Tuesday, February 18, 2014

6 Ways I Found Freedom Through Planning

I misread an e-mail the other day and didn’t realize until I sat alone, waiting for the other parties to arrive, that our 7 am meeting was cancelled.  I’m not one who likes to be out of my house early in the morning. I don’t mind getting up early to enjoy my quiet time and devotions, but I avoid leaving the house before sunrise at all costs. I was slightly frustrated at my own mistake, but realized I just found time for a project I’d wanted to do for some time.

Alone in the quiet, I created a weekly budget for my time. I know. That sounds like a ghastly project. Most people feel rather restricted by a budget; and managing our time is always a difficult charge.  The Lord instructs in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk – not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” While we can’t actually “manage” time (it is beyond our control to speed it up or slow it down), we can be careful how we spend it and make the most of what we’re given. 

Personally, I knew that if I did not develop a plan – and quickly – I’d remain in my state of feeling so overwhelmed that I was unable to move in any direction. Have you ever felt that way? There is hope! The instant my time budget (aka calendar blocking, aka outlining an “ideal week”) was finished, I felt amazing freedom. Here’s why: 
  1. Writing down my priorities and carefully placing them into my weekly calendar brought peace. To say I’ve recently felt overwhelmed is an understatement. Yet when I navigate my days with purpose, I can get a lot done! Did you realize that if we sleep 8 hours a night and work for 8 hours a day, we still have 8 hours each day for other things? Yes, that includes a commute to and from work, cooking, cleaning, and all that we must accomplish, but it also leaves a lot of time for things we want to accomplish – an entire 40-hour work week of time! With a plan in place, I can spend less time feeling overwhelmed, more time working with purpose and peace.
  2. A time budget brings clarity!  As I write this post, my mind is not swimming with other things I “should” be doing. My thoughts are clear and I feel free to give my full attention to that which I’m accomplishing right this minute. I have allotted a certain block of time to this post and when my time is up, I’ll move on to my next project. I’ll complete it, too, without distractions and the feeling that I need to rush through it to get on to something else. I know that my priorities are scheduled and if I stick to my plan, they will all happen.
  3. I found time for me!  We needn’t fill every minute with tasks and chores. I believe that the Lord wants us to have rest, and good, old-fashioned f-u-n! It’s also true that when we care for ourselves, we are better able to care for and minister to others. By creating a time budget, I learned that if I am focused and purposeful, I have time for a nap (yes, I said “NAP”) on Mondays when my day begins at 5 am and my last meeting ends at 9 pm. I can spend an hour or two during the week working on my latest crochet project and I can sometimes catch dinner and a movie with my man. 
  4. There’s accountability. My schedule is messy. I don’t work at my office from 8-5 every day, but have early morning and late night hours. I work during the weekend, but not all weekend. My hours can be difficult to track if I don’t stay on top of it. My pay is salary and not hourly and occasionally, I feel concern that I put in enough work.  So, I retrace my steps, taking valuable time to calculate my hours and ensure I’m on track. When I stick to my time budget, I plan my work hours in advance instead of calculating them as an afterthought.   This helps me stay accountable to my employer (who in my case is the God of the universe! I certainly don’t want to short Him on work hours!)
  5. I can walk in obedience.  Sometimes I feel called by the Lord to complete a particular thing, then fret and agonize about when I’ll find time to get it done. With a time budget, I know that I have time set aside to pursue the Lord’s calling. Whew! Does that ever relieve a burden!
  6. God is still in control. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines His steps.” (HCSB)  I invite the Lord to come and disrupt my carefully planned schedule, open my eyes to His plan, and allow me to experience the beauty He has prepared.  That will mean, from time to time, that I throw my time budget out the window for as long as He instructs, and walk as He leads in each moment.  I can step back into the plan when He directs.  

As a society, we tend to want to avoid things that establish boundaries or seem to “hem us in” and keep us from doing whatever we want. We often fail to recognize that true freedom comes with structure and direction. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free so we must not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1). I can say with sincerity that I felt the bondage of an overwhelming schedule. I haven’t worked through my new time budget for even a full week, but I am basking in the freedom that it already brings. It’s immense. It’s mighty. It’s of the Lord!

A friend reminded me of Psalm 90:12 – “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” (HCSB)  I desire a heart of wisdom and pray that He will continue to order my steps so that sin will not rule over me (Psalm 119:133). My time belongs to the Lord – every moment of it, and I pray He’ll strengthen me to use each second wisely and for His glory. 

Your Turn:

When have you felt overwhelmed with tasks and assignment to the point of feeling paralyzed and unable to move forward?

What’s your best tip on making the most of your time?

Who do you know who models great intention and purpose with her time? What can you learn from her?

I’d love to hear your comments!

Be strengthened today, by His Word,


Psalm 119:28

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