Category Archives: priorities

cultivating “interruptibility”

photo by rory finneren

photo by rory finneren

a while back, i had a dream that i was trying to paint & people kept interrupting me & i kept getting pain all over the place. i was so angry throughout the dream due to the interruptions.

sometimes i get frustrated when roo wakes up sooner than expected & i have to stop whatever i’m doing.

i’m trying to cultivate a lifestyle & mindset of “interruptibility.” i really don’t have much choice! but i’d like to intentionally welcome it,be okay with it, maybe even glad for it. after all, interruptions are often the spice of life & bring the most delightful detours. some of the course changes in my life have become my new purposeful path. i think the Way of Christ is always fraught with what we may deem as interruptions. holy interruptions. opportunities to serve others, to spend time with God, to share Christ with someone. but we often bypass them because they’re inconvenient & we “have better things to do.” we have schedules & to do lists & deadlines & goals & meetings. we don’t have time to… fill in the blank.

but i’ve found that these very interruptions i don’t have or make time for might be the most important things i could do all day. it makes me think of the rock/pebble/sand illustration on priorities — where you can fit much into your life/vase if you properly prioritize [put rocks in first, pebbles next, & sand last] rather than filling up your life/vase with the same amount of sand first & then not having enough room for the pebbles & none for the rocks. interruptions can be the larger stones, but what we often choose over them is just sand. years ago, when we were working in campus ministry, shaun did a series of devotionals about time. he taught that instead of “making time” we need to use God’s time wisely. still sage advice.

i’ve said for years that the “theme” of my 20s, God’s overarching lesson for me, was letting go & letting God. cliche, but true. [cue your favorite version of the song “let it go” now… you’re welcome.] it usually takes me some time to figure out the next lesson He’s prioritizing for me. i’m starting to wonder if this concept of flowing that i’ve been focusing on this year is what He is prioritizing in my 30s. to flow, cultivate interruptibility, set right priorities. to stop worshiping my schedule & to do list. to have goals centered on Him & His plans for me. i’m not sure what concise catchy cliche i could sum all that up into, but i’m sure He’ll inspire me when the time is right. i was 25 before i recognized the big picture lesson He was trying to teach me in the season of my 20s. of course, i wasn’t looking for it then, so it took a while to open my eyes. now i’m looking for it, wondering, anticipating. i love learning. it’s not all easy lessons or reading good books. God specializes in “field work” & learning by practice, trial & error. it’s difficult, but never dull! and as far as i can tell, He seems to really love “pop quiz field trips” that throw a wrench in your whole day, your plan. interruptions. if i’m going to learn about Life, to be His student, i have to be ready & willing for these interruptions. even excited for them. as if they were the real “to do” for today.

how do we intentionally cultivate interruptibility — godly vision to see what’s most important in the moment? i am not sure. but i’ll keep you posted on what i learn. have you tried to create margin in your life for interruptions? what has worked for you?

words to LIVE by #9

quote

 

wise words. they have helped me keep my sanity since becoming a momma staying home with a baby everyday. in some ways, i’m more productive than ever because i feel the importance of every free ten minutes that i have the use of both my hands! but i’ve struggled with getting my “work work” done because i need more than ten minutes together to make progress on some projects. i have to remind myself that in this particular season of my life, i’m just going to have to accept this new disjointed schedule of ours. 

i’ve started breaking some big projects down into small 10-15 minutes bites. roo can usually entertain herself with a crinkle toy or looking at a ceiling fan for that long, so i can sprint my way through a simple task. and it doesn’t matter if i get it done. if i don’t, i leave it in progress & return to it the next 10-15 minute chunk i get. i repeat to myself often, “i can doing anything for 15 minutes.” and i can. i can waste it with tv or twitter. OR i can clear off one surface in my house or reply to a couple emails.

