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12.04.2006

Taming the To-Do List Monster

Small Accomplishments

Have you ever noticed that as your to-do list continues to grow it becomes as overwhelming as moving a mountain of pea gravel with a spoon? Mine does. But, how many of those things could have been accomplished in not much more time than it took to add it to your list. My to-do list is on my computer, so it means going to my office, turning on the computer, clicking on the sticky notes program, adding another bulleted line for the item and typing the name of my feat to accomplish. Then there is the time wasted recopying the to-do list. You do it too don’t you? When I kept my list on paper, I recopied it every week to tidy it up.

Sadly, many of the tasks on my list would take less time to complete than I waste with the whole to-do list process. For months—five to be exact—I have wanted to go through my spice drawer with a black sharpie and write the names of the spices on the lids so that I wouldn’t have to select a dozen or more other spices before landing on the cinnamon bottle. Today, after enough irritation in my attempt to find garlic salt, I got out the marker and wrote the names on. Do you know how long it took? Ten minutes. Ten!

Let’s do the math of five months, approximately two minutes consumed each day playing spice roulette on the four days per week that I actually cook something that doesn’t come out of a box…That’s twenty weeks, multiplied by four, multiplied by two…That comes to a minimum of one hundred and sixty minutes or 2.66 hours consumed by the problem.

Now, comparing the 2.66 hours to the ten minutes it took me, which would have been wiser—writing it on my list, or just getting it done?

Look through your to-do list. How many things on there could you complete in less than thirty minutes? How about setting the timer for 30 minutes today to work on your revolving list? If you like the technique, you might want to do it two more times this week. Instead of recopying today, I’m going to see how many things I can slice off the list. It would be nice to have just one thing left on the list by December 24th—RELAX!

11.14.2006

Excuses

We moved 5 1/2 months ago and I realized that my moving excuse pass has run out.
  • Can't update my blog.
      • "I just moved and I'm way behind."
  • Forgot your birthday?
      • I recently moved and I'm not organized yet.
  • Remembered your birthday, but can't find the gift bags?
      • "I moved. They are in a box somewhere. Will a brown bag work?"
  • No time for a social life.
      • "I'm unpacking boxes and I'm too busy looking for the gift bags."
  • My house is a mess.
      • "I'm still settling in."
Sometimes we just move from one excuse to another. I have a new one. For each of the above problems, my new excuse is that I'm a student. Wait. That won't work.

I have realized that although I think I will have all this time when I graduate, I will just find a new excuse. I'm going to have to learn to live in the reality that I'm busy, I'm behind, and it isn't getting any better anytime soon. Enough excuses. It's time to start living in reality.

That long to-do list isn't going anywhere. The heap of laundry in the basement reappears every day. So does its cousin, the dishes. There are bills to pay, basketball games to attend, and friends to visit. So, goodbye excuses, and hello responsibility.

5.15.2006

Change

I suppose that with every good change comes a little sorrow. In just sixteen days I will be moved. New town, new house, new friends, new church. This morning I was chatting on the phone and looking out the window and there was this family of geese wandering around in the front yard. Momma and Papa and their fuzzy yellow trail of youngsters. I was sad to think that this would be the last spring where I could see little geese so close to my house. In sixteen days there will be a main county highway running through my front yard.

It made me realize that with every exciting change comes a little pang of sorrow for what is left behind. No matter how wonderful the new life, the wonderful parts of the old life give a brief reason to mourn. I have truly loved life here for the past eleven years. Ok, maybe not the pitted and potholed gravel road...and not the five-mile drive to the mailbox either...Nor the 20-mile drive to town...or the black clouds of bugs in summer...

Now that I think about it, this life had its drawbacks too. But I chose to focus on the good parts for the past eleven years and not the bad. And that's what I will do with my new life as well. I will focus on the nice big house that we fixed up, and the mailbox right out front! And short distance to town...and Phil's wonderful new job in camp ministry.

Despite our lack of furniture here except for a couple of lawn chairs, some mattresses on the floor, and a folding table, it still doesn't seem quite real that I'm not going to live here anymore. I have actually lived here longer than any home in my entire life, including childhood.

Change. It's here, and I'm ready to discover the wonder of new beginnings.

