I’ve been traveling a lot for my work with Storyville Coffee lately. They’ve all been good and important trips, but nonetheless a lot of time away from home. I don’t mind traveling, except for it always puts me behind. A little while ago I spent a week in Orlando working on a video project (can’t wait to tell you about it). We were on set all day, and prepping for the next day during the evenings. The emails and phone calls stacked up, the text messages from back home surged. I guess that’s how it usually happens: busy in meetings while the rest of life relentlessly stacks up.
I was recently asked by a friend, “How do you manage a career, writing, a family, a zillion soccer and baseball games, involvement at church, sleep, eating, and everything else?” As I pondered the question, two different answers came to mind. The right answer is what everyone will tell you these days, a perfectly painted picture of crisis-free productivity. The real answer is the answer that trumps everything, and I’m afraid that, without it, we’re lying to ourselves.
The Right Answer…
- Prioritize. The key to managing a full life is prioritizing your day. We never get everything done on the list each day so it is vital to know which commitments are most important.
- Wake up early. The idea of being an uber-productive morning person is super appealing. I tend to go in spurts but getting up early is one of the most critical ingredients to balancing a very full life. Michael Hyatt has a good post on How to Become a Morning Person.
- Eat healthy and exercise. Have you thought about eating Paleo, or at least cutting out desserts? How about training for your a half-marathon? 5 am cross-fit? Taking care of our bodies with the right fuel and staying actives allows us to focus and work hard.
- Time blocking. Multi-tasking is a myth. Scheduled time blocking improves focus and keeps distractions to a minimum. When we stick to working on one task at a time, it reduces stress and maximizes productivity.
- Set proper boundaries. It takes a lot of mental discipline, but we need to set clear boundaries for when not at work. Being physically, mentally and emotionally present for my family and friends improves the quality of our time spent together.
- Stay attentive to my family. They come first, before work, volunteering and hobbies. My family is more important, and I need to be aware of their needs even when I am busy.
- Build a great team. A great team can always do more than a person on their own. As your life and organization grow it takes a team to get to the next level. A trusted group who you can delegate to and grow with, allowing you to stay focused on what only you can do.
The Real Answer…
…is the same as the right answer plus the two most essential ingredients:
Grace and Repentance.
In a world filled with so many opportunities and distractions, you have to stay focused on the things that really matter. The problem is: you can’t, not without Grace.
God gives us Grace without strings attached, to make up for our weakness. Grace is a gift – something you and I don’t deserve, but also something we’re freely given. As my friend Justin Holcomb puts it in his new book, On the Grace of God, “Grace is unmerited favor.” Grace is God’s favor poured out on us to rescue us from our sin and empowers us to live a life that is less focused on ourselves. Grace also shows us when we screw up, leading to healthy repentance.
Repentance is hard and humbling, but absolutely necessary. I’m not perfect, in fact I’m deeply flawed. I need to be honest when I screw up (which is often); I need to apologize to God and to my family, or whoever else I hurt with my mistakes.
I need Grace in order to repent. Without it, I am too selfish to acknowledge my guilt and confess my sin. Grace is also there once I do repent, so that I can receive God’s forgiveness and continue on with joy and not condemnation.
The Right Answer is important: in one sense, I need each of those things to successfully manage my schedule, maintain energy, and keep up engaged interest. But in a more ultimate sense, all I need is God’s grace which leads me to repentance.