I don’t know about you, but The Question of How to Spend My Time is pressing on me as the calendar turns to 2018. As I strive to juggle more-than-full-time work, a ministry, the needs of my family, and a desire to maintain good self-care habits, spare time is like snow in Memphis: rare.
The Tension of Time
As the holidays approached in 2017, I sensed the same tension from the women in my life, friends I see online as well as in person. What stuck with me most was this: even when I managed to carve out some time, no one else seemed to have any. With the notion of slowing down and savoring Advent in mind, I tried to plan a few special afternoons: a cookie exchange, an afternoon spent baking, a holiday tea. The refrains were eerily similar:
“Our calendar is full until after Christmas.”
“I really wish I could; it sounds wonderful. I just don’t have a single afternoon free.”
“I have too much to get done before ___________.”
What I felt most keenly was the sincere desire of my friends to be able to participate in something lovely. The underlying tone was always one of regret.
We All Wish We Had More Time
We all know our culture encourages us to overcommit; this isn’t a newsflash. We’re encouraged to work more, volunteer more, sign our kids up for more, watch more, consume more, spend more, go more. Even the movement to slow down, to simplify, to be minimalist carries with it a whole bunch of do more, if you look closely.
I’ll be honest: I’m looking at a packed year. I’m planning to push myself in my craft, spend more time on my passions, engage in some new ventures, learn some new skills. But I know I’m still going to need margin—in fact, margin in my life is going to be even more important than usual because I’m going to have less of it. I’m going to have to be extra intentional about building it in.
We all wish we had more time, but twenty-four hours a day is all we get, and most of it is spent working, sleeping, and caring for the needs of others. The mere minutes left over are all we get to spend on our peripheral relationships, our passions, and meaningful rest.
Did you spend 2017 well? Do you have any regrets—opportunities you passed up, people you meant to connect with but didn’t, commitments you made and later wished you hadn’t, things you could have foregone to give yourself more margin? What have you learned about time not well-spent that you can take into 2018?
5 Questions to Consider about How You Spend Your Time
Here are five questions to ask yourself as you consider how you will spend your precious time in 2018.
How can I honor God with my time?
This isn’t meant to be a guilt-inducing question. I’m not trying to get you to hurry up and call the children’s pastor at church and volunteer yourself for nursery duty for the foreseeable future. In fact, what I’m getting at is quite the opposite. Are you resting enough? Are you using your gifts and talents? God wants us to do both. If there’s no room for either in your life, this is something to take a look at.
Am I already overcommitted, and if so, can I change that?
Some commitments—both your children’s and your own—require a full school year, but others may not. If Jamie’s traveling sports team has been sucking the life out of your family, maybe it’s time to dial back to a local-only team for the second semester. If your PTA commitments have been making it impossible to do the reading for your monthly book club, which you love attending, maybe it’s time for someone else to step up. If your Bible study group that meets on Thursday nights isn’t filling you up, maybe it’s time to take a break from it and look at spending that time in a more fulfilling way.
Do I tend to squander my time?
This is a hard question for some of us to confront. How many hours do we spend binge-watching shows on Netflix when we could be doing something more nurturing and life-giving? How much time do we log scrolling through our social media feeds? How much time do we waste on Candy Crush Saga? If we really thought about it, what would we rather be doing with our time? (Not that an evening watching The Crown is an evening misspent; just be sure it’s intentional and life-giving rather than time wasted. Only you know what makes the difference for you.)
How can I say “yes” to people and activities I really enjoy?
When a friend texts, inviting you to meet for coffee, are you able to work out a time when you can get together, or are you always the one rescheduling? Has your friend Joanna been inviting you to her knitting group for the past year, and although you’d really like to go, you just can’t seem to get there? What can you do to give yourself enough margin to say “yes” to opportunities you really want to take advantage of?
How do you want to feel about the way you spent your time at the end of the year?
This question speaks for itself, I think. Whatever we do in 2018, let’s do it intentionally. Let’s make time for rest and joy, for building relationships and cultivating passions. Let’s make the next 364 days count.
Photograph © NordWood Themes, used with permission