4.18.2006

Persistence, the Opposite of Procrastination

Could it be almost a month since I posted last? It's been pretty hard to keep up-- with moving coming soon, a big paper for school due, trips up north to work on the house, and all of the usual activities added in.

In being back in school and having imposed deadlines for work to be submitted, I'm learning to let go of my habit of procrastination. Oh, I have my share of that habit still, but I'm better than before. I have realized the joy of persisting and meeting deadlines ahead of time. There is something satisfying about turning something in 6 days early and moving on to a new task.

I'm trying to set goals each week and block time for meeting them. Some weeks it is hard and I have to flex a lot, but still, it's great to see the rewards of being organized. I'm hoping to squeeze some writing in between packing in the next few weeks!

3.22.2006

168 Hours...So Little Devoted to God

I just completed a 168-hour log of every minute of my day. That's seven days of logging my time. After I finished the assessment, I had to write a summary and analysis and sadly, last week, only 4.75 hours of my week were devoted to studying God's word and worshipping. Granted it was a busy week and 4 days of it were away from home, but it's still sad.

I wasted plenty of time on nothing, spent enough time on the Internet to add up to a factory shift, and spent one fifth of the week looking at the backs of my eyelids. But in the end, God had only 2.8 percent of my week. Sure, I snuck some God-moments in my multitasking. I heard sermons in the car, songs on the radio, and studied the Bible during part of my homework, but I didn't listen quietly to His voice. In fact, only one percent of my time was really spent in uninterrupted time with the One whom I claim as Lord of my life.

168 hours....what will I do with it this week?

3.06.2006

Planning and Prioritizing

I challenged myself to spend some time applying what I have learned in school this week about prioritizing tasks. In seeking God, the scripture reminded me that Jesus'’ purpose was to give life in all its fullness (John 10:10). Because of his purpose, I have purpose. If he gives life in all its fullness, it is my responsibility to live it in all its fullness. But how can I live life to the fullest when I'’m randomly moving from one activity to another?

I started with a blank calendar in front of me and filled in my priorities to accomplish this week. It looks so easy on paper, with blank spaces even. Of course, I didn'’t block in “"wasted time"”. It is the wasted time that robs me of the ability to accomplish what I need to!

Psalm 37:23-24 says, "“If the LORD delights in a man'’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand."” Today, I long for God to delight in what I have placed on my planning list for the week; that He would make my steps firm and have me firmly in the grip of His hand.

2.24.2006

Servant Leadership

What is leadership? Is it giving orders, bossing people around, receiving a title? Check none of the above. It is accomplishing a mission with the help of others while remaining focused on serving those on your team.

Nehemiah was a great leader because he led from his knees. He prayed before he acted, he prayed on impulse, prayed when he encountered opposition and finally prayed when as he celebrated and worshipped God for His faithfulness.

I have thoroughly enjoyed studying leadership for these past weeks as I apply what I have learned to my own life. Of all of the biblical examples of leadership that I have studied, Jesus' leadership style has given me the most insight into what I need to be as a leader. He was a servant first and that's what I want to emulate.

1.25.2006

Remodeling the Old

I can tell that I am back in school again as I haven't had as much time to post on my blog again. Between the studying, I have been going up to work on the "new" house, if you can call a house from 1950 new. Actually, it is from 1950, 1970 something, and 1900 something. Unique, with old house charm, complete with old house headaches.

I have two bedrooms painted, floors sanded, trim and blinds up...ready for occupancy. I'm squeezing some homework in again this week before heading up to work on some more. In the meantime, I have to read another book this week and write two book reviews.

I think of this old house and the areas that need fixing. It is much like the people we meet in ministry. The paint and wallpaper were peeling, the floor had big gaps with cold air coming in and the olive green carpet was less than attractive, but somehow I knew it had great potential. We meet so many people through ministry who are a little rough on the outside, but God knows their potential. And just like my surprise hardwood floors under the worn green eyesore, sometimes we are surprised at what is just below the surface, beneath the veneer that life's hardships places over people with great potential.

Great mentors know how to help people plug up the gaps where Satan's lies creep in and threaten to steal the warmth that comes from God's love. They know how to help people strip away the sense of worthlessness that clings like peeling wallpaper. They know how to apply fresh insights from God's word that cover up the ugliness of the old self as God remodels them into new creatures.

