3 Thoughts Amidst a Busy Season of Life

I’ve had to dial back my work here on the blog the last week or so, and that trend will continue through May, because I am in one of the busiest two-month stretches of my life, if not the busiest two-month stretch of my life.

I am amidst the last two months of master’s work (I graduate in May, praise!); I have my day job; I am helping with church projects; I am doing a significant amount of contract work/writing; I am finishing a 30,000-word book manuscript; I am traveling a lot for work and for fun; people are visiting; we’re getting a dog.

Suffice to say, the blog is firmly placed on the back burner. I hope to get a post a week up here for the next couple of months.

Please don’t feel bad for me; that’s not my goal here. I am sure many of you reading this have much busier lives than I do, especially if you have kids. So, I am not looking for sympathy.

It just sort of hit me last week how busy the next couple of months are. I have had a few seasons in recent years like this, and it just requires me to flip the switch into a higher gear.

Here are three thoughts amidst a busy season of life about handling busy seasons of life:

1. Take time to have fun/rest each day (not including sleep).

This is perhaps the most important intentional step I have had to take in busy seasons like the one I’m currently in. I would be able to get a lot more work done if I made myself grind out work projects, school work, and blog posts for 12-15 hours per day. But, because a lot of the work I’m doing is “creative” and not punching numbers into a computer or other more rote tasks, the quality of my work really drops off if I push myself to “get more done.” While I may be able to get more work completed and more items checked off of lists, the quality of work is ultimately going to be subpar.

The quality of my work is much better if I take an hour or two to do something mindless—playing video games, working out, or reading a book unrelated to school work. Right now, I’m really into Overwatch and Stardew Valley on PS4.

If you’re in an extremely busy season, you may benefit from building in time to relax or disengage from your work. I definitely benefit from this.

2. Get into that next gear when at your desk.

Beside the fact that I don’t have kids, how am I able to make time to work out or play video games? It’s about throwing yourself into that next gear when you’re at your desk. You have to make the most of the time you have at your desk.

I am no productivity expert or guru or anything, and I haven’t read any of their books, but I know enough to know that we’re all distracted by stuff all day, every day. I work in social media and sort of have to keep an eye on social media every day as part of my job. This makes getting non-social media tasks done somewhat difficult.

When I am in seasons like I am right now, I spend much less time monitoring social media and much more time with my nose in whatever tasks I have to juggle. While monitoring social media is a significant part of my job, researching social media best practices and updates is also a big part of my job. In seasons such as this, I have to dial back the amount of research I do as well. I don’t like doing that, because I love researching and learning, but sometimes it needs to be paused for a bit.

In busy seasons, you would benefit from taking time to rest, and the way you’re able to do that is by making the most of the time you have at your desk.

3. Eat well and continue exercising.

This is a difficult discipline to maintain at any time, but in busy seasons especially. Busy seasons tempt us with quick, unhealthy food, and an hourlong workout doesn’t get any tasks checked off the to-do list, so it seems unnecessary.

Even amidst the current busy season I am in, I have managed to eat salads most days for lunch instead of fast food or other unhealthy options, and I have found a way to get on my treadmill at least three times per week.

I am by no means a nutritionist or a personal trainer, but I know that I am more productive and efficient when I am eating well and getting exercise on at least a semi-regular basis. It just makes me feel better and, I think, gives me more energy as the day goes on (though, I do often crash right at about 10pm on the days I workout).

I hope this has been helpful for you. I know any of my friends who have kids will read this and laugh at how much free time I have and at the fact that I think my life is busy. But, I am sometimes asked how I manage to get everything done that I need to get done, and these are the three basic rules I follow.

Your Life Won’t Fall Apart if You Take a Moment to Rest

This summer has been busier than I thought it would be. Work didn’t seem to get less busy like it has in past summers, and one of my summer classes was an independent study that involved more reading and writing than I’m used to doing in such a short period of time.

Also, we bought a house this spring, which was awesome. With a house has come all sorts of projects and, thankfully, many guests. We’ve hosted people in our home more weekends than not this summer, it seems. We love hosting people, but for an introvert like me, weekends are important for recharging, and that hasn’t really been possible.

On top of all of that, Susie and I have both had our own bouts with physical ailments this summer. My ailments, as I’ve concluded in the last week, are all really connected back to one root cause, as far as I can tell: stress.

What Are You All Worried About?

Anxiety isn’t my issue. I don’t get very nervous about crowds, or meeting deadlines, or other such matters. I don’t live my life in active fear, really. So, I wouldn’t say “anxiety,” is my problem. That’s not it.

My problem is doing too much.

In any given week, I’m working my job, taking nine to 12 hours of master’s courses, doing contract work for a few different people, writing this blog, beginning my book, reading a lot, working out a couple of times a week (not enough), and trying to be a good husband that helps his wife around the house with various chores. I sleep, too, generally.

