My son and I have a favorite game that I have owned for years. It’s simply called Chairs. The goal of the game is to to take turns stacking some colorful plastic chairs in fun, random arrangements until the tower finally collapses under the weight of the unbalanced collection of chairs. Of course, part of the strategy is to place your chair in a way that makes it more difficult for the other player(s) to place theirs!
We laugh and laugh as the tower crashes down. At the same time, we want to see how many chairs we can add, hoping we can make it even higher than the previous game. Oh, how nervous we are as we try to add chair after chair to our wobbly tower, wondering if we can somehow defy gravity and fate – always having more chairs than the laws of physics will allow us to stack. We have never been able to stack all the chairs that came with the game. Either we aren’t very good stackers, or the game creators were generous (or cruel) in the amount of chairs they provided with the game. We keep on trying to build a tower with all of them, but it always crashes down before we can make them all somehow fit.
It kind of reminds of of life and ministry.
I am the chair at the bottom, and my life and ministry tell me there is a whole box of things that I can add on top of myself. I keep on trying to stack them – oh so many things – but the reality is, I simply can’t ever get it all done. I’m a failure every single week. The chairs come crashing down, and I hope that maybe next week I’ll do a better job at stacking the chairs of life. Can you relate?
Sooner or later, we have to accept that life came with more chairs than can be stacked! Perhaps it was a cruel joke; more likely, God was being generous with all the opportunities we have each day. Perhaps it’s just that we are attempting too much. Remember, Jesus said HIS yoke is easy, and HIS burden is light (Matthew 11:30). So when it doesn’t seem easy or light, we’re probably attempting more than He is asking.
It might be time to let some chairs fall where they may, sit in the Lazy Boy, and open the Word.
Try it, He’ll like it!
How “urgent” are the urgent things in your life? I’m slowly learning that much of what I consider urgent, isn’t truly urgent at all. It usually has more to do with my URGes than being genuinely urgent. My urg to produce, my urg to succeed, my urg to accomplish, my urg to create security, my urg to finish things, my urg to start things, my urg to get on to the next thing.
Being at CPC is a good reminder, because everytime I am at a week long event, everything else gets set aside, or delayed, or postponed and it frustrates me, but it also reminds me that those things truly can wait a week. If I hadn’t been at CPC they would all have been urgent THIS week, now they will just be urgent NEXT week.
Or when I get sick – the world survives all my urgent things getting done later. My family survives, my ministry survives, and the things that truly need to get done, DO get done, in time. In fact, looking back, even the things I’ve accomplished (and I’d like to think I have accomplished a few good things in life!) don’t really matter now exactly WHEN they got accomplished, I mean, whether they had gotten accomplished a week sooner than they did, or if they had been delayed a month or so.
All this rambling is self-theropy because I’m feeling the pressure of several projects all coming to a head that have been advancing for a lot longer than I’d like, but are looking like they will soon launch or be completed. I’m eager for them to be done so I can have less to manage, but I know new things will take their place. So I might as well accept that what they actually are in a way is irrelevant, since there will always be things I’m working on and wishing were done.
The key is not to get them all done, it is to LIVE LIFE IN THE MIDST OF THEM. To make sure I truly live when and where I am, instead of living in an imaginary future when I am out from under pending projects, since that time will most likely never exist.
What is truly urgent? Probably nothing. And yet the urgent can run our life. Add an “i” to that – the urgent can ruin our life if we let it!
You may be familiar with the “Four Quadrants” – if not, you should! You can probably figure it out from the diagram above. The idea is that EVERYTHING you do, or more importantly, everything you WANT to do, and NEED to do, fit in one of those quadrants:
- Important AND Urgent
- Important but not Urgent
- Not Important BUT Urgent
- Not Important or Urgent
Studies repeatedly show that we spend most of our time doing things that are Important and Urgent (because, well, you have to) or doing things that are neither important or urgent. The biggest time waster is messing with urgent things that truly aren’t important to you. The goal, is to focus on things that are in Quandant Two: They are important but NEVER “urgent.” (or doing them before they become urgent.)
