The balance between our work and our personal lives will always be what Andy Stanley calls a “tension to manage.” We need to strive for balance, but we will never fully find it. What we can do, is be as intentional as possible in fighting for this balance. It’s in this daily fight that we can discover how to manage the tension appropriately.
Here are three ways we can fight for balance between our work and our personal lives.
Fight for balance by giving yourself permission to say “good enough.”
Sometimes “good enough” is truly good enough. If you’re a leader, that sentence probably sent shivers down your spine.
Good enough . . . good enough . . . that sounds a lot like mediocracy and compromise. In this case, good enough simply means you recognize that at a certain point you need to stop working on a project or task. As leaders, it’s easy for us to see the endless list of areas that could have been improved on if we had only just worked a little harder. Finding the appropriate time to say “good enough” means launching our event, shipping our product, or moving to phase two. If we don’t adopt a healthy understanding of “good enough,” we run the risk of working to exhaustion as we strive for perfection. Since we are leaders, an unhealthy demand for perfection could also lead those who follow us to share in this unhealthiness. Give yourself permission to say “good enough” at the right times.
Fight for balance by working hard and resting well.
Our culture screams loudly that those who rest the least and push the hardest, come out on top. Per research performed by Project Time Oﬀ, Americans forfeited 222 million vacation days in 2015. These were unused days that did not roll over. At an alarming rate, employees are adopting an idea that getting ahead means sacrificing your mental and physical well-being at the cost of working harder or longer. As followers of Jesus, we should already have an understanding that this is not the way to live. We know that rest is something our bodies were designed by God to benefit from. In addition to God’s commands surrounding the Sabbath, Psalm 127:2 says it clearly, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.” God designed us to have a balance between hard work and quality rest. It’s interesting to note that rest is a way that God shows us His love. Next time you are resting, don’t feel guilty, God designed you to do it well.
On the flip side, working hard when it’s time to work is also key to finding a healthy balance. Just like Scripture gives us instruction for rest, it also gives us instruction to work hard. Proverbs 13:4 says it bluntly, “A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Going home at the end of the day knowing we performed at our best will make it easier for us to rest knowing we left nothing on the table, we will be “fully satisfied.” The tension between hard work and rest is real, and it takes us managing both to find balance.
Fight for balance by prioritizing the right things.
It’s basic supply and demand. The demands on our time during the day, far outweigh the supply of hours we have. When it comes to finding a balance between work and personal life, it means taking control of our priorities and getting ahead of the demands we know are coming. Anyone that looks at your calendar will get a clear idea of what your priorities are. However, if our schedule so clearly communicates our priorities why are we surprised by it? Why do we get frustrated after we sacrificed important family time by being out every night this last week, or why does it seem to come out of nowhere when we work every Saturday during a month and miss the time that could have been used building into our most important relationships? Get ahead of your schedule, and fill it in with the things that matter. Maybe this means some intentional actual sleeping rest, a date night with your spouse, or a Saturday spent with your family investing in each other.
We will need to make some sacrifices but by learning when to say “good enough,” working hard and resting well, and identifying the right priorities we will go a long way to finding the balance between our work and our personal life.
It’s Monday morning and the weekly debrief meeting is about to happen. You know the normal questions that are about to be asked. How many people showed up? How much money was given? Who was missing as a volunteer? How many guests did we have? How many views did we get on our online campus? How many likes or retweets did we get? How many people accepted Christ this weekend?
These are all of the measurements that your typical staff at a church will look at week after week. These are not bad indicators. In fact, I think that if you are not asking these questions then you should start. If you don’t measure and then evaluate these measurements then you will not get better as a staff. Which in turn means you will not get better as a church.
So, let’s answer these questions in a fake staff meeting and see how we are doing.
How many people? We are up 15 percent from this time last year.
How much was given? Up again but only by five percent.
Missing Volunteers? Follow up with those people.
Guests? We know we had six new families.
Online views? Even with last year. What can we do differently?
Likes and retweets? More than any other week. Let’s do this topic again.
Accepted Christ? I have great news! Follow up with those who made a decision.