i’ve also started using donald miller’s storyline productivity schedule. [you can find it here.] only one week in, & i love it already. it’s working for me in ways nothing else has. storyline breaks up my day into projects that i need to prioritize with a secondary task list. it doesn’t have me put timeframes on my projects, which is important for me since i never know quite what each day, each hour, each minute[!], will hold with roo’s needs. it helps me create a structure that eliminates lots of unnecessary distractions but still allows important interruptions [like feeding the baby — ha!]. i absolutely recommend it to anyone who sets their own schedule each day. but i also always recommend that you find what works for you, & that may not be what works for me.

most importantly, today, i want to emphasize that you can’t do everything! so stop staring in despair at that impossibly long to do list. [i say to myself.] however, you can do something. maybe even lots of things. so do that. take baby steps. you’ll be surprised how much you will accomplish over time with this mindset & method. i am now a stay-at-home mom to a three-month-old [today!] sweet girl. and by just doing what i can when i can, i’m able to take care of roo AND: work on my book, work on this blog, coordinate a major ministry at my church, keep my house functionally & presentably clean, do 2 loads of laundry [cloth diapers is always one of those] including folding & putting it all away, cook dinner, go for a walk or run, read for pleasure, catch up on twitter, & usually watch an episode or two on netflix — every day. [disclaimers: i only cook dinner 3 times a week usually! i don’t go for a walk or run every day, but try for 3-5 times a week depending on the weather & roo. i might spend 15 minutes on ministry one day & 5 hours on it the next; same with writing — it depends on the priorities i set each morning. and it helps that shaun is the best dad to roo & hogs her to himself most evenings!] i should also mention that to do all this requires me to get up 2-3 hours before roo each day, which is around 6 a.m. [disclaimer: i usually snooze until 6:30 though.]

last thing i want to make sure we cover — ignore what you can’t do!!! focusing on what you can’t do is called worrying, & worrying is zero helpful. actually it’s in the negatives against helpfulness. it skews your priorities, it diminishes your productivity, & it cheats you of enjoying the current moment & season of your life. that’s another thing i appreciate about the storyline productivity schedule — it gives you a place to ponder “if i could live today over again, i’d…” which is a great place to write “worry less” & “focus only on what i can do today.” having this mindset from the beginning of the day makes a difference in how you live it. the schedule also has a section to record “things i get to enjoy today.” i love love love this part! mine for today is: seeing ness!!! [my sister flies in today], eating at pei wei, taking a run outside, & taking roo’s 3-month pictures. simple pleasures that are really the most important parts of my day & what i’ll remember about it in 5 or 50 years. i want to be intentionally present during these moments, these things that i can do, rather than missing out because i focused & worried about all the things i can’t get done. it’s making all the difference in my day, my attitude, & even my productivity.

what mantras & methods to you use to take baby steps & be productive?

how do you keep focused on what’s really important each day?

the importance of sacred times

watch on wrist by rambletamble

photo by rambletamble

i’d like to continue our conversation about being present. i shared two things i’ve learned that help me focus everyday all day on what is important to me — daily prayers & “quick pics.” i tend to view these as flexible touch points throughout my day. however, it is vital to my sanity & spiritual growth that i set aside sacred times each day. these are times for “meeting with Christ in your closet,” for quiet, solitude, & reflection. my daily prayers are part of this, but i usually need more than those few quiet minutes, especially in the morning & before i go to sleep. i need time to feast on God’s word, to jot down my thoughts & feelings in my journal, to read a book, to confess, to worship. i need time to soak up the presence of God. my presence throughout the day depends on being in His presence very deliberately, for an extended set-apart time in the morning & evening as well as throughout the day via various touch points.

it took me a long time to understand the importance of what most christians call daily “quiet time.” i call it sacred time because i’m rarely quiet during it! sometimes i may be cast into silence before God, but usually i’m praying aloud & singing, sometimes even crying or shouting [in joy or in anger, depends on the moment]. when i did discover the value of this time with God everyday [in my mid-twenties], it took me much longer to understand the need for consistency, having this time on a daily basis. now, i can’t help it. i feel naked as a jay bird without this time. that doesn’t mean i don’t still skip it now & then because i slept in too late & am in a rush to get wherever i’m going. but those days are always off. and i crave getting back into my “closet” to be with God. i need Him like i need air, water, & food. the more time i spend with Him, the more i realize my need for Him. conversely, the less time i spend with Him, the less cognizant i am of my need. my heart & mind become hardened.

