Study the Bible. Write a blog. Reply to 236 emails. Invest in relationships. Do community. Bear burdens. Care for the one in your path. Write a sermon. Manage the team. Plan events. Invest in leaders. Dream big. Pay bills. Lead your family. Disciple your children. Pray. Be still….
I'm tired. I've heard BUSY is an acronym for “Being Under Satan's Yoke,” and I am starting to believe it. Often the week feels like I wake up and I run, until I am back at my bed where I sleep, so that I can wake up and run tomorrow. And people must see it on me, because lately every email starts with "I know you're busy but…" So, somehow people know I am busy, now what do I do about it?
Filling the Jar
I have a hunch that the urgent things are choking out the absolutely necessary things. Recently, I read a story in an email forward that illustrated this. A teacher filled a jar with golf-ball-sized rocks and asked the class if it was full, to which they replied "yes." Then the teacher added tiny BBs, which filled the empty spaces between the rocks, and again asked the class if it was full. They responded "yes" again. This continued with sand and then liquid until all the "free" space in the jar was truly occupied.
The lesson taught from the illustration is to make sure the big commitments go into your schedule first, and then you can put the less important things that come up into the gaps. Do the unimportant things first, and you won’t be able to fit in the “big rocks.”
Priorities vs. Necessities
In the past, I have erred by simply prioritizing my big commitments. The priority list looks like:
While I believe that setting priorities is a great practice, it is also an incomplete one. There can be a lot of overlap in those "categories." If you are in vocational ministry, then "work" looks a lot like it could go in the "God" category and take precedence over everything else—as it sometimes does for me. Also, if work is providing for your family, doesn't that make some "deposits" into the family category? But if I focus on work to the detriment of the other areas, that is not honoring to my family or to God.
So, rather than a list of priorities, I'd encourage you to look at these 4 categories as all necessities. You can’t let one monopolize time away from the others, or devalue one because it seems a little less important. These are the “big rocks.”
How are you doing at taking care of those 4 things? Below are some questions that can help you evaluate and make the most of your time in each area.
How do you connect with God? (What are you doing when you feel closest to Him?)
How can you make sure that you do this regularly?
Is it easier for you to pray, or to study the Bible?
How can you make sure that both are a daily part of your disciplines? (Having a place, a specific time, and length of time will help.)
What does the way you love your family say about your relationship with God?
How does your family say you are doing at loving them?
Do you have good boundaries?
Are their expectations aligned with these boundaries?
How do you prioritize meeting with a consistent small group of Christians for the purpose of accountability, decision making, and spiritual growth?
How are you doing at bearing the burdens of others in your group?
How often do you ask each other about time-management, priorities, and boundaries?
How does your community say you are doing at prioritizing and balancing these 4 categories?
How would your co-workers describe your work ethic?
How does your faith, family, and community invade your time at work?
How does your work invade your faith, family and community?
What is the maximum number of hours each week (including travel) that you are willing to work?
I've found that honest answers to these questions help manage the overlap and keep our focus on the absolutely necessary things.
Almost everyone drifts to spending the majority of their time in one of the categories, and sadly it is almost never "God." Sometimes, it is not even one of the “big rocks” at all. We each need to know what we are tempted to let dominate, be constantly aware of how we are doing, and not let anything push out any of the big rocks.
What are you tempted to let dominate your schedule?
How do urgent things take priority over the "big rocks"?
What can you do to readjust and balance these 4 categories?