The debrief is over and now we look to this coming weekend and see what needs to be done to make sure it is successful. The lists start to fly and everyone has their tasks to do for that week.
This is your typical week as a church staff member. It’s easy to get into a routine that doesn’t stop because Sunday is always coming. What if there was another question or another measurement that we talked about as we debrief? What if we got this routine down so much that we knew the normal measurements so well that we were able to step back and add a new one?
In basketball, you are taught to dribble. When you first start to learn how to dribble you look at the ball. You have to make sure that it comes up to your hand so that you can push it back down again. After a while, you learn to look up and dribble with your head up. You then learn to dribble with both hands. At some point, you can dribble with both hands and you don’t have to look at the ball. You can look at the court and see the floor. You can see your teammates. You can see the open person. You can also communicate with your team better. All of a sudden, you don’t even realize that you are dribbling a basketball anymore. You become more aware of the game around you. Each player on the team starts to understand what the other players are trying to do. They understand the plays and what is trying to be accomplished. They then celebrate when someone makes a basket. It’s no longer about dribbling.
Here is the measurement of success that I want your staff to try at least once over the next month:Have a meeting where you celebrate each other’s wins. Not because they told you that they won but because you noticed it. Your head was up. You were looking at the others succeed and you celebrated. A team that celebrates together will be more successful. Don’t just celebrate the numbers. Celebrate when you hear someone say “thank you.” Celebrate when you hear about how a fellow staff member stepped in to help during someone’s time of crisis. The new measurement of success is counting how many times your team can celebrate what other departments are doing. If you can’t celebrate someone else then you are looking at the ball while you dribble. Get your head up.
Remember, what you’re doing now matters more than it feels like it does. That’s why this week and every week is really important. ~Reggie Joiner
I still remember the moment like it was yesterday. We drove along the rutted orange clay roads that led to a small village in eastern Uganda. It was Sunday morning and I was there to help document the work of Arise Africa – an organization that provides support to pastors and vulnerable children. We could hear the music as we approached the mud and dung church. The service wasn’t to begin for 30 minutes, but already there was celebration inside. In that place, with no electricity, no soundboard, no perfectly crafted staging – with only rough-hewn benches and an old Casio keyboard in the corner – church had been happening and was happening and would continue to happen for two more hours. We danced, we prayed, we listened intently. And then something else happened.
Church kept going. Or I should say THE Church kept going.
After the service, families gathered to eat together. Those who had a little took care of those who had nothing. On Monday, people met to pray for students. On Tuesday, the women who sang during church were found singing together as they walked to the water well. On Thursday, children offered to help an elderly man with his garden. On Friday, a pastor joined other men to walk together and pray for their village. And everyone was eager for Sunday… when they would all gather again to celebrate what God had done.
I was reminded in Uganda that Sunday is an effect, not a cause. It is the capstone rather the bedrock. What happened on Sunday in that little village wasn’t the catalyst for what happened during the week; rather, the Church walked into church to be encouraged and to encourage, and to honor God for His daily goodness. Monday through Saturday, the people in that village were loving each other, serving each other, sharing stories of God’s grace, and even dancing a little.
I think about the pressure we often place on Sundays here in the U.S. We labor over the messages and lesson plans, we do our best to captivate with lights, sound, images and storylines. And we measure success by beautiful moments or well-executed programs. But what if we shifted our perspective to see that Sundays are a piece rather than the whole—Sundays are but one chapter in the story of the Church each week. Reggie Joiner puts it into perspective with this powerful statement:
When you combine love, words, stories, fun and tribes together OVER time, they gain a collective momentum, they make history, they build a legacy.
I believe the time he’s speaking of isn’t just the time we have on Sundays.
Our intentions are honorable—I’m not suggesting that we throw away our object lessons and lights and Planning Center timelines. What I am suggesting is that, just perhaps, we stop and ask ourselves what we’re really teaching our staffs, our volunteers, and our church families on Sundays. Are we making what happens on Sundays the main event, the primary focus, the “if you miss this you’ve missed everything!” moment? Or are we looking beyond a great service to the legacy of our real ministry—the impact of that ministry on lives in the day-to-day?