That might seem tame to you. If so, congratulations, you are more powerful than I.

This chaotic schedule combined with a constant stream of activity on the weekends this summer has basically led to my body forcing me to rest. Just the last week or so, I’ve been involuntarily clenching my jaw at night which has led to awful headaches in the morning, a sore jaw, ears that feel plugged up, and a general feeling of fatigue.

I’m not sick. I’m not anxious. I’ve just been doing too much.

Thankfully, this weekend I had some time to disconnect a little bit, read, and catch up on some much needed sleep.

As I rested this weekend, I took time to remind myself of what I am about to tell you:

Your Life Won’t Fall Apart if You Take Time to Rest

I don’t actively live with the idea that my life will fall apart if I stop taking contract work or if I tone back my master’s coursework, but deep down I fear what life would be like if I took some stuff off my plate.

Laziness is a sin (see Proverbs, etc.), but resting is important. Physically, our bodies need rest to function, and spiritually, our souls need rest to rely on the Lord.

Taking time to rest is scary for a lot of people, myself included, because it forces us to trust that God is in control. But, it’s a good spiritual exercise to set aside time to rest and remember what the Lord has done and continues to do for you, while not doing anything yourself.

I’ve been really into some Rich Mullins lately. In one of his songs called, “We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are,” he says, “We are frail; we are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Indeed. We are frail, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made. So, rest.

Jesus has “fulfilled the Sabbath,” but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take one.

3 Things I Learned on Vacation

Thursday, July 30th, my wife Susie and I left Nashville for our 2015 “vacation,” which consisted of me speaking at a conference in Peoria, IL, a couple of days in Fort Wayne, IN, a day at the Indianapolis Zoo, and about four days in Chicago.

It was a whirlwind of a vacation, but we both thoroughly enjoyed our much needed time away, and the time we had with friends and family was refreshing. The highlight for me was probably the Cubs game on Thursday night. Here’s a picture from our seats in the bleachers as the San Francisco Giants took batting practice:

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Everything about vacation was awesome, but getting to Wrigley is always special.

Here are three things I learned while on vacation:

1. The world doesn’t need me.

Shocker, right? But seriously, when I was on vacation, I was reminded of my minisculity in the grand scheme of work and life. Sure, I understand, the Lord has a purpose for me and knows the intricacies of how I might use the gifts he’s given me to show and share the gospel. At the same time, it is humbling and relieving to be reminded of how small of a role I truly play.

Americans take a horrifically small amount of vacation compared to the rest of the world, and while some of that is undoubtedly due to overwork, a good portion of it could be attributed to our idea that our business, organization, ministry, or otherwise would fall apart if we left the office.

The world goes on without me, and I am thankful vacation reminds me of this.

2. Life is best lived with email notifications turned off.

It’s tough, especially when you work in social media and blogging like I do, to get away from the “office.” Life goes on on the Internet even when you’re on vacation, which can make unplugging tough.

When I’m on vacation, I’m pretty good about not checking email unless I want to check it here or there. But, I never turn my email notifications off on vacation—I just ignore them.

This time around, though, I turned email notifications off, so I had to go into my Mail app to see any email. This was the best decision I’ve ever made on vacation. I still had the freedom to check email on occasion if I wanted with a minute to kill here or there, but it was kept from invading my vacation on its terms.

Turning off email notifications allows you to check email on your terms, not someone else’s. This is how life, not just vacation, was meant to be lived, and while I have turned email notifications back on for the time being, I may turn them off again soon.

3. The Sabbath was made for man, and it is good.

I usually do pretty well making time for a weekly “rest” Sabbath. Often, this is on Saturdays, as I try to spend Sunday evenings getting ready for the next week of schoolwork, etc. Saturdays are when I attempt to do no school or work tasks. Though, I admit, I do struggle with maintaining a “rest” Sabbath in certain times of year, primarily toward the end of a school semester.

Throughout July, I was finishing up two summer classes in my master’s program, doing two different contract work projects, writing for this blog three times a week, and a number of other random tasks. Between the mini-vacation over the Fourth of July and the end of the school semester July 31, I was really starting to feel burnt out. I needed time off the grid. Badly.

This is why I am not only in favor of a weekly Sabbath, but a yearly, or twice-yearly “Sabbath” of sorts. This is easy for me. I take a “vacation” or “Sabbath” of sorts at the end of each school semester. I don’t take time off of work necessarily, but I do try to disengage my mind as much as possible outside of work and make intentional time for rest and relaxation. This is nothing less than required for me as I juggle full time work, full time school, contract work, this blog, and other such tasks.

Vacation this past week reminded me that the Sabbath was, indeed, made for man, and it is very good.

I’m happy to be back in the saddle at work, here on the blog, and in school starting next week. Thanks for sticking around the blog. I hope to keep writing some helpful things here and there.