Four ways to practice intentionality in busy seasons
2018 was hands down one of the busiest years of my life. Come to think of it, 2017 was pretty dang crazy as well.
Without completely wasting your time by spelling it all out for you, the past two years have been a whirlwind of working multiple jobs, packing up our home in Indiana to resettle in Colorado, transitioning into new careers, working an average of 10-12 hours a day, rarely having a full day off on the weekends, and never having time to pee.
It. was. intense. For those of you who don’t know, I work at a public relations/marketing firm in Denver that works largely in politics. 2018 was an election year, and we were involved/running campaigns around both the state and country. What I didn’t fully realize when I stepped into politics was that it does not stop. Not at night, not on the weekends, and certainly not on holidays. To top it off, we were still working to form and build community in our new(ish) home in a new(ish) state. Community is always a top priority for me, so I worked hard during the chaos to work trips, friend dates, and get togethers into our schedule- which led to a very, very exhausting year and a barely functioning brain.
Before I go any further, I need to add in a disclaimer here. We tend to worship busyness as a culture. The more packed our schedules are, the more we proudly display them for the world to see. Please hear me: I am not championing cramming our schedules full just to prove ourselves. And as someone who truly does thrive off of a flurry of activity and experiences, it took me a long time to understand this. BUT, there are also seasons in life where busyness is almost inevitable. Read: parenting littles, starting a new business, having busier seasons in your job, college, and- well, you get the picture.
I was completely burned out once the month of July rolled around last year. I was answering emails in bed long past the time Cal fell asleep, checking work texts during church, experiencing MAJOR creative blocks, and feeling completely disconnected spiritually. It wasn’t until we spent a week away on a tiny Carolina island that I realized I wasn’t stewarding my busyness well. In fact, I wasn’t stewarding it at all. I was simply…existing- which led to little or no rooted connection with God, Cal, or basically anyone else around me. It took taking a step back to see that I was using this busy season of life as an excuse to put everything else on hold. And yet, I felt helpless to make any sort of change; a slave to my schedule. How could I create space to connect when I didn’t even have time to change out of my p.j’s or make a trip to the bathroom?
The Lord graciously began the work of sifting through the idols in my heart. Maybe it isn’t expected that I work all hours of the night- maybe I just want to prove myself, I found myself thinking. Perhaps it is okay to take a break for lunch or to shut off after 9 PM.
It was during those few days in July that my heart shifted. Have you ever heard someone say that taking a look at your bank account will show you where your priorities truly lie? I say that this also pertains to busy seasons. Where we choose to spend our spare moments of free time in busy seasons gives us a clear picture of what things we truly care about fostering. It was during those days- the ones jam packed with obligations I could not cut out- that I found a few simple tools and tricks to stay connected with God and others during a crazy time.
First and foremost, I had to learn boundaries. If I’m being completely honest, I was never challenged with this when I worked in social work. I had set work hours- and when I was done, I was done. There was no need to work all hours of the day. After transitioning into more of a business career, I had to learn that no one expected me to respond to an email within 5 seconds of it being sent. I was creating unrealistic timeframes in my head for nearly every project thrown my way because I wanted to prove myself, which was hurting almost every other area of my life. In a season when the communication never seemed to stop, I had to re-learn the basics of discipline. I started completely taking Sundays off as much as I could, setting my phone to “do not disturb” from 11 PM to 7 AM, and setting work aside after 8 PM. It was hard. I felt like I was letting everyone down, and I often wondered if I was being lazy. But before I could truly show up in the world, I needed to silence the lies in my own head, and part of that was proving that I could.
Two pages a day
Anna Scott from Aspiring Minimalists taught me this one. When life feels overwhelming and constant, or when there is not enough space in the day to “really dig in”, try setting your goal to reading two pages of Scriptures a day. It takes 15 minutes tops. It’s a small difference of getting 7 hours and 45 minutes of sleep or 8 hours of sleep! It’s not a big sacrifice, and so worth it. I think sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that spending time with the Lord means 1+ hours of focused, uninterrupted time in the Word. *Side bar: Cal likes to tell the story of when we first met, and how I was working through about 7 different devotionals at one time. 7! I mean… that should win me some points in heaven, amirite?! (Totally kidding. Also, that’s way too many to do at one time. One is enough.) And while the gift of being able to to commit a long stretch of time to the Word is wonderful, it’s not always feasible. Setting the goal of two pages a day is do-able, and it helps us set our probities first and foremost on the Truth.
To be completely transparent, I wish I did these more. I had the goal of taking a walk for 30 minutes every day during my “lunch”- setting aside that time to just pray and listen to music (this playlist specifically). While I didn’t end up doing this on a daily basis, I was transformed when I did. The world didn’t stop spinning when I took thirty minutes away (wait, what?!?), and everyone was okay when I unplugged (crazy, right?!). Through practicing this discipline, I learned that most of the expectations that swirled in my head were self made, usually based on the idol of proving myself to the world. And boy, was it freeing to reset and remember Who I really belonged to.
Pray as you go app
This prayer mediation app was introduced to me nearly two years ago when we were walking through our discipleship training program. Each episode is a 10-15 minute prayer exercise designed to help you meditate on Scripture. I listened to these while driving into the office or to meet clients, and it helped center me on what really mattered. In doing so, my heart and priorities shifted. And most importantly: I remembered who I belonged to.
My season of busyness has since subsided. In fact, I’ve had a couple of slower months to think, reflect, and reset. I now have more than 15 minutes to really dig into Scripture. I’ve been free to process, think, read, and write in ways that 2018 did not allow. And while it has been transformational, I would be naive to believe that busy seasons won’t arise once more. The revolving door of life never really stops; some seasons are crazier than others, and I’ve learned that preparation is key to surviving them well.
This past year has taught me to throw away feelings of guilt or despair when life demands a lot. It happens. But we have control over how we react to chaos. The busier we are, the more our priorities show.
Through it all- in the silence and the frenzied hurriedness- Jesus is beckoning. He asks us to surrender the planning and the dreaming and the scheming and the need to prove ourselves. Listen, friend: it’s okay to be in a busy season. And it’s okay to take a timeout for 30 minutes a day to allow our priorities to re-shift.
After all, this world is not our home. We await a City that is to come.