Just as with an old house, the remaking of the man isn't ever totally complete. There is always work to be done, but by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we see that no person is ever beyond hope.

1.11.2006

Leadership and Vision

I officially started my masters classes this week after finishing my prerequisite work and my first course is "Biblical Foundations for Leadership". Our studies and discussion this week have centered around Jesus as a model for leadership paying special attention to the importance of having a vision.

The textbooks are excellent and I'm finding myself spiritually challenged to apply what I am learning. More than ever I am convinced that no ministry can ever be effective without a clearly defined mission (where we are going) and vision (how we are going to get there).

The other thing that has struck me is Jesus' model. He led as a servant. He commanded respect without being demanding. He was Lord but never lorded it over anyone. He understood everything but accepted his disciples in their lack of understanding. He was a humble servant and not a fast-talking CEO.

I want to be like him!

1.06.2006

Packing up a Packrat

Ahh the joy of packing up stuff. We are moving a load to our new house tomorrow even though we won't be officially moved for five months. I'm packing up things I won't need for five months but I'm starting to think, if I don't need it for five months, do I really need it at all? Makes me wonder about thinning out some more stuff. I'm such a packrat.

I have to laugh at the "furniture" that we are bringing. We are going to use a folding banquet table or the patio table as our dining table on weekends and then the plastic patio chairs for our dining chairs. Our living room furniture up at the new house will consist of some patio lounge chairs and one sad little recliner from the basement until we move our "real" furniture. It will be like camping! My excitement is building as this will be the first time we go to the house and it is ours!! We can explore every nook and cranny. Of course the boys are even more excited than I am.

I have worked on some writing this week, resurrecting old unfinished works. It will be a thrill to get them finished.

1.03.2006

It's Tuesday...but it feels like a Monday

Wow. It was hard to get back into a routine today. And then it felt like a Monday. I've been feeling kind of blue and then on the news tonight they mentioned that it has been 12 days since we have seen the sun. That could explain it! Now that I think about it, I do miss the sun.

Had one of those treasured mom's moments tonight when my son scored a goal at the basketball game and did his usual glance into the stands follwed by his "I'm trying not to grin" grin. I gave him the mom smile complete with applause. I love it. He always looks after he scores.

I realized today that I would feel so much better at the end of the day if I had done some writing every day, even if it was only 30 minutes. I would like to set a goal of writing for 30 minutes minimum every day in addition to what I have to write for class. There are three things in fact that I need to do every day. Read my Bible/ do my devotions, exercise, and write. If I devote 30 minutes to each one, that's only an hour-and-a-half. I waste that much time some days surfing E-bay or the net. So the new rule is: No web surfing until the other three are finished! And if I got more sleep at night, I would feel like I needed a nap every morning! How does one break the night owl habit?

I got access to my next class today and scanned around the site to see the assignments. Looks like I'm in for some work! I got spoiled by my entry level classes. These have longer writing assignments, more research, but wow, the content looks great! And the textbooks look great too.

Perhaps I should start breaking the late night habit by signing off right now and getting myself into bed. Maybe a book and a flashlight....

1.02.2006

Looking back at 2005

Farewell 2005. It has been a year to remember. A year of hello's. We said hello to a new adventure and accepted a ministry position at Arrowhead Bible Camp and began our support raising. We embraced new challenges with God's grace. I became a full-time student all over again and said hello to deadlines, assignments and grade point averages. We said said hello to the unknown and learned to accept that some things we just don't fully understand until God is ready for us to see clearly.

It was also a year of goodbye's. We said our final goodbye to Phil's mom in October after a long slow year of saying goodbye to her. We said goodbye to "familiar" and set out on a new track. We said goodbye to financial freedom with an unexpected sense of joy. We said goodbye to our will and traded it for a new reliance on God's perfect will.

With all of the personal growth that has happened in 2005, how can we not step into 2006 with a sense of awe and wonder at what might be still to come? We will say goodbye to our life in Pittsville and say hello to our new life in New Auburn. Our new home. New church. New friends. Whatever the next year brings, it is certain to follow the same spirit of adventure that has characterized our past. And we will carry on.

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