having spent years on a roller coaster in my practice of daily sacred time with God, i know how hard it is to “get back on the wagon” once you’ve fallen off. and i know how much it changes me when i finally do return to Him. it reminds me of heart patients who talk after surgery about how they didn’t realize how badly they felt before with blocked arteries until they could now feel the sensation of better health. they say the difference is huge! so it is too with the spirit. what a difference time with my God makes in my day, in my mind, my heart, my actions, my words, my priorities, my productivity, in everything!

now having a little one to look after each day, i have to be even more convicted about setting aside sacred times. and i’ve struggled doing it! but it’s been worth the difficult adjustments i’ve had to make to ensure i still sit in God’s presence. if you’re not already convinced that you too would be blessed beyond belief by establishing & protecting sacred times, too, here are a few reasons for you to ponder over:

1. our faith will be increased. “so then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (romans 10:17, kjv). while this may directly apply to the written word, i don’t believe that it excludes the other various ways that we can hear God. but listening doesn’t happen accidentally. we must take time to sit before Him, to open our ears & hearts to Him.

2. we will receive guidance from Him. “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. then you will be able to test & approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, & perfect will” (romans 12:2). “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (psalm 25:9). time with God’s word [reading it, memorizing it, meditating on it] renews our minds most effectively, & worship brings us into proper posture before the Creator & King. it is through these characteristics that we will be able to receive His guidance, to know His will, His calling.

3. we will be “successful.” “keep this book of the law always on your lips; meditate on it day & night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. then you will be prosperous & successful” (joshua 1:8). countless references in the bible tell us that success — however it be defined — is from the help of the Lord & is often linked to our obedience. how can we receive His help if we don’t spend time with Him in prayer, in His word, in worship to Him? how can we be obedient to Him without a daily refocusing on His ways?

4. we will please God. in case we thought this was all about us & how we’re benefitted, let’s remember that our purpose in life is not to seek our own happiness but to please God & to bring Him glory. He desires relationship with us, & that requires time together. don’t let your christianity be reduced to a religion. allow Him to elevate it to relationship. as He often does, God takes that which is intended to bless Him & blesses us right back. having an intimate relationship with God will be the most rewarding thing into which we can ever invest our time. sacred time.

if you don’t already have sacred time set apart, spend time in prayer today with your day planner in front of you, & block it out. it is a most holy sacrifice, pleasing to the Lord.

 

[top 10] reasons to observe the religious calendar

10. any excuse to celebrate!
i have a friend who told me once that one reason she participated in the religious calendar was unabashedly because she loves to celebrate. that resonated with me as a lover of all things parties, & i have indeed enjoyed the preparations & celebrations thus far this year. [our purim feast is one great example.] i thrive on planning a party, inviting friends over, & sharing good conversation & laughter. the religious calendar has given me increased opportunities to do just this!

9. to experience something new
as a student of life, i believe one tenet to guide our “studies” must be the willingness to experience new things on a regular basis, even the proactive seeking of new things, & sometimes doing something new just for the sake of the experience & the story. experience enriches our lives, teaches us important lessons, gives us something to share with others, & helps us grow. when we shy away from a new experience, it is usually due to fear, fear of the unknown, & fear is the enemy of the student of life. we must not let our fears prevent us from living life to the fullest.

8. to learn more about our faith heritage
christianity has a two-thousand year history, & before that it is steeped in thousands of years of jewish history & practice. this is our heritage. to understand Christ’s teachings, i must understand the religious audience to whom He spoke & His own life as a jew. to understand the current state of the church in its various sects & traditions, i must know our history, too. in looking to our future, we must first know where we’ve been to understand where we are going. knowing our faith heritage will enrich our current faith walk.

7. to identify with global christian community
millions of christians worldwide observe the religious calendar. [the same is true of jews observing their religious calendar.] it creates a sense of solidarity among us collectively & within each of us individually when we know there are others all over the world saying the same words, praying the same prayers, reading the same scriptures, meditating on the same thoughts. we become unified by our focus. we become thoughtful of one another. we remember we are not alone.