What if we focused our attention to not only what happens in our sanctuaries and classrooms, but what happens when families drive away or click “close” on Google Chrome? And what if, as leaders, we celebrated more the things that happen on a Tuesday or a Fridayand encouraged those around us to do the same? I think something wonderful would happen. I believe we would see the truth taught in our messages and lessons come alive in practical ways—and see the people in our care celebrate more when Sundays come.
What Reggie says about kids holds true for adults too. “You are making a permanent imprint on the soul of a child. You are leaving a legacy. You are playing for keeps.”
Having a strategy and a plan is important. Even more important is being able to measure if your strategy is working! For my team and me, one of the best places we can measure to see if the Orange Strategy is having an impact is in our Small Groups. We fully identify with the benefit of “putting a trusted adult in the life of children BEFORE they need them, so they will be there when they need them.” Here are five ways you can tell if Small Groups are working for you!
Parents respond to their kids being “known”!
A mom recently made this comment to us: “I just wanted to let you know what a great job the leader in this room is doing; He knows my son’s name!” Apparently somewhere, someplace, her son attends or participates in something regular and is not truly known there! A church should be where kids are known. The platform of trust and familiarity is a great place to start when looking to make an impact in the life of a child.
You begin to see parents get excited about it and buy into your long-term strategy!
A few weeks ago, we had a dad tell us how excited he was that his son would have the chance to move up with his Small Group Leader each year! He understands the importance of a trusted “outside” voice for his son that will go the distance.
You begin to hear back from leaders about their increased impact!
A Small Group Leader recently described to us the positive “shift” she had begun to see as we moved to a consistent Small Group format. She loves how “consistently seeing the same kids and parents each weekend has allowed her to build relationships in a much deeper way, that allows for a much bigger impact.”
You begin to see kids more consistently!
We have only had Small Groups up and running for a few months but already we have noticed that kids are beginning to influence the attendance patterns of their parents because they are forming relationships. We expect this to increase over time!
Volunteer team members show up more consistently!
We have noticed that the leaders who clearly understand the strategy are the most consistent volunteer. They really own their part in the strategy rather than just seeing themselves as someone who fills a need.
Weekend Small Groups are a HUGE focus for us as we lay out the Orange Strategy for our leaders, parents and kids. If you and your ministry are on the journey of embracing this strategy, keep going! It’s worth it!
I sat tucked away in the corner of a church and listened to the pastor confess to his congregation, “I might need to take some time away because I’m just exhausted. I’ve not rested in years.”
Those listening to his words cocked their heads in curiosity. The pastor always took yearly vacations, and his passion for the outdoors found him often enjoying God’s creation. His schedule was protected to provide him plenty of time to study and write—even staff requests were filtered through other executives to ensure he was not overwhelmed. He had an accountability group, a counselor, and a circle of close friends. He poured himself into Scripture and prayer daily. He loved his family beyond measure.
It seemed he was doing everything right. So what had gone wrong?
Some might say the pastor was suffering from burnout. Some might say he had no reason to complain at all. And most would tell him he just needed to Sabbath—to be obedient to the scriptural mandate to cease.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that word lately, Sabbath. And I don’t know if it means what we think it means.
It’s such a great word, isn’t it? Just saying it conjures up the image of God resting in a hammock with a cold glass of lemonade, taking the ultimate day off while someone else mows the lawn.
Every pastor I talk to defines Sabbath as rest, and every pastor quickly talks about Sabbath as the thing we don’t do enough. As a former church staffer, I listened to both pastors and congregants talk eagerly about what Sabbath looks like—a worship service and good sermon in the morning and a great meal with family at lunch, followed by a nap or watching a game on television rather than responding to work emails. And when that one-day Sabbath failed to offer true rest, there would be talk of an extended Sabbath—a sabbatical with time away from everything to disconnect from the busy and reconnect with the simple.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Days off are good. Vacations are healthy. Time away should be celebrated. We all need weekends in our weeks. But lately the Lord has shown me what I’ve been taught might be incomplete. Sabbath rest is different, deeper, richer than any ritual or rite. It’s a Psalm 42 “in the midst of the battle, be still and know . . . ” moment. It’s the stillness in our fury. Sabbath is inviting Jesus into the chaos, rather than escaping the chaos to find Him.
