For years I lived my life exhausted, always wondering what I was forgetting because I had taken on so much, feeling exhausted at the end of the day because I didn’t get the (approximately) gazillion things I needed to do accomplished.
I was a slave to the tyranny of the urgent, and urgency was a ruthless taskmaster.
If you are unfamiliar with the phrase “tyranny of the urgent,” it describes a principle that tells us we live in a constant tension between the urgent (constantly putting out little fires and checking off the to-do lists) and the truly important (our relationship with God and the bigger priorities of life).
The problem is many important tasks don’t seem urgent enough to demand our immediate attention (spending quiet time with God every day, working toward our big goals in life, etc.) while urgent tasks (like stopping the kids from bickering over who gets the toy first) aren’t always important.
But urgency is not patient.
Urgency has no boundaries.
Urgency is demanding and controlling.
Urgency is a terrible tyrant.
It demands that you give her 100 percent of your attention 100 percent of the time.
Living life by the tyranny of the urgent is often just a case of jumbled priorities. My favorite saying used to be, “I just need a few more hours in each day!” But what I learned was that I didn’t need more time, I needed to say no more often, and not just no to people’s requests for my time.
And what I learned is true for all of us. We don’t need more time; we need to say no more often—no to others, and no to ourselves.
I sometimes think we must be amusing to God, running around trying to do so much, constantly trying to find our rhythm in a world of overwhelm, when the reality is, if we’d slow down, do less “urgent” things and spend more time with him, we might be surprised by what he would accomplish through us.
Ephesians 3:20 tells us “he is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us.”
Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us. As Christians, we are not limited by what we think we can do, what we think we are meant to do. No, God has great plans and a destiny for us all, and his power is already at work within us.
We must steward our day-to-day lives well, and everything he puts in front of us so we can live the life he has planned for us.
1. Make a stop-doing list.
Our lives have gotten all cluttered up with things that we think we “should” do, so much so that we can’t figure out what we were meant to do.
Let your life be about what you are meant to do, not full of what you should do.
As Christ followers, we know God has a plan for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse we recite as casually as we would order a glass of sweet tea in a restaurant in the South. “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
We know this verse well. But when we let it truly sink into our hearts, when we focus on the good work he has planned in us, it’s easier to stop doing the things that aren’t beneficial for us.
The best way to identify what you want/need to stop doing is by asking yourself these questions:
-What is sucking the life right out of you?
-What is keeping you from reaching your goals?
2. Learn to say no to self and others.
I had to learn to tell myself no to things I really enjoyed. When I was running my own business, I had to build up my self-discipline to say no. For example, I love watching funny YouTube videos and goofing off on Facebook, but I couldn’t give my time to them during the workweek. Instead, I chose to do those things at nights on the weekend.
Everything about how we use our time is a trade-off. We can do this, not that. Go to this spot for vacation, not that. Spend an hour doing this, not that, and so on.
3. Build your schedule around what fills you up, not just your tasks.
After learning how to say no, the next challenge was to tackle my schedule. I needed to learn how to manage my time, my responsibilities, and how to stop letting the tyranny of the urgent rule my days.
I used to fill in my calendar with this mindset: “Here are all my responsibilities and appointments.” My entire focus was on all the things I had to do, had to take care of and manage. I think most of us do it this way, but it’s exhausting, isn’t it?
When we focus on all the things we have to do, places we have to be, and responsibilities we need to juggle, we leave out the most important thing for us all, our souls.
We don’t have time in our days for the things that matter most to us because we don’t intentionally make time for them.
From the time your feet hit the floor in the morning, your day will be full of little fires to put out, people who need you, and loose ends to take care of. These small things quickly expand and fill all of your time.
Intentionally adding things to your schedule in your daily routine that have to do with and strengthen the things that mean the most to you, will protect both your daily schedule and over time, your life, from being taken over by the little things.
The world we live in is actively trying to keep us distracted—from commercials, to notifications on our phones, to all the other ways we are constantly able to be pinged, interrupted, and sold to.
It’s more important than ever to guard your time and intentionally make space for who you are becoming, what you are meant to learn, and the one who is taking you on this journey.
There you have it. Three ways to manage your time and energy every single day. Now, it’s your turn, use the comments below to tell me which one of the keys you are going to use first. And if you liked this article, please share it with your friends!
This is an exerpt from Alli's book, Breaking Busy.
Alli Worthington is the author of Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy, speaker, blogger, and the Executive Director of Propel Women. Alli has helped individuals, small business owners and Fortune 500 companies be more successful. She lives outside Nashville with her husband, Mark, and their five sons. You can connect with Alli at AlliWorthington.com.