The plates are spinning. The juggler is juggling. Any moment this fine tuned juggling act might come crashing to the ground . . . because the reality is, you can only keep up this level of activity for so long before things start to fall apart.
What can we do to keep it from all falling apart?
Remember the Airplane Oxygen Mask Lesson. You know that movie the flight attendants show at the beginning of every flight, the one that tells you a bunch of stuff you hope you never really need to know. On one flight I was traveling with a young child. When they asked the question, "What do you do when the oxygen mask drops?" My immediate response was, "Help the young child put hers on." I was initially appalled when they said, "Put on your own mask first."
"Isn't that selfish?" I thought. But then I realized that if I encountered a difficulty putting her mask on her and I didn't have my own on and I became unconscious, she would be in serious trouble. At that moment I grasped in a way that I never had before the importance of self-care. When we don't take care of ourselves, when our emotional and physical resources are depleted, we cannot care for those we love most. Self-care is very important to our overall well-being and to those we love.
Evaluate priorities. When dealing with a schedule that is overfull and a to do list that is too long, prioritizing helps to weed out what is keeping you from living a balanced, healthy life. Take some time to evaluate your priorities in life. What do you value most? Limit the number of things that you place on this list. I recommend keeping it to 3 or 4 things.
A few years ago, I had 4 things on my list of priorities (relationship with God/self-care, family and close friends, work, and a ministry). If someone asked me to do something, I ran it through this rubric and if it didn't fit, I had to say "no". Although I was busy, I was also focused, purposeful, and largely balanced. Some time later, I changed jobs and found myself trying to find my way to new ministries. Without my earlier rubric, I found it much harder to choose what to say "yes" or "no" to. My priorities had become much more fuzzy and it was harder to determine which things to do and not to do. Life felt much more scattered and out of control. Having a defined set of priorities to evaluate opportunities makes it easier to identify and say "no" to things that don't fit.
Practice saying "No." Although this tiny two letter word slips out of our mouths when we are two with amazing ease and frequency, somehow as we grow older it becomes harder and harder to say. Sometimes we need to practice saying it.
Practice it in the mirror. Practice it with a friend. Practice it in the car. Practice saying it to your children's toys. Say . . .
No with attitude.
No with charm.
No simply and straightforwardly.
No with a gracious explanation.
No can be said in many ways, but in the end, it needs to be said and to be held to firmly, because most people will take advantage of you if you let them. Practice saying "no" until you can say it comfortably to others because it frees you from commitments you can't afford to make.
When your schedule seems overwhelming,
what do you do to bring it under control?