If Sabbath was merely a day of the week or a quick vacation, Jesus would have demonstrated it. Yet in Mark 1, he broke all the rules set in place about Sabbath by the religious leaders and was condemned for His actions. He healed on the Sabbath, and His disciples worked on the Sabbath. He declared that Sabbath was more than simply ceasing work—and He reminded all those who would listen that He knew what Sabbath was because He created it. And the purpose of the Lord of the Sabbath is to tend to the people who receive Him.
Yes, RECEIVE. It’s not about the getting away, running away, hiding away. There is no place we can go to find Sabbath—no mountain retreat, no warm sandy shoreline. It was never meant to be chased or confined. Sabbath is the very presence of Jesus, given to us.
Sabbath is a cool breeze, a wash of peace, a do-over, a start-again in the midst of the still going strong. Real Sabbath happens while life is happening—Sabbath is there in our commute to the office, in the staring at spreadsheets, in the living room and boardroom and at the bedside vigil of a dying loved one. Sabbath is even there in the worship service and the message and the family lunch—long before there’s a nap and a game on TV.
The pastor behind the pulpit that Sunday morning was no different than you and me, so easily caught in the snare of serving Jesus rather than inviting Jesus in to be served by Him. We who preach rest are in the most danger of not receiving it, because we expect to find it after the work is done or away from the stresses of the schedule. We do all the right things, check off all the lists, schedule time away, mute conversations, and fast from social media. And yet we’re weary because we forget to invite the Lord of the Sabbath into the very mess of our calendars—not to clear them but to bring stillness to the fury of them. “Cease striving . . . ” are the words of the Psalmist. “Come to me—and I’ll give you rest,” are the words of the Savior. And both are offered in the midst of our work
Dive Deeper: Related Reading
Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences
The Myth of Balance: Thriving in the Tension of Ministry, Work, and Life With the When This, Then That Leadership Formula
We had such a great time connecting with leaders and giving away prizes in January, so we decided to do it again this month! Power Up Day 2.0 is happening, and we hope that you’ll join us to get your VBS planning jump-started.
It’s the perfect time to put in those orders for your supplemental products that make VBS even more amazing. And every order placed by that day—and throughout the day—will be entered into live drawings for some awesome prizes. The earlier you order, the more chances you have to win!
Every order of Power Up VBS Starter Kits or any Power Up VBS supplemental products is an entry into the drawings. All times listed above are Eastern. All orders of Power Up Starter Kits and supplemental products placed before 3/14/19 will also be included in drawings.
Making the time to invest in relationships in ministry can be difficult with all the other things on our to-do lists. It can become easy to define people by how they serve our ministries and our purposes rather than who they are as people. I have made this mistake before and it is a big one! People know when you are just filling volunteer slots and not really seeing them individually. That’s how you lose great volunteers and employees and have to go back to the drawing board with new team members. They need to know they matter to you and are making a difference. Ministry must always be about the people first and the process second.
The best way to prevent this type of loss is to invest in relationship with those around you. I believe that relationship is at the core of who we are as people and our purpose in ministry. Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31 our commandment was to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” This scripture speaks to relationship. To love God and one another is to invest in relationship. Relationship is our purpose, our calling and our commandment. Here are four ways you can begin developing relationships in ministry:
One of the best ways to be genuine is to remember people’s names. They have value, so treat them with value. Remembering someone’s name shows a genuine care for them. Don’t call kids “kiddo.” Don’t say, “Hey man,” because you didn’t remember when you were introduced to him. If you forget, admit it, apologize and ask their name again. You will be sure to remember next time if you have to humble yourself in this way. I’ve become so much better at remembering people’s names through admitting my forgetfulness to them.
Have windows of time in your day that are blocked out intentionally for reaching out. Have a half hour every week to send emails to connect with volunteers on a personal level. Take 10 minutes to handwrite a card about their lives, not their service to your ministry. Or use an online service like justWink or Hallmark eCards for sending cards. If someone walks into your office, or calls you, make time for them and give them your undivided attention. Or tell them that you want to hear their situation without distraction, but something else needs your immediate attention, and then schedule a time later. Invite people into your home and serve them a meal. Making yourself available to them tells them you care about them.
