So, it happened again…
Without realizing what was going on, I had lost all of the margin in my life. Again.
I know I’m not alone in this struggle. We put our heads down and push forward with life, only to look up to catch a breath and see just how much the walls have closed in.
Work. Marriage. Kids. Family. Friends. All good things, all life-giving things, but they do take their toll.
What has caught me a little by surprise this time around is that recently my wife and I have actually been trying to be much more intentional with our time so that there is a little more margin to be able to breathe, relax, and enjoy the things we are doing. We’ve even stepped back from a few good things that we were doing in order to open up some space. And yet here we are.
So here is what I’ve been processing through…
There are definitely seasons in life that are going to be busy (If you don’t agree with that, please get in touch because I would love to know your secret!). Raising kids is one of those seasons, and we haven’t even gotten into sports and activities very much yet. But having a family is a prolonged and culturally widespread phenomenon, and so we can normalize the level of energy that needs to be expended in being responsible for little people. Pile on top of that the other areas of your life that start demanding more energy and attention as well and we find ourselves exhausted and overextended.
A little rundown of my life recently:
I spent two days this week out of the office at a trade show, including after hours meetings with vendors and customers, which of course meant there was stuff waiting for me when I got back. I also need to be prepping for a couple of talks I am giving at a conference coming up next weekend. And I need to write more for our blog (ok, check one off!). I’ve had 4 appointments with my optometrist in the last week and a half to try and figure out new contacts. Add a dentist appointment in there for good measure. Oh, and my car has been in the shop for 5 of the last 12 days, for two separate visits (and $1200). And it still has an issue that it will need to go back in for! I’m trying to be good about going to the gym, which means waking up at 4:45AM because a 5:30AM class is what fits my schedule right now. But with a teething toddler, sleep is at a premium…
Kind of stresses me out even just writing it all down. And I’m sure that I’ve missed something in there. Life is just busy. Some of it is very temporary, but can also be easily replaced by other busyness. Some of it is pretty much always going to be around, at least for awhile. And those too will likely be replaced by other commitments. Sure, it is always possible to trim some things, to shuffle schedules and optimize the time. And we all do need to assess our calendars and do some pruning. Control the calendar versus letting it control you and all that.
But I’m also starting to wonder if there isn’t more we can do with the things we do. I’m finding that I am probably approaching some of the things that are in my schedule, or that I want to experience differently, from a negative perspective. And I’m just starting to see how much time it is costing me.
Take the kids, for example. I absolutely love being a dad, love spending time with them. I took some time off of work recently to go on my daughter’s preschool field trip to the pumpkin patch, and we had a great time. They aren’t perfect, but I take seriously my job to raise them to be good people, secure in who they are and what they are capable of. But I find weeknights can often be a source of frustration. The window of time between getting home from work and getting the kids in bed is pretty small, and it quickly gets filled up with dinner and nighttime routines. It feels like most of my time is spent giving direction, or correction - and not enjoying the time I get to spend with them. Once they’re in bed and I get to look at the pattern we’ve established, I feel the weight of my role as parent being only and ever a drill sergeant, and I get down on myself for not doing more.
But that isn’t the truth of the matter. Or the whole truth, anyway. Because I do get time to play with the kids, I do get to read them stories at bedtime. I get to ask them about their days, and they are actually really good at asking about mine. But when I focus on the time I don’t get with them, I miss the time that I do get. The same thing happens with my wife. Instead of taking one night to get done some of the things we need to do that would take time away from each other, I spend our evenings together anxious about needing to get those things done. The result? They don’t get done for far too long, and I am only half-present in the time I get with the love of my life. So neither is accomplished in a way I feel good about.
We all know busyness for its own sake is a waste of time and energy. “Being busy does not always mean real work,” said Thomas Edison. “Seeming to do is not doing.” But what about coming at the problem from the opposite angle? If we know that busyness and lack of margin will be a part of life, then why am I choosing busyness at this particular moment. What is the purpose, the perspective I need to have for filling my time in the way I am choosing to fill it. Don’t think of the negative, think of the positive. It’s not what you’re missing out on, it’s what you are gaining that matters. Sure, sacrifices will have to be made, and some things will have to go on not getting done. But if we are looking at it from the perspective of what we are gaining, then those sacrifices should much more clearly be worth the cost. And if they are not, then there is always the pruning shears.
So sure, you are busy. So am I. But what is your busyness moving you closer to? Find the target and get busy advancing toward it.
So here is my baby-step. I am going to propose to my wife that we set aside one evening a week to get stuff done after the kids get to bed. Then we hopefully get more enjoyment out of the rest of the week. Hold me accountable - jump on our Facebook group and check-in with how I’m doing. Let us know your struggles with margin and what you want to advance toward. How are you going to start?