, and note the responsibilities God has given through those roles.
As a Christian, God has instructed me to read His Word, develop a prayer life, be faithful in church, love and encourage others in the body of Christ, and to share the gospel with others.
As a husband, He has instructed me to love my wife, provide for my home, and lead my home spiritually.
I am also a father, grandfather, pastor, college president, friend, and more. So I note my priorities in relation to these God-given roles. As you note your roles, remember your family, your church, and your employer.
Guard yourself against setting your priorities with the thought, “I like to do this, therefore it is important.” Rather ask, “What does God want me to do?”
I can guarantee you that there is something on your schedule—or at least something included in your habits—that can be released.
Ask God to show you what it is. He will.
(Stay tuned! In the next clutter buster post, we’ll look at reclaiming your day.)