Walk into volunteer areas just to ask how Shelley’s father has been feeling. Step away from your desk to ask your co-worker, Julie, how her daughter’s piano recital went. When you call into the office, ask the admin at the front desk how her minor surgery went. Remember what someone has shared with you. If it is important to them, make it important to you. If you need to write it down to remember, then do that. Some ministries are too large for anyone to remember all the details of everyone’s lives. And some of us are just naturally forgetful. Intentionality is about finding what works best for you. Carry a small notebook with you or take notes on your iPad, and before you walk into a space, read what you last wrote and remind yourself about what is happening in other people’s lives. They would not be offended that you wrote it down, they would feel important that it meant enough to you to not forget.
This starts with your family. Be at home who you are at the church. If you are making these previously mentioned efforts 8-5, Monday through Friday, and of course Sunday mornings, but not with your own family the rest of the week, then you lack true integrity. Be intentional with your spouse and kids. Make sure they know, by your actions, your schedule and your words, that they are more important than the ministry, the volunteers, the events and your to-do list. Call them just to hear their voices and ask how their day is going. Set aside time for them, listen and take notes if you might forget. Plan date nights. Plan family nights. Plan game nights. Plan babysitters for your spouse, especially in your busiest seasons. (Just a note of advice . . . consider hiring a nanny to help out with the kids if you go out of town. I do!) Be thankful for their sacrifices for your ministry, because they are many. Say “Thank you,” out loud, often. Put these things in your to-do list and your calendar, so you remember to schedule them and you remain available for them. If you are not making time for them, then they are not a priority to you, or at least not as big of a priority as the things you are Your presence at church often means your absence at home. Remember that and schedule accordingly. Your presence at home speaks true integrity to everyone around you.
Ministry would simply just be business without the relationships. If you want to invest in someone on Sunday, you need to know them on Monday. It’s all about relationships.
Maybe we didn’t always wipe our wet, filthy feet before entering the house, but you loved us anyway.
Thanks for the fun celebrations after countless graduations.
During many moments of utter sadness, your bony shoulder was a major comfort as tears dripped from our tired eyes.
Your kind words and generous acts of kindness did not go unnoticed during the best sleepovers at your house.
The discipline hurt in the moment, but I sure needed it after almost burning the woods down behind our house.
We probably wouldn’t graduate if you didn’t tutor us.
Kids Need Love
It takes a village to nurture kids over time. Sometimes, it is not until we become parents that we realize how much our caring parents and key influencers have loved us over time. Single acts of love are quite powerful, without a doubt. But, experiencing love over years and decades communicates an exponential impact on each of us.
There are six things that every kid needs. Love – our favorite four-letter word – is definitely one of them. Why? Because that’s what makes our fascinating relationship with God so special. Not only have our various life experiences given us glimpses of His unconditional love for us. We are able to grasp a greater perspective of His unfailing love through the narratives in scripture.
“Think about God’s story of love over time. God embraced us as Creator and loving Father. God engaged us as an incarnate Teacher, Leader, and Friend. God affirmed us as a Redeemer and Savior. God mobilized us as a resurrected Christ who gave us His Spirit.” – It’s Just A Phase
It is not a single act of love that draws us toward God, but multiple acts of love over time. We don’t choose to produce a myriad of things that honor God because He fearfully and wonderfully created us. We don’t give thoughtful gifts and resources because God sent us baby Jesus. We don’t sacrifice our time to serve others because Jesus sacrificed His life. No. We worship God with our lives and relentlessly pursue Him because of His love for us then, now, and in the future. Love over time is the one thing that matters most.
Yesterday, today, tomorrow, and every day in between. That’s what love over time means. As ministry leaders, we have the responsibility and privilege of serving our families over time. Each week, and sometimes several times per week, we get to demonstrate to kids and educate parents of what love over time looks like.
As SGLs, we get to exemplify love over time by showing up every week for our kids and students, regardless of the challenging questions they ask. We commit to intentionally engage them more specifically outside of Sundays.