6. to establish new corporate traditions
i could write a whole post on how my particular faith tradition could learn & grow from incorporating some of the practices used in other churches, at least on occasion. but i’ll suffice to say for now that we can all learn from one another, always. just as no individual is perfect, neither is any organization of individuals. every church has need to reflect, to reevaluate, to learn, & to change in some way to more live like the body of Christ.

5. to reevaluate secular holidays
this is something shane claiborne writes about regularly, & his thoughts have affected my own views. as citizens of the kingdom of God, we define freedom, value, sacrifice, leadership, power, & a host of other concepts radically differently from our surrounding culture. these new ways of thinking should also affect our living & celebrating. while there exists a memorial day, an independence day, & a presidents’ day particular to america, when/how to we celebrate ultimate sacrifice [Christ’s on the cross], true freedom [found in Christ], & authentic leadership & authority [Christ’s as King]? do we hail one kind of holiday as more important than the other kind? should we? what are our reasons & motivations? how should we as christians look different from this world? i wish i had more answers than questions, but it is very important to question & to think on these things.

4. to establish new holiday traditions
there are many holidays we celebrate that have both religious & secular histories & traditions. observing the religious calendar helps us review what secular practices are beneficial & fun, & which ones need to be done away with. observing the religious calendar also helps us learn about new beneficial & fun traditions that we can begin. for example, i have a friend who shared her how grandmother includes easter eggs within the normal egg hunt that contain slips of paper with scripture references written on them. once their family gathers back together, after the eggs have all be found, anyone with a scripture egg reads that passage aloud for everyone. there are hundreds of creative ideas for bringing our minds back to the purpose of these holidays — some are unique to specific families & some are common in various faith communities — & we can learn from them.

3. to enrich our personal faith practices
we have probably all been encouraged by various teachers to have a “quiet time” with God each day. but how that quiet time is shaped is unique to each person. for years, i filled it with just bible study from a bought workbook. bible study comes easier to me than any other faith practice. as i’ve grown older, i’ve tried to add in areas that i need desperately to grow in, like prayer. over the years, i’ve used various tools to help me learn how to pray — informative books on prayer, devotionals that lead you through prayer, prayer journals, prayer lists, prayer schedules. all have taught me something, even though not all have been useful to me in the long-term. and what works for me may not work for you. this year, i added a daily liturgy [common prayer for ordinary radicals] & have been tremendously blessed by the practice. observing the religious calendar has helped me expand my understanding of personal quiet time but also ways to practice my faith in the rhythms of every day life beyond that set-aside morning hour. and so i continue to grow towards Christ as my quiet time evolves & as my daily routine includes putting my faith into action, too. [discalimer: i am not as consistent as i would like to be in having my quiet time or going through the prayer liturgy every day, so please don’t be fooled by my speaking in general terms! still, God is faithfully growing me every time i do choose to spend with Him.]

2. to live by kingdom seasons & rhythms
i’ve written about this before in my post on marking my time by a different calendar, but shane claiborne says it better than i, & this portion deserves reposting:

every sturdy society has created its own calendar according to its own values. for some time now, western civilization has used the julian and gregorian calendars, which are influenced largely by the roman empire’s traditions… but if we in the church are going to take our citizenship in heaven seriously, we must reshape our minds by marking our calendars differently. we must remember the holidays of the biblical narrative rather than the festivals of the caesars… the church’s calendar weaves in and out of the world around us. it is not that we need a “christian” calendar because we want to separate ourselves from the “secular” world… the point is not to be sectarian or to try to put ourselves at odds with non-christians. the point is to keep God’s story at the center of our lives and calendar… without liturgical time, we can easily forget our eternal identity. we can get lost in the hustle and bustle of business and efficiency that shapes our culture and society. likewise, without the cosmic calendar, we can become so heaven-bound that we ignore the hells of the world around us. and the glorious goal we are headed toward is not just going up when we die but bringing God’s kingdom down — on earth as it is in heaven.

