“No.” Eric and I sat quietly at Texas Roadhouse and stared at each other. Though the preceding conversation had been anything but fun, I hated the brutal silence more than the unpleasant chatter. As I sat looking in my husband’s eyes, I felt a sense of fear, dread, and failure. On our wedding day, I stood before God and promised to respect and submit to this man; yet, here I was, looking him in the eye and blatantly refusing his seemingly simple request.
“Will you keep track of how you spend your time during the day?”
Part of me could not believe I was refusing him, but a bigger part of me was desperate not to be caged. He did not ask me to change. He just wanted to know how I spent my day as I consistently struggled to complete my work; but, the thought of noting my time, opening myself up to his scrutiny, and being chained to a schedule terrified me. When confined by a plethora of rules and boundaries, I feel panic and anxiety. My free-spirited-self wants to fly whenever I so desire.
He was frustrated. My heart ached at his anger and yet I could not back down as if he was asking me to walk willingly into a prison cell. Needless to say, that dinner date was not our finest, but it did put me face to face with a part of myself I needed to address. Why was I so unwilling to take a long, hard look at how I spent my time? Why was I afraid of seeing the truth? What did I believe Eric would do with that knowledge? Maybe I did not want to know the truth?
Why the Hesitation?
That was a couple of years ago. Since that night, there has been a voice in my head asking, “Why are you so against schedules and boundaries, so much so that you are unwilling to keep track of how you spend your time?” More likely than not, I have been afraid of learning negative truths about myself (yes, perhaps I am somewhat lazy or unmotivated?) and afraid of having to make difficult changes.
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. (Proverbs 13:4, ESV)
Late last year, when Eric suggested simplify as our theme for 2018, I had come to a place of desperation internally. My fear of change no longer outweighed my fear of staying the same, but they were in a dead heat. In so many areas – my goals, my eating, my sleeping, my work – I felt completely out of control. My will to just do better was not enough. Seven years of living in complete “freedom” were catching up with me and I knew something needed to change.
When Eric declared (read: we agreed) 2018 our year to simplify, my heart lightened. At the time, I was not sure the ramifications of such a theme, but I liked it. It brought me hope. Somehow, I knew it was going to bless us even though I could not articulate why.
Maybe we will finally downsize our stuff and feel less weighed down at home!
Maybe the way we communicate will become more streamlined.
Maybe we can find ways to simplify our monthly budget.
What I did not expect was for simplifying to bring me back to the prison cell I had run from for so long. I did not realize pursuing a simpler life would inspire me to seek out boundaries and schedules, but it did just that. What once seemed like a straitjacket slowly became my answer. To effectively simplify my life, I had to let go of the myth that boundaries hold me back. Since November I have discovered, and continue to discover, that reasonable boundaries propel us (read: me) forward.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5, ESV)
In early January, I emerged from our local “good stuff cheap” store with a cheap, but effective, dry erase calendar ($4.20). My sweet sister-in-law has one in her kitchen and it helps her stay organized. So, it seemed like a great place to start my scheduling mission. Eric seemed skeptical of the idea at first (he knows my track record), but after seeing my calendar filled out and hung on our fridge, he said, “That makes me so happy.” (One might possibly argue that Eric is the more organized one in our household.) I am excited to report that I not only used the calendar in January, but I am still using it in February. That is a victory, people! If you do not believe me, you can look through all my empty day planners of yesteryear. By the second week in January, I usually forget all about pre-planning anything!
Taking a little effort to pre-plan my life by using my calendar, making lists, living within certain boundaries, and menu planning has helped me find some peace in my life. My desperation is dwindling and that familiar out-of-control feeling is melting away, slowly but surely. (Once I finally get my sleep schedule under control, I will be in business!)
Pre-plan for Better Relationships!
Simplifying our lives through pre-planning not only helps us gain time, money, and the satisfaction of accomplishment, but it also helps us be more intentional in our relationships. If we are not vigilant, our work, entertainment, and even ministries can suffocate our relationships. Have you ever been sucked into a video game only to emerge twelve hours later with an empty stomach and a full bladder? Such behavior can leave your significant other feeling quite insignificant. Enjoy binge-watching TV shows on occasional weekends? Enjoy binge-watching TV shows every weekend? Wonder why your sweetheart occasionally breathes fire and grows fangs?