As parents, we get to show love over time by being present even through overwhelming times. Leading our kids through jubilant successes, crushing difficulties, triumphant celebrations and daunting failures often feel like an aggressive roller coaster. But love over time commits to staying on the ride.
As Orange Leaders, we get to say that we are here. Not just today or tomorrow, but over time.
“…And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end.” -Matthew 28:20 NIRV
Often confused with Facebook Pages, Facebook Groups are described by our friends at Facebook as a “place for small group communication and for people to share their common interests and express their opinion.” They even mention that Facebook Groups are perfect for church groups! So, while it is important for your church to have its own Facebook Page, Groups serve a much more specific purpose — connection for a smaller group around a specific cause.
So how can your church leverage Facebook Groups to help your people interact more intentionally? Let’s dig into a few ways:
Create a space for community.
The online world is tricky. In 2019, there are so many social media platforms pulling us in different directions. In order to get buy-in, you have to stand out. Facebook Groups provide the perfect opportunity for just that. Rather than empty scrolling that often leads to disappointment and comparison games, Groups give you a chance to create a genuine community. You can create them to be somewhat exclusive so that members have to be approved to join, which also adds to a feeling of safety. You can intentionally engage people and build a sense of community in a way that you can’t do anywhere else online.
Create opportunities for conversation.
Unlike Facebook Pages, which are designed more for a flow of information shared in your feed, Groups are geared towards chatter and engagement. Whether that’s asking for input on a specific current issue or posing questions to discuss after a weekly service, you have a great place for conversation-starters. The exclusive nature of Groups also lends itself well to this, as you can closely monitor who is a part of your Group and what they are saying in a way that is more challenging with your Page.
Create a desire for more.
Whatever direction you decide to take your Facebook Page, your goal should always be intentional community and conversation that leads to member interaction — and if you do this well, people will want more. They will want to take what was built inside of an online platform and move it to the next level. Church attendance? Possibly. A phone call with a new friend in a time of need? That would be incredible. New friends to have over for Thanksgiving dinners, birthdays, and show up in times of crises? Boom. You’ve done it. You’ve created a safe space for a genuine connection that has inevitably brought about a desire for more. And you’ve utilized a powerful online platform to bring people together around the name of Jesus to do life together.
There’s never going to be a perfect formula for this process. You’ll have to make some mistakes in order to get it right. And you’ll need to be patient. Community, conversation, and the desire for more take time. There’s no way around that. But while you wait, you’ve got a great tool at your disposal that allows you to dig into some depth, in a space where people might talk to each other in ways they wouldn’t in any other place.
I grew up in Sherman, Texas. Most of you have never heard of Sherman, but I can tell you it was a wonderful place to grow up. It was a middle size town in North Texas full of trees (despite what many think about Texas), with a laid-back atmosphere, and a love for the Dallas Cowboys. What more could you want in a hometown?
Sherman is actually a sister city to Denison, Texas. If you grew up in a big city then it probably wasn’t strange to have cities delineated only by a few blocks of neighborhoods, but in a small town having two cities right next to each other is very unusual. Sherman and Denison are separated by a stoplight. Sherman is a dry town meaning no alcohol can be sold in city limits while Denison has no restriction. So that stoplight is a very well known landmark. There are two claims of fame for Denison, Texas. One is the birthplace of John Hillerman, the actor who played Higgins on the original Magnum PI TV show in the 80s. Secondly, it’s the birthplace of Dwight D. Eisenhower our 35th president and the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War II.
Eisenhower (or Ike to his friends) rose to the rank of general, but didn’t stop there. He went on to serve as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe. That means that he led ALL FOUR branches of the military and commanded D-day which practically ended World War II in Europe. For most, that would’ve been a long and prestigious career with a well-earned retirement by the pool waiting ahead. However, for Eisenhower retirement was being the President of the United States. During his time as president, he created the highway system which changed the face of the United States and still impacts us today. Some of you may be angry if you’ve ever been caught in the traffic, but that is nothing compared to the logjam of the road system that existed before Eisenhower came along.
