By Kathi Lipp
As you learn the art of thinking ahead, you become increasingly intentional. When you have clearly defined times of when you’re going to work, when you’re going to rest, and when you’re going to worship, it suddenly becomes much easier to focus on the tasks at hand and get them done.
Having a well-defined work week has also made it amazingly easy for me to say no to requests that simply don’t fit. No, I can’t write that “quick article” or drop everything for a “15-minute chat” at Starbucks (which will probably turn into an hour and a half). If it’s Monday, the answer is automatically no because I’m pre-committed to my family. Having a well-defined work week is a powerful way of pre-deciding when I will and won’t be available.
I now plan my work week for what an actual human can get done in five days, not some unrealistic hope of what the Super girl version of me could get done in an alternate universe.
On Tuesdays, I spend time answering e-mails I received the previous Friday through Monday. And then on Thursdays, the last two hours of my work day are spent answering e-mails before I go offline Friday through Monday. I use an auto-responder that lets people know I’ll get back to them on Tuesday.
Sometimes I do “work” on Mondays, but there’s no obligation. I’ve just come to understand that when I feel obligated on a Monday, I become resentful toward myself and the person I think is making me feel obligated. Because I travel so much on weekends, I need Monday for myself and my family.
I’m learning most people can meet with me Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between nine and four. If they can’t, I have to determine whether it’s important enough to interrupt my schedule. Most of the time it’s not.
Being available for only three days a week keeps me focused on my values. When I was available every day of the week, whenever someone wanted something, I said yes because I thought to myself, I should be able to fit it in somewhere! Now that I’m down to three days, I think, No way that’s going to fit this week.
This is the most concrete way I live out pre-deciding and my Personal Manifesto.
I would encourage you to define your days of the week. What day will be put aside for day of rest. (Not if there will be a day, but which day.)
Which day will be dedicated to making the rest of your life run. (If you have little kids at home, this may be more than one day.)
This gives you the ability to purposefully put off things. When we have no plan, we can end up dashing to the store every time we run out of something. But with the well-defined week, I know I’m going to the store on Monday and shop for an entire week at a time. (Some of you will need to shop a couple of times a week; but still, know what days you go.)
I also know I go to the post office, dry cleaners, Office Depot, and Target on Monday. I don’t spend a lot of time during the week running around. I have a plan, and I work my plan.
What could you purposefully put off today and do on your errand day instead? Yes, until you get your rhythm down you may run out of milk a day early, but it’s a small price to pay for feeling less overwhelmed and more intentional.
The Value of a Well-Defined Work Day
You need a beginning and an end to each work day. And you need to know what you do best during each time of day.
My first couple of hours of every work day have to be for writing and other “thoughtful” pursuits, because that’s when I’m most creative, focused, and on top of it. (Which is amazing, because I’ve been a night owl all my life. I finally had to train myself to be an early bird because even though I was staying up late, I wasn’t getting anything done.) Mornings are also the time when I’m at my best when it comes to connecting with God and exercising—not because I’m better at it in the morning, but because if I don’t do it in the morning, it will never happen.
The rest of my work day, until 4:00 p.m. (remember, I get up early) is dedicated to whatever requires less focus or naturally brings me energy: answering e-mail, meeting with team members, recording videos, and strategizing. By evening I’m starting to lose steam. I’m all talked out and ready to shift into my personal life with different kinds of tasks: prepping dinner, ironing shirts (while watching TV—yes, I deserve a reward for ironing shirts), folding and putting away laundry, eating dinner, hanging out with my husband, taking a walk, and prepping for tomorrow. These are such routine tasks that I can do them without a ton of mental energy.
If something is important to me, I can still work it in. But I’m far more realistic about what I can and can’t do than I used to be. And if I’m going to rearrange my schedule, it’s going to be for something that truly matters to me, not what someone else thinks should matter to me.
Having a well-defined work day is another powerful form of pre-deciding. And pre-deciding means I’m less likely to cave in to a desire to people-please when an e-mail pops up with a pressing request.
Pre-Deciding When to Say Yes and When to Say No
Pre-deciding involves asking yourself some yes and no questions.
1. Am I able? Sometimes a no is easy. You want me to be on a committee at the kids’ school and the committee meets every Tuesday from one to three? Well, I have a job and that won’t work. I’m not able to say yes.
2. Am I excited? Does the idea of doing this make me want to get up in the morning, or will it make me want to crawl back under the covers?
3. Am I the best person to do this? Or am I just the most convenient person to ask?
4. Will this build my life purpose? The Personal Manifesto is very clarifying when it comes to answering this question.
5. Am I willing to sacrifice? What would I need to give up to make this yes a success? Is it worth it to me?
6. Will I have support? Will the key people in my life give me the support I need from them?
7. Does this really need to be done? I’m still learning to ask this question. Like the time we were having our dead fridge picked up and I told my husband, “I need to wipe down the old fridge before they take it away.” “Um, no you don’t,” he told me. I don’t know why I thought the old fridge needed to be Clorox clean before it was taken to refrigerator heaven. I guess I thought that’s what a “good” former fridge owner would do. But “Good Former Fridge Owner” is not something I need to put on my resume.
8. Can I hire someone else to do this? Some of you are going to balk at this right away. But friend, you are hiring people all the time to do stuff for you! You are hiring other people to grow and prepare your food. You are hiring other people to watch your kids. You are hiring other people to repair your appliances. You are hiring other people to repair your car. You are hiring other people to make, clean, and repair your clothes.
I think we get messed up (and let me just say, a bit judgmental) when it comes to tasks we feel a “good” mom or a “good” wife should do. Don’t be guilted—or overwhelmed—by buying into the false premise that you have to do it all to be a “good” anything.
9. Can I trade tasks with someone else to get this done? Look for ways to think along these lines to do more of what you love and less of what drains you.
10. Am I taking away a growth opportunity from my kids or my coworker by doing this?
11. Does this need to be done right now? Not everything needs to be done right now—or by you—and that’s a beautiful thing. But even if you’ve decided this is important and needs to be done by you, does it need to be done right away?
Kathi Lipp is a national speaker and of the author of seventeen books, including Clutter Free, The Get Yourself Organized Project and the Publishers Weekly best-selling title The Husband Project. Kathi is a featured guest on TV and radio and have been named Focus on the Family’s “Best of Broadcast” twice. Kathi and her husband, Roger, live in San Jose, CA and are the parents of four young adults.
Adapted from: Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity. Copyright © 2017 by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon. www.harvesthousepublishers.com. Used by Permission.Rate This Ar