1. to become increasingly centered on God
this is mentioned in the quote above, so i won’t belabor the point. but this is ultimately the reason for observing the religious calendar because ultimately this is the purpose of our lives — to become ever more focused on God, growing closer to Him, becoming more like His Son, & being Him to a dying world.

words to LIVE by #5

procrastination runs in my family. i think it’s genetic. my sister & i often excuse this poor habit by saying, “we work better under pressure.” maybe. but we would probably work really well using sound time management, too.

i like deadlines, & i function best when there are constant deadlines that keep me working so i don’t procrastinate anything. i used to work at a design studio where we designed & assembled custom wedding invitations. i was the production manager. we worked on a 3-4 week turn-around schedule with occasional rush orders thrown in, so nearly every day there was some order that needed to be shipped & often times more than one order. i loved working in that environment. it suited my personality, both strengths & weaknesses, ideally.

but now, i find myself in a job that requires more proactivity in follow-through, not to mention how many personal goals i have that have no timeline or deadline except my own hopes & dreams. the result — i find myself habitually deferring important but not urgent tasks to attend to “tasks of the moment.” 

that word deferring has become both a favorite & most despised word in my life. i organize my entire life in my smart phone 2do list app, & it has this handy function called “defer” by which i can shuffle my 2do list around as fits my schedule & time constraints [& whims] each day. i love it & use it all the time. unfortunately, i use it all the time.

in his book 7 habits of highly effective people, stephen covey talks about organizing our tasks into four categories or quadrants — 1. important & not urgent [ex: exercising or spending time with family], 2. important & urgent [ex: paying your bills or finishing your newsletter article on time], 3. unimportant & urgent [ex: reading & replying to every single email in your inbox or organizing your filing cabinet right now], & 4. unimportant & not urgent [ex: reading a good book or indulging in your favorite hobby]. this prioritization has been very helpful to me when i’ve applied it. he suggests trying to focus most of your time in the second category of tasks, to not let yourself be easily derailed by category three, & to purposely carve out time for one & four [important goals & fun stuff]. the best application of this method in my life is calling a “quadrant three” task a three. these are those distracting “tasks of the moment” that mask themselves in urgency & emergency but have no real, lasting need or value. in so naming it, i give myself permission to ignore it, avoid it, or to say no.

another book that has given me very helpful & practical tips on prioritizing my 2do list is 18 minutes by peter bregman. here are my favorite take-aways from it:

>> spend 5 minutes first-thing every morning reviewing your 2do list & getting started.

>> set a simple alarm to go off every hour during the work day [8 times] & take one minute to refocus & reevaluate your priorities & productivity. [my 4:00 p.m. alarm chimed as i was typing this!]

>> spend 5 minutes every evening reviewing, scheduling, & culling your 2do list for the next day.

>> schedule your 2do items in your day planner. assign a time slot to each one. [this has been the most incredible thing to my productivity!]

>> if you have a task that you’ve deferred for several times, apply the “three-day rule” — after three days, either do it immediately, schedule it to a specific time in your calendar, delete it, or put it on the “someday list.” [i love, love, love this rule!]

>> have a “to don’t list” — we need to prioritize what is not worth our time. [my list is its own tab in my 2do app & includes answering unknown phone numbers, attending events for strangers, & attending product parties of any kind.]

>> have a “someday list” — someday is NOT a day of the week. but there may be things we want to do that can’t be done immediately, can’t be scheduled anytime in the near future, & we aren’t willing to delete. i have a “maybe” list with its own tab in my 2do app, too. overly-deferred tasks go here, usually to die! i review it every month & reapply the three-day rule. it is such a relief to not have tasks like these  hanging over my head in my daily 2do list.

one last idea: set goals for yourself. [i wrote more about my version of doing this here.] and read those goals every morning! spend time reviewing them & planning how to execute them in various steps each week! keep in front of you constantly what is most important. 

these concepts & practices have helped me use the seven days each week with more purpose & intentionality, the goals of a student of life. God has a plan for each of us, & i don’t want to miss out on any of it, especially not because i procrastinated or squandered away my time.

what do you do to prioritize & use your time wisely?