Regardless of how you feel politically about Eisenhower I think we can safely say that he was a very busy guy. Despite the constant demands on his attention, Eisenhower lived his life by a very important principle:
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”
You’re probably not reading this as the President of the United States or the Commander of the military, but you do have many urgent things that pull on you. Like most of us, the urgent often drowns out the important. We could write volumes on this subject, but I wanted to focus on one vitally important thing that often gets pushed out by the urgent in our lives. This essential thing is self-care. The biggest, common denominator with everything on your to-do list is that you’re doing each item. If you don’t take care of yourself then absolutely nothing on that list can be accomplished no matter how loud it screams for attention. I’ve found a tool that helped ensure that the important (self-care) was able to live side-by-side with the urgent without getting completely swallowed up.
It will be helpful to think intentionally about a few key categories when using this tool. This will help keep important areas of self-care from getting lost in the shuffle. The three that I find helpful are:
It will be easier to plan in a practical way in the realm of self-care by breaking it down in this way. Whether you use this list or something more relevant to you personally, don’t create more than three to five categories.
This tool is a way of structuring the things that are important in your life and overcome the two biggest obstacles that get in the way which are time and lack of resources. It also acknowledges that not every activity is created equal nor requires the same amount of time or resources.
The hardest part of preventing what’s important, namely self-care, from being devoured by what is urgent is that we often pattern our lives around the urgent. At the end of the day there’s simply no room left for the important. This tool intentionally creates a structure where the important is planned first so the rest of life can flow around it. We call this “Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly.”
This is a self-care activity done intentionally every single week. This particular activity will be low maintenance and low on resources. This is something you can absolutely complete and sustain every single week. Not only will you be intentional, this will also be something you’ll protect no matter what. No excuses, no schedule changes, and no trying to fit it into spare time. This is something you’re going to make an essential part of self-care each week. Of course, things come up. So, if something unforeseen happens that makes it impossible to do this activity it’s essential to reschedule immediately. Don’t just skip the week. Reschedule it later in the week. This might be going for coffee or doing quiet time or talking to a friend. For me this was eating Ginger Chicken at my favorite Thai food restaurant that was walking distance from my office every Friday at 2 p.m. It was a time each week I could enjoy something that I loved, have a moment of rest, and a time I could turn off all devices.
Monthly is an activity that takes a little more planning and a little more of your resources. This might be something you enjoy doing, like rock climbing at a certain gym or going downtown for brunch or something of that nature. For my wife and I, this was date night. Our problem with date night was that it always seemed our weekends were packed, daycare was more than a car payment, and the activities that we would do also cost an arm and a leg. So monthly, we would budget so that the money for the child care was waiting to be used, the money for the activity was waiting to be used, and we protected the time once a month where nothing else would be scheduled. We couldn’t do this type of thing every week, but once a month date night was a priority and protected. This was something we could look forward to each month to reconnect in terms of our relational self-care.
Quarterly is an activity that takes much more resources and is time intensive. It’s something that you absolutely couldn’t do on a regular basis, but is important to your self-care. We broke it up into the four quarters of the year. By doing a different type of activity each of the four quarters it was possible to do one intensive activity one time a year.
In the area of relational self-care, the quarters were broken up into:
Quarter 1 – Marriage enrichment activity.
This might be a retreat or a marriage conference.
Quarter 2 – A staycation like activity.
We might go into Nashville and stay at a nice hotel for the weekend without kids.
Quarter 3 – An activity that we had never done before.
This didn’t have to cost a lot of money, it just needed to be something that we were experiencing for the first time together.
Quarter 4 – A simply fun, relaxing activity we can do together.
For us this might be going to a baseball game or going to a concert. It was a little more intensive than going to the movies, but the requirement was simply to have fun together.
This allowed us to participate in these particular activities (marriage enrichment, staycation, etc.) once a year. Other categories might include: A marriage study done together, a service project, a fancy romantic dinner, or some sort of learning experience like taking a class together.
This is just one tool helpful to maintain intentional focus on what’s important. Self-care is essential, not optional. You may be able to last without it for a little while, but eventually it will catch up to you. When that happens it will affect every other aspect of your life.