“We are so busy with a million pursuits that we don’t even notice the most important things slipping away.” ~ Kevin DeYoung
This past week I had the opportunity to share with a group of student pastors on “Balancing Ministry and Life.” In talking through finding balance in our busy lives, all of the student pastors there (including myself) were convicted on how busyness was swallowing our lives.
As I drove home from this gathering of youth pastors, I started to see that busyness isn’t just a ministry problem but this is a people problem. We all are busy: pastors, small business owners, stay at home moms and 9 to 5ers.
How do we find margin and pause in our lives? My hope is that these nine bits of advice can help you strike a balance between being good at what you do and being an active part of your family as well:
1) Establish a sabbath and protect it at all cost.
God rested [Genesis 2:2-3]. The disciples rested [Luke 23:56]. God commanded rest [Exodus 20:8] We have to be faithful in weekly pursuing that rest. Have a day dedicated for rest and solid, uninterrupted time with your family.
2) Schedule weekly date nights
Just as much a we are dedicated to be a consistent presence at our job, our church or even our gym – our spouse deserves to have that same level of consistency. Date your spouse regularly and show them your love by giving them dedicated time every single week. Even if it isn’t an expensive date out on the town, the best investment we can give our spouse is our time and attention.
3) Embrace the fluidity of your crazy schedule
There is a season for everything [Ecclesiastes 3], so be ready now for the busy seasons and seasons of refreshing. Know that no two weeks look alike and try your best to balance one off the other. Try to follow a busy season at work with dedicated time with family or vice versa.
4) Have a set schedule for the pillars of your job
In this season of student ministry my most visible and crucial weekly responsibilities are preaching Sunday night and writing curriculum for our Sunday morning student groups. Knowing these are non-negotiables for my role, I schedule time for sermon prep and curriculum writing every week and I don’t let anything crowd in on that. Whatever your core responsibilities are, make sure you securely schedule them so you don’t let a busy week choke away time for them, and thus eating into your time to rest.
5) Set aside time every day for dealing with email/messaging.
Technology has made us all instantly accessible at all times. Every time we have an email hit our inbox or our phone vibrates we feel an unspoken pressure to respond instantly. This practice can lead to a woefully unproductive day when you stop what you’re doing 25 – 50 times a day to respond to something. Set time aside everyday to respond to messages but then don’t come back to it the rest of the day. This way, you’re more productive with the day in front of you.
6) When you get home get the cell phone out of your pocket.
You only get a little time with your family – don’t make them compete with your phone. Be comfortable with leaving your phone on the kitchen counter or your nightstand for an hour or two without the need to check it. Otherwise you don’t own a phone, your phone owns you.
7) Where you are, be all there
Work hard so you can play hard with your family. Don’t give every bit of energy to your job so that you come home exhausted with nothing to give your family when you walk in the door. Make wise and productive choices at work so you have enough left in the tank for your family when you spend time with them.
8) Be content to leave your checklist unchecked
There is always a call to make, meeting to go to, person to visit or project to do. Each one of us will have to leave really good things for the next day. The only way you can give your best to great things is to say no to some really good things.
9) Have a brother who can put you in your place
Being the sinful people that we are we’ll do almost anything when we think that we can get away with something [Isaiah 47:10]. The same goes for our busyness. We’ll run ourselves ragged because we think (incorrectly) that we are only hurting ourselves. Have someone who knows you well be able to have a voice in your life to tell you to slow down when you’re going too hard.
***For a great book about this topic check out Kevin DeYoung’s book Crazy Busy ***