As the new year hits full stride, many of us are considering our calendars. Some are blank slates. Others are already packed with to-dos. Sometimes the calendar feels like a taskmaster, shoving us from one moment to the next, breathing room optional. We need time management, yesterday. There are tons of systems, charts, apps, and conferences out there on time management, but sometimes simple principles can help the big picture.
Several years ago, as a part of the Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) program that helped our daughter with autism, we had to complete a calendar assignment. We filled out one month’s worth of activities for our family. Not just the big things like ballet on Tuesday, but everything we did during the day. Brush this child’s teeth. Get that child dressed. Wipe her nose. Clean up the trash the dog got into.
In Rachel’s case, getting her dressed during that season meant chasing her around the house and redressing her repeatedly. Brushing her hair was an Olympic event. And if I spent five minutes crying about the getting-dressed disasters, that went on the calendar, too. After we looked over everything, our therapist helped us remove extras from the calendar so we could focus on helping Rachel and on reducing our family stress. It meant saying no to a lot of things, but it helped us change the way we looked at our time.
Here are a few things we learned from that calendar assignment:
- Think “or” instead of “and”
- Remember: This is a season
- Don’t discount the little things
I know most of us have heard ad nauseam about prioritizing, but it bears mentioning.
First, before we can do other things well, we need to get filled daily by God. There is only so much water that can pour out of a pitcher before it runs dry.
Second, if we are married, we must think of our husband as our second biggest priority. In my case, that means putting away my computer and phone in the evenings and not immersing myself into the world of social media. I miss out on a lot of social information. But I gain more.
Third comes our children. We want to spend time with them while they are under our care. We want to enjoy them as gifts from God, but this also means saying no to some things.
We have jobs we have to squeeze in, too. Some jobs come with a lot of demands and no room for negotiation. Some allow a little flexibility as long as we get the work done. That has to be taken into account as we decide how much other stuff we can handle. We can’t do it all, and we can’t please all people, which leads us to…
Say “or” instead of “and.”
More than anything else, this principle can help us prioritize each day. We can’t always add something to the calendar, thinking of it as an and, e.g. “We’ll add this new thing on top of everything else we’re already doing.” Sometimes one more thing isn’t always possible. Too many “ands” can add up to a mess. We have such few moments. Some things need to be thought of as an or, e.g. “What will have to go away so this new thing can be added?” And that leads us to…
Remember the season
Life is full of seasons. We are children for a season. We are singles for a season. We have young children for a season. Some seasons are long. Some seem long, but in retrospect are short. Some are busy, others are not. That’s what we have to remember. Just because we have to say no to something in this one season, doesn’t mean we have to say no in the next season, which leads us to…
Don’t discount the little things (and give yourself some grace)
Before that calendar assignment with RDI, I would have said I didn’t do much during a day. But I did tons! Only most of them weren’t things I considered accomplishments. After all, most of us don’t go around high-fiving each other because me managed to wipe a nose. (Maybe we should!)
All of those little things I did and discounted as “not doing anything” were big, and added up to huge chunks of time. They were ways I helped our children grow. Just because I wasn’t earning a paycheck for each moment didn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile. Just because the action wasn’t Facebook worthy, it didn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing. Sometimes the little things we do behind the scenes are the most important. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves some grace.
Making the most of our MOMents.
I learned a lot from our time with RDI. Our children are our apprentices. All time spent with them is important. Whether it’s reading books side-by-side or putting clothes in the laundry or talking at the dinner table, it’s all time well spent. It doesn’t have to be on-the-go time. Sometimes just being together is good too. There are seasons when we need to say no to good things for the greater good.