Our failure to plan, even in the smallest measure, can rob us of precious time with our loved ones – time we can never retrieve (and, sometimes, years later). Something as simple as marking off 30-60 minutes a day for quality time (e.g., a conversation, a walk, a mutual hobby, a meal, etc.) with your partner can make a profound difference. It does not take much to show your loved one that he or she is your priority. Most mature people do not begrudge their boyfriends, girlfriends, or spouses a hobby or downtime. Quite the contrary, in fact. We simply want to feel connected to, noticed by, and appreciated by our chosen person. Just like Susan Sarandon’s character said in Shall We Dance when asked why she believed people got married:
“We need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything – the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.”
If you are like I was for years, and the thought of living on a time budget freaks you out, I encourage you to keep reading. With my personality, I will likely never live on an hour-to-hour time plan – nor will I ask you to do so – but I think we can all improve our lives and relationships if we impose a bit more order. Maybe the following four points will inspire you to make a few small changes. ~smile~
- Plans lead to greater success. We have all heard the saying “A failure to plan is a plan for failure,” probably so much that we roll our eyes a little (read: a lot) when we hear it. (Or, maybe that is just me.) At any rate, as cliché as it is, this quote is dripping with truth. When I wake up in the morning with no plan, I end up scrambling to feel some sort of accomplishment by the end of the day. But, when I go into the day with a map, I get more done. Even when I do not finish everything on my list, I still accomplish more than when I enter a day directionless – which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Norman Vincent Peale
- Planning gives your relationship a greater chance to thrive. There are plenty of good, mediocre, and poor relationships out there, but how many amazing relationships do you witness? I can only name a few marriage relationships which I would consider extraordinary, and in each of these rare unions, it is clear that both people prioritize each other. As unromantic as it sounds, pencil each other into your daily life. It is better to make a plan and have time together than to wing it and not. At this point in your relationship, you may be thinking, “We always make time for each other. We do not need to pre-plan our time because we spend every minute we can with each other!” To that I say… enjoy. ~smile~ It will not always be this way. In fact, Eric and I were surprised at how much harder it was to spend time together after we got married than it was when we were dating. Life gets busy. Romance needs a plan… to be planned.
- You can tell your time where to go instead of wondering where it went. Recently, I attended a Facebook informational meeting for the Norwex Company and my biggest takeaway came from one of the presenters as she recounted her decision to become involved in the company. Initially, she did not believe she had enough time to devote to a side business. After all, she was the mother of small children and did not want to spread herself too thin; but, instead of leaving it at that and moving on, she started paying attention to how she spent her time. Soon she realized much of her week was being wasted on entertainment. So, she started using that time more effectively and now enjoys a profitable side business – a career she loves and an income she would have missed out on had she not scrutinized her schedule and made a change. Dave Ramsey is famous for telling his readers and listeners to tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went (by using a zero-based budget). I feel certain he would also apply this principle to time
- By pre-planning, you will give yourself more time and rest! Dave Ramsey also says that people often feel like they receive a raise when they budget their money. Without a spending plan in place, money gets spent willy-nilly with little or nothing to show for it. When people start assigning their money to certain categories, they are amazed to find they have a surplus! We believe the same is true for time management. When we notice where our time is going, plan a few changes, (e.g., bedtime, limit entertainment, allocate time for devotions, etc.), and execute those changes, we are amazed to discover how much we can accomplish in one day.
How might your life and relationship improve if you choose to be just 5% more intentional next month than you were this month? 10%? 20%? What could you accomplish if you scheduled out two hours each evening? What if you got up one hour earlier on the weekend or spent two fewer hours watching TV each week? You will be amazed by how much you can get done when you are strategic and focused. Not to mention, sleep is so much sweeter after using our time wisely.
Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:12, ESV)
As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. (Proverbs 26:14, ESV)
We are only a month and a half into our simplify year and I already see amazing changes within myself. Join us! Find ways to simplify your life and, in turn, improve your relationships. Consider adding some boundaries to your life and some order to your calendar. (I know… I said the ‘b’ and ‘o’ words….) Trust the process. It will lead you to a positive place. Come join me.
Nobody finishes well by accident. — John C. Maxwell
How might pre-planning impact your relationship?