On a practical level, I believe I’ve been the working model of Parkinson’s Law: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." I’ve played with this one a bit, just to test it out and found it to be true. The time I only had an hour to do the weekly shopping at Target, I really did finish it all in less than the usual 2-3 hours. When I pushed my hair/makeup time back 15 minutes one morning to fit in something more worthwhile, I still got out the door on time. Not being a dawdler type, I wouldn’t have thought Parkinson’s Law could possibly apply to me, but here’s what happens – I adjust my standards. I might not need to read the labels on 20 products in the grocery aisle, maybe just two. When faced with a time limit, I forego my grasping at perfection and focus instead on just getting the job done before the clock runs out.
My tendency is to overextend myself, no matter what time is available. Though I trick myself into thinking that I really am scaling back because I’m not a.) making my own candles b.) hand-stamping my own wrapping paper or c.) making bagels from scratch any more, I still commit to achieving more than is possible ( or necessary) in a given amount of time.
As with most areas where I struggle, this battle is really a spiritual spillover. My list-making, want-it-all-at-once, cake-and-eat-it-too self is reluctant to give up control. I fool myself into thinking that if I just plan creatively enough, if I just work hard enough, I really can fit 48 hours’ worth of activities into one efficiently packed 24 hour day. I lose sight of the fact that my day really isn’t about achieving my agenda (or it shouldn’t be). I run right past the fact that I have a Creator who knows exactly what I’m capable of, and has planned a life for me, within those abilities (and limitations), that far exceeds anything I could cook up on my own.
Now comes the part that really matters – what to do with this knowledge? How can I make adjustments so that I don’t always feel like there is a shortage of time in my life? (I smell a list! 😉
- Give each day to God. There is nothing like the feeling when I’m finishing up my quiet time and I truly yield the day and its events to Him.
- Adjust my standards. I’m trying to master the fine art of "Oh well." The grout in the kitchen tile is dirty? Oh well. We had to order takeout for dinner? Oh well. The house isn’t decorated for Easter? Oh well. The funny part about this one is that the end result is usually the same. I was never going to fit in cleaning the grout last weekend – but it was on my list and it frustrated me to not fit it in. My lists need to get smaller and my expectations need to be scaled back. There’s something to be said for a shrug of the shoulders!
- Fit in fun. It’s hard to feel burdened and busy when I’m kicking up my feet and reading a book. More often, I need to eat dessert first from a scheduling perspective. If I try to work until the work is done before I let myself have fun, it’s never going to happen. This is one reason we’ve started more closely observing a true sabbath. Brian wrote a great post about this change for our family.
- Rinse and Repeat. This is a weak area for me – I get sucked into its gravitational pull on a regular basis. Just like a child who needs to be told on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis "No," or "Put your shoes away," or "Pick up your baseball cards," I need consistent re-directing. My loving husband is wonderful in this respect – "It’s 8:30. You’ve worked a full day, made dinner and helped with homework. Quit cleaning and go take a bubble bath!" But I also need to regularly adjust the dials of my perspective, get real, lighten up and put my schedule in the hands of the Master Planner.