What? I’ve written a post on How I Plan For Hard Days, and Planning With Passion. Now I’m telling you to stop planning? Well, yes. Sort of. But it’s not quite the contradiction that it sounds, so stay with me here.
I’ve already told you I’m a planner. But what I may not have shared is how I over planned. For years I planned way too much. I was very hard on myself when I couldn’t live up to my expectations. As my health worsened, it all got worse. I stayed frustrated with myself, and overwhelmed with life.
Friends and family had been telling me that I needed to slow down, but I didn’t seem to know how. If I could do something to help, I couldn’t say no. But then I started having to cancel appointments, beg off of time with friends, and get out of commitments because I was too sick or exhausted to follow through. Satan had a field day with that one! I was giving him ammunition to use to attack me, and I didn’t even realize it.
Then came the crash. I slowed down some after my first miscarriage, but we were on deputation, and I had to keep going. However, after the second and third miscarriages, I physically could not go on anymore. I had to take time off of deputation. There were days while still traveling with my husband that I didn’t make it to church because the migraines were so bad I couldn’t stand and the rest of the pain had escalated until it was all I could feel. I had hit a brick wall. You don’t want to get there. Trust me. You just don’t. If you’re heading that direction (or already arrived), what do you do? Here’s what I did:
The Solution: Stop! Just stop over-committing. Stop saying yes to everything, when there was no way I could do it all. I had to give up some things I really wanted to do. I had to say no to some things so I could say yes to the most important. I still have to say no so I can say yes to the most important things.
Just recently I had to disappoint someone because I couldn’t keep up. I had started teaching a young lady piano, with the understanding that we’d do it until it didn’t work for one of us. It didn’t take long until I knew I couldn’t keep it up. I was having too many bad days and missing too many Bible studies and Sunday mornings. I had to choose. I can’t commit based on what I want to do. I have to commit (conditional on my health) to what I am capable of. And at times that is depressingly little.
What is the most important thing you have to accomplish? What is the second? Writing these down made a huge difference for me. I was able to identify my priorities. Everything else came after – if there was any energy left. I don’t always like having to put aside things I want to do, people I want to help. But if I don’t, I won’t be able to do any of it.
I was having to cancel quite a few Thursday night Bible studies with a dear friend. It seemed by the time Thursday night rolled around, I was exhausted and in pain. This Bible study is supposed to be a priority, but I was missing it much too often. My solution was to schedule nothing after my Thursday morning Bible study. If I feel really well, I will do some writing or office work. I do no laundry on Thursdays. Absolutely none. I found that if I do, I use up my energy and there is none left for the study. Most weeks I rest all Thursday afternoon.
We have a Bible study Wednesday morning in a neighboring village. It’s a long morning and I have another Bible study Wednesday night. I rest Wednesday afternoon. I must. I want to clean my house or do print shop work, but I cannot. I have to say no, so I can say yes to the studies. I am learning to guard my priorities. This is even harder to do when we have company and I want to be hospitable, but I must plan easy meals, rest while visiting, and even excuse myself to lie down in the quiet for a little while.
Rest. I have started adding rest in my planner, giving myself a reminder to rest. Wednesday and Thursday afternoons are not the only ones set aside for rest. Every afternoon (except Monday) in my planner I have rest scheduled. Monday is our family/rest day, so I usually have plenty of time to rest that day. On the other days, I make sure I lie down at least 30 minutes to give my body a chance to recharge. If I have an evening study, I rest longer. If I’m having a rough day, I sleep more. Sometimes when we have company I get less rest, but I always try to get away a little while. I have found that company understands, and no one seems to go away disgruntled that I rested while they were visiting. They probably appreciate the opportunity to get away and rest a while too.
This is a recent addition. I used to just rest in the afternoons when I hit a wall. Hitting a wall hurts! I can’t wait that long. I have to rest so I don’t crash. Just this week I crashed anyway. It wasn’t from lack of rest. It is just part of having chronic Lyme Disease. Because I had shifted my thinking, It wasn’t so hard to just plan to rest until I was able to continue.
Bro. Paul Chappell talks about living with margin in his book, Stewarding Life. I lived without margin for more than 10 years. It nearly destroyed my health. Now I plan rest. I add margin to my life on purpose. I set aside times when I schedule no work and no studies. My only plan is to rest as needed.
When I started doing this out of necessity, I hated it. I felt like I was wasting time. I have found that I actually get a lot more done now. My mind is (sometimes) clearer. I function better. Some (many) days I have to work a little, rest a little, and repeat. To my surprise I get quite a bit done – more than when I push until I drop. I really recommend this book if you find yourself running on empty more often than you like. Creating margin in your life is just part of this very practical book.
Start planning now to rest. Plan to say no to some things so you can say yes to the most important. What is most important in your life? For me, it’s God, my husband, and ministry. In ministry, it’s teaching Sunday School and Bible studies. I must say no to many things so I can say yes to my relationship with God, my relationship with my husband, and the ministry God has given me. What do you need to say no to today? What do you need to stop doing so you can have enough time and energy to do what is most important? Then the most important question is: Will you stop? Stop so you can start living life with the purpose God has for you.