Setting Priorities and Using Time Wisely

I’ve found myself overscheduled lately. Too much is going on, and I don’t feel good about it. Yet I recognize that, in large part, I’m the cause of the “too much.” Some things in life just come up – dad’s passing, mom’s illness, children in transition; but others are choices – business conferences, vacations, hobbies, and other interests. I’m feeling the need to step back and be more intentional about my choices. It’s simply not possible to for me to do everything that I might like to do.

However, this is not the first time this has happened to me. Like the slow build up of extra weight solved by periodic dieting, or rising household clutter solved by annual spring cleaning, I seem to be in a cyclic pattern of over commitment followed by reflection and paring. How am I going to avoid repeating the cycle? Clearly I need some new ideas here.

I’ve identified four that I think will help:

  1. Better understanding the exact nature of the commitment,
  2. Looking more closely at scheduling overlaps,
  3. Allowing for slack in the schedule to accommodate unplanned
    developments, and
  4. Identifying my greatest priorities.

My goal is to not say, “yes” or commit to a new activity until I’ve considered these four factors. Here’s an example of what I mean.

When I was asked to teach a class on health insurance for the MHA program at Adventist University of the Health Sciences, I was flattered, and it sounded exciting and fun. (Think, me – a professor!) So, naturally I agreed. Did I talk with any actual professors about preparing a syllabus, developing course material, grading schemes, or other nuts-and-bolts issues in teaching? Of course not. I just said, “yes.”

As it happens, I made the teaching commitment in January of 2013 but my particular course didn’t actually begin until last month. Needless to say, a lot of water has passed under my bridge in the interim. Dad passed away. Mom moved here; then she became ill. Kids have come back and gone again. There was reorganization at work, and I have new job responsibilities. I started this blog.

Now the course is in progress, but I am in a very different place than I was in January of 2013. Could I have known that all of that was going to happen? No, but I could have anticipated that some things would happen, that I might be facing other issues and have other important activities down the line. I could have said “no” knowing that life would serve up other challenges and I would need some slack.

The class also comes at a time when I have overscheduled business trips. I’ve been asked to participate in several healthcare industry associations on behalf of my firm. Each of these organizations has conferences several times a year, conferences which are valuable to me in the performance of my duties. And they’re interesting! So I like to attend. In fact, as I write this, I’m attending an event in New Orleans, where I’m learning a lot and having a nice time. But it’s just too much.

When I committed to the year’s worth of conferences last January, I didn’t look at them on a calendar all together. So I’ve just had five business trips in eight weeks, which may not sound like too much to some of you, but it’s too much for me.

My new plan starts now. None of my major life activities are frivolous, but I just can’t do everything, even everything I find enjoyable. It’s time to pare. No teaching the insurance class again. It’s been fun, but my priorities are elsewhere. And I won’t be attending any back-to-back business conferences next year. I’m going to budget my time more wisely and allow slack for unexpected developments.

Here’s what I will be doing – enjoying time with my family and friends, helping them in their lives, doing a good job at work, taking care of myself, following Jesus, and trying to help others to health and wellness. I don’t expect to be perfect at this right away. Maybe, I’ll go through a “dampening the oscillations” type of change process, but I’m persistent by nature and am trusting God to help me.

Got any advice for me? How do you find time for what’s important?