Overcoming the Tyranny of the Urgent

By Doug Armey

I recently got blindsided with a slug of unexpected urgencies that buried me.  Jennifer and I are thankfully at a place in life we can enjoy some of the fruits like less financial stress and more time off.

Yet, I have a low threshold for boredom so I tend to over commit.  I accepted the presidency of my Rotary club, which is one of the largest in the world.  This blog requires hours each week.  This on top of running a business, investing, personal activities, staying up with our children and recent extended family demands.  So when we had to empty out several rentals because of bad managers, remodel them and take over the management ourselves it put me over the top.

I crashed.  Ended up with an infection and exhausted.  Finally, a doctor visit, antibiotics and a lot of sleep.

In the midst I thought, “How did I get myself into this mess?  And how can I keep from getting caught up in this cycle again?  How can I manage this stress better and yet be productive?”

I realized, not for the first time, I had quit building in down time.  I was racing from one responsibility to the next with precious little time to think.  And I simply didn’t have any margin for contingencies.  So when the wheels came off I went over the cliff.  Not exactly the good life.

I’m currently working my way back.  Still on antibiotics but healing.  Building in some downtime but still tired.  Getting some things off my plate but a few more to go.  Overall making progress.

I don’t think I’m alone in this story.

We all want our lives to be full and rich.  Means pursuing our careers, family activities, exercising, hobbies, volunteer work, church, social events, and on and on.  Makes me tired just writing it out.

And it works alright for a while but then a wheel comes off and the whole thing crashes.

Often our solution is to work even harder.   Increase our time management effectiveness.  Keep our head down and our velocity up to press through.  But we can dig ourselves into one gigantic hole.

There has to be a better way.

I love the picture of Jesus, who with only three years of ministry had so much to accomplish.  The pressures were unrelenting.  The demands unending.  And at those high stress times he doubled up his effort.  No!

He said to his disciples, “Come away to a quiet place with me.”

What?  That isn’t in the time management books.

Isaiah says it well, “In quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15, NIV)

Talk about a counter-cultural viewpoint.  Think about that.

Some things I’ve realized so far (this is still a work in progress).

I need to build in more margin. I need more scheduled downtime.  Each day set aside time to get completely away from all work and just enjoy.  Time with Jennifer.  Time to exercise, pray, read, sleep and relax.  Talk to the kids.  This helps me keep perspective and enjoy the journey.

And in addition each week enjoy at least one down day. Worship, read, enjoy hobbies, take a hike, drive one of the fun cars, have dinner with friends.  This gives me something to look forward to and brings richness back in.

What happens when I build in that down time is I become more selective about what I say yes to. I know my time is limited so to even some good things I’ll need to say no.

This causes me to delegate more to others. I stay involved with them and share in the journey.  But it helps me focus on what I can do effectively and allow others to do the rest.

The verse in Isaiah points to the underlying factor. God has given me gifts and opportunities.  But some day the world will need to get along without me.  So they may as well practice now.

Trusting that God will accomplish all he needs to, with or without my help, releases me to focus on what I’m truly passionate about. That alone rejuvenates me.

And at the core, this flows out of resting in the promise that God is still blessing me even in the down times. And when I’m rested I can step back in for my part.

The Psalmist wrote, “It is vain for you to rise early, come home late, and work so hard for your food. Yes, he can provide for those whom he loves even when they sleep.” (Psalm 127:2, NET)

Now that’s a cool promise.  Kinda makes me want to take a nap.

A great quote from Michael Hyatt’s blog.

“Instead, we must make a private pact to turn away from the calendar-jamming world we have created, and make way for being. I beseech you to restore to your life a few activities that have no measurement, no economic gain, and no benefit other than the virtue of being.”

How do you build margin into your life?  Let me know.  I’d love to hear.

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Categories : Happiness, Health

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