There are so many things I love about living in this modern world we live in today! I love ordering my coffee on the mobile app and when I arrive, it’s at the perfect temperature for consumption (140 degrees!). I love being able to solve a sudoku puzzle on an app so I don’t have to carry around my puzzle book. I love seeing pictures of friends and family who are in other states, who in times past, i would have no knowledge of their hobbies and interests. So often modern technology gets such a bad rap, but I do believe it can add and has added so much to our lives.
On the other side of the coin, with all the technological advances we’ve seen over the past two or three decades, it seems that people are more stressed out, more overworked, and busier than ever.
The time that was spent churning butter or ironing clothes is now replaced with a trip to the grocery store or a trip to the dry cleaners. We are saving so much time with the day-to-day tasks, but we are filling that time with other obligations, many of which we drag ourselves to begrudgingly.
As we fill out our monthly calendars and planners, we take pride in the three or four days we have every month with nothing written on them. Dentist appointments, dance recitals, volunteer opportunities, church activities, sports activities, sporting events, and charity dinners fill most days and our calendars burst at the seems with color coded priorities and checklists.
Shortly before writing this, I had come to the end of a very busy season in my life. I was coaching homeschool volleyball for four seasons, leading the women’s ministry at my church, volunteering at my children’s school, designing and sewing clothing for my online business, managing my home, working on this book, and just living life trying to be a good wife, mother, daughter, sister, teacher and friend. Oh yeah, and I was training for my first half marathon!
I don’t write this to brag. I write this to show how our good intentions can easily turn into the very busyness that strains our relationships, dismisses our health and distances us from our true purpose.
I came to a tipping point where my schedule, my obligations, my home, my responsibilities, and even my hobbies, we’re leaving me feeling burnt out and tired at the end of every day and week. I spent Saturday cleaning up from the week that had just passed and Sunday getting ready for the tornado that was on its way in the following week. Was this all there was to adulthood? Being too tired or too busy or too frustrated to spend time with the people I cared about most? I knew there had to be an answer so I turned to where I get most of my questions answered.
There is a story found in the sixth chapter of Judges about a man named Gideon. He was in a position of feeling overwhelmed. He was commissioned by God to deliver the people of Israel from their Midianite oppressors. He gathered a huge army and was ready to move out when God said he had too many men. I saw myself in this story. Everyday, I was going out to face the world and I was taking my list of things to do, my worries, and my packed schedule with me. I felt God saying that I had too many things.
I thought the answer was in finding a better productivity app or a better planner. Maybe I needed a better cleaning system or more organizational bins?
But the truth was there was nothing I could add to give me the rest I was looking for. I knew that it was only through subtraction that I’d find the way off of this highway of busyness.
I began slashing my schedule, removing myself from committees, turning down play dates and even missing some birthday parties- gasp! I even made the hard decision to not return to coaching volleyball since my kids were now getting more involved in their own activities. The more things I slashed, the more free I felt.
We are taught in basic math that the more you add, the more you get, but unfortunately this does not hold true in mists areas of life. The more clutter you add to your house doesn’t give you more space. It’s actually the opposite. The more clutter you remove, the more space you gain. It’s an equation I call increase by decrease.
When you feel overwhelmed, over stressed and stretched, the key is not in addition, it’s in subtraction. The more inessential items you can remove from your life, the more time you will have to pursue the things that are most important to you.
The other night, my daughter and I sat and played Barbies for 2.5 hours! They went on vacation, the hired babysitters, went shopping, watched movies on the laptops and had a fashion show. In the past, I would have set a timer for 30 minutes to play so I could finish whatever chore I had or get us ready to go somewhere. But because there was nowhere to go and nothing else vying for my time, we played until she asked to stop!
When you intentionally find areas to decrease your involvement or remove entirely, you will find that the areas that most to you will begin to increase as you intentionally make time for them.
I’m not telling you to call everyone and tell them you quit! If you’ve committed to something for a time, honor that commitment. But where can you say, “I no longer am able to participate in this event (committee, sports league) so this month will be my last month.” And remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. I remember people asking if everything was okay when I started cutting things and I assured them everything was fine, but that was it.
I read in the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown, “If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.” Stop allowing other people, needless obligations, even your own clutter, determine how you spend your time and energy. Decide today what things you want to invest your time in, pursue them passionately, and begin to live the life you’ve always imagined.