I've often wished there were more hours in the day. Being busy and overscheduled seems to be a common theme these days. As an introvert, I honestly require a lot of quiet time just to recuperate from all the interactions that I find to be a blessing, but also draining. As soon as I figured out that I needed more time to rest, I started to get creative with how I could plan to manage my time in a way that would give me more room to recharge.
The fact is, we all have some sort of mental to-do list, even if we don't write it down. We have expectations from others, expectations of ourselves, priorities of our own, and if we're not careful, it can become a bit chaotic. So I hope to share with you several steps that I have taken to manage my time more efficiently and still get the important things accomplished.
#1 Surrender Your Schedule
This first step may be a bit unexpected for a practical list like this, but I've honestly found it to be the most important part of the whole process of time management. Time was given to us by God, who gave us day and night, and acknowledged it was good (Genesis 1:31). He gave us work (Genesis 2:15). He gave us rest and blessed it (Genesis 2:2-3). We are to be good stewards of what God has given us, and that means acknowledging it as His, surrendering our whole day and our lives to Him, and asking Him to direct our paths as we seek to glorify Him with the use of our time.
This can be a tough one, especially when everything seems important. It might be best to write out everything that is swirling through your mind that needs to be done. Then once you can visualize it on paper, start narrowing down what needs to be done immediately and what can be pushed back.
I usually start with the item on my list that is the most overwhelming and also the highest priority. Choosing the most daunting task first often helps me to gain a sense of accomplishment when it's done, and then I feel a little lighter and more motivated to accomplish the rest of the list. Some people also like to choose several small tasks that are priority and knock those out first. Then they follow up by focusing on one task that is more time consuming. Either way can be helpful, and you'll find what works for you best.
#3 Break Down Large Tasks
Take that most daunting item on your to-do list and break it down into small parts. Let's say it's "clean the bathroom." That usually sounds like an overwhelming task for me. So I might break it down into small parts, like "clean mirrors," "wash rugs," "clean sink," "take out bathroom trash," etc. This way it seems much less overwhelming and I'm setting specific goals that I can mark off. Then I know I'm making progress on this large task and it doesn't seem so intimidating.
If it happens to be something that takes a series of days to complete, breaking the items down into small parts is really helpful because you are more likely to accomplish small goals and feel good about them. The hardest part of any sizable project is getting started. Sometimes I avoid tasks because I know I can't finish it in the time allotted. However, if I break it down into many pieces, I can actually get a decent start.
#4 Set Alarms
To avoid brain fog and exhaustion, schedule an ample amount of breaks. I set alarms on my phone or computer and work for a certain period of time. Then when the alarm goes off, I disengage and go walk around, get a snack, get a drink, pet my cat, or rest. I set an alarm for the break as well so that I don't lollygag around so much that I lose track of time. I can then go back to the task I was working on while feeling a lot more refreshed and ready to continue.
Sometimes we think we'll be more efficient if we just work as long as we can without taking a break, but I find the opposite to be true. When I fail to take breaks, I tend to get brain fog, feel hungry and ignore it, feel a tad irritable about the task, and then it comes crashing down later. So take breaks!
#5 Reward Yourself
Sometimes when we dread a task, it can cast a shadow on our overall mood and make us feel like procrastinating. One way to motivate ourselves is to set up rewards. For instance, sometimes after completing 4 or 5 goals for the day, I'll plan something I enjoy and look forward to once I reach that point, even if I have more on my to-do list to complete.
It can be really enlivening to schedule in some things that you particularly enjoy after accomplishing a few tasks. It can be as simple as eating a piece of chocolate, or something else more elaborate you would look forward to doing. I like to add in a reward for every few small tasks completed just to help the goals seem more realistic and attainable.
#6 The Power of the Post-it!
I make lists a lot in my planner and I find it helpful, but another tidbit that I want to add is that I find using a post-it note can be particularly useful to keep track of more specific, smaller goals. For example, in my planner I might write "complete preparation for meeting at work," which is the ultimate goal, but needs to be broken down into small parts to make it more achievable. So on my post-it, I might write "brainstorm 5 ideas," "type out agenda," "prepare first half of content," etc. I often find that I end up revising the small goals, and then rewriting them can get messy. I prefer to use a post-it to preserve the neat and clean look of my planner where the main goals are listed.
#7 Rest Easy
Once I have completed the majority of my to-do list, I stop and leave something undone. Yes, you read that correctly. Allow me to explain.
I find that there is always more to do. Remember back in step 2 when we prioritized all the to-dos? Now we can take something that could be completed at a later date, and leave it unmarked and unaccomplished. The reason I do this for myself is because I know being a workaholic can have detrimental effects, and I also know that I can trust God with what is left undone. I can rest easy and trust Him for future grace that He will enable me to accomplish what needs to be accomplished without feeling overwhelming pressure to complete all the things.
Of course, if you prefer to plow through the entire list and that works out, that is fine! For me personally, this is a step I have to incorporate to keep myself together.
Mary and Martha come to mind from Luke 10: 38-42. Jesus said to Martha, "Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her." v. 41-42 The Voice
I add this in because I tend to get overwhelmed with all the details and things that need to be done, when the reality is, there will always be something to do, and it is better to choose to rest at the feet of our Savior. Rest in the fact that you have worked hard, accomplished much, and have a starting point for the next day. Bask in the love of Christ and take a moment to be in His presence, thanking Him for allowing you to be productive for His glory and still be at peace with what remains.
I hope these tips have helped you gain some fresh insight into ways you can conquer that to-do list and still rest easy.
Are there other steps that you take to manage your time without feeling like you're drowning in to-dos? What do you think about the notion of still leaving something undone to take time to rest in God?
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Hi, I'm Tessa! I suppose I could sum myself up by confessing I am a crazy cat lady, amateur sewist, nature lover, bookworm, fabric fanatic, mental health advocate, craft enthusiast, tea addict, and an 'old soul.' Jesus is my all in all, and I'm so thankful that His love NEVER fails.