While I have officially declared via Twitter (on Dec. 30th) that my New Year will start on January 12th, one of the things I am working on is listing my Quadrant Two items and scheduling them so I’ll do a better job in 2009 of putting those things higher on my lists of to-do’s.
Let me challenge you – draw the table above on a full sheet of paper and then take some time to reflect and list the daily activities that fall under Quandrants 1,3 and 4 and then what you’d like to have in 2 – and then start planning how to do more of the Important items that are never urgent. (or how to do them before they become urgent and you can’t do them as well.)
Relax. There are many important things to do in life, but few of them are truly urgent. Nearly all of them CAN be done tomorrow or next week. Some you can’t put them off indefinitely (some you can!) but don’t let them ruin today. Enjoy today, those things will still be there tomorrow, IF they are truly important.
OK, my self-theropy session is over. Now that I have reminded myself that all things I will get behind on this week at CPC truly aren’t urgent, I think I can go to sleep. But first, before I call it a night, one Quandrant Two item: Prayer.
Good Night! Live blogging of CPC begins tomorrow!
Here are some Time Management Tips from the designer of this blog, Sean Copley from Timbuktoons. (Don’t miss my Podcast interview with Timbuktoon founder Todd Hampson) Sean is a great guy and I know from personal experience, well organized. In their recent newsletter Sean gave away some of this secrets…
There are not enough hours in each day so you know you will always have to procrastinate on something. The trick is to force yourself to choose to procrastinate on the small things in order to get things done.
- Don’t clear up the small things first! Resist the temptation- we often underestimate how the small things add up and seemingly never end (especially e-mail)!
- Choose to do the most valuable and important first. Place value on the items you need to accomplish each day. The 80/20 rule states that 80% of what you do is the least valuable, while 20% is the most valuable.
- Do it tomorrow! Work on the e-mails and phone messages that came in yesterday and file today’s away for tomorrow. The benefit is that when your mailboxes are empty, you are done for the day regardless of what comes in! For example, I created a “Do Today” email box and a “Do Tomorrow” e-mail box and file e-mails accordingly. This helps limit expectations others have of you. It is way too easy to get in a trap of pleasing people immediately. The problem is that our own work piles up until we have to work many hard and late hours to catch up.
- Learn to say “no.” Say no to the things that are not of high value to your goals. Look at your tasks as the following: Must, Should, Nice, Delegate, Eliminate.
- Identify your constraints. One major cause of procrastination is a feeling of inadequacy and a lack of confidence. What is holding you back from achieving your purpose quickly and well done?
“Creative Organization” might seem like an oxymoron since the stereotypical creative type lives and works in a clutter of chaos (whether on desktop actual or desktop virtual) only coming up for the occasional snack of hummus. But the truth is organization for the creative can be quite freeing and well…creative!
- Plan everyday in advance. Whether the night before or right before you dive in- planning out your day and working from that list can help you work on your own time versus being reactive to whatever daily interruptions you endure. When things come up- add it to the list and practice your creative procrastination skills! Also it would be good to work from multiple lists (in Basecamp, HighRise or BackPack) such as: Master List, Monthly List, Weekly List and Daily List.
- Create imaginary deadlines. Deadlines are evil! Okay, maybe that is overreacting. But they are often used by creatives to procrastinate in a non-productive and non-creative way. How many times have you waited right up until a deadline is looming to finish something? Sure deadlines can motivate you like nothing else…but at what cost? They often cause unnecessary and self-created stress and mistakes. Try to think of work in this scenario often: “I just won a cruise to the Bahamas but I have to leave next week to claim it.” How would that change your pace and priorities?
- Create a “Bucket List.” No not the kind of list made popular by a recent movie! Have a habit of writing all of your commitments in “buckets” or categories and review your them often. It doesn’t matter what kind of bucket it is…computer, paper, audio, video…whatever works for you. Make it fun! Some buckets might be home, work, a specific big project, etc.
For more info on Timbuktoons and future helpful articles, be sure to subscribe to the Timbuktoons Newsetter!