Finding a Balance
by Jeff Montgomery
One of the things that I constantly struggle with is figuring out how to balance everything I have to do. There are days that I feel like the proverbial plate spinner, with several spinning plates balanced precariously atop thin sticks. From what I can tell, this is not an uncommon feeling among the people I know and talk to.
So many of us have our job and family responsibilities, our household duties (anybody want to mow my lawn?), our involvement in our parish life, and, somewhere in there, the things we simply enjoy doing. In the race to meet all of these responsibilities some of them inevitably get the short end of the stick. Some get no part of the stick. There have been days where I didn’t stop moving from the time I got up at 5 a.m. until I sat down for a minute’s respite at 9:45 that evening.
So what do we do about this? As you can probably tell, I’m far from an expert on how to do this correctly. And I’m not about to say I have the perfect answer that will work for everyone. Still, I’d like to share some thoughts with you in the hopes that, in some small way, it will help.
In many ways, I think some of the problem stems from our inability to say ‘No’ to certain things. It is my opinion that most of us want to make other people happy, so when we’re asked to do some new activity it’s hard to turn it down. The end result is that our schedules are packed with too many activities.
For some of us, our time is spent on things that may not necessarily be critically important. Some time-management methodologies have you classify things into categories such as ‘Urgent-Not Important’ or ‘Urgent-Important’. The idea is to help us see that there are thousands of things that come up that seem very urgent, but are not that important in the big picture of our lives. Therefore, we shouldn’t devote our time to them.
But there’s still an art to this when you have a family. I have a three-year-old, and at any given moment she could be having a crisis about either a spider on the patio or her inability to find her favorite toy of the day. To her, these things fall into the ‘Urgent-Important’ category, but to me they’re not urgent or important. But what is important is my relationship with her, and for her to know that her Daddy cares about her, so the issue deserves my attention.
At work the same principles apply. Very few of us work in a vacuum, so we’re likely to get interrupted while we’re pursuing whatever task is important that day. We have to weigh the relative priority of the task at hand with whatever the interruption is and determine where our time should be spent. Sometimes this means telling someone ‘No’, or at least ‘Not now, later’.
Making those kinds of decisions is tough when you’re trying to balance what needs to be done with your faith. Of course, our faith would teach us to refrain from rudeness when dealing with other people. But it also teaches us that we should be good stewards of the gifts God has given us, one of which is our time. Whatever our individual priorities are, we are obligated by our faith to prayerfully set them and follow them.
For me, like a lot of other people in the country, the September 11 attacks have caused me to re-examine my priorities, and what kinds of plates I’m trying to keep spinning. The issue of managing our gift of time has been brought to the forefront like never before. The realization that time is short and must be spent wisely is very clear.
So to manage our time and find this elusive balance we need to seek God’s help in determining what our priorities should be. He tells us in Scripture when Jesus tells us that we should love God above all else, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Clearly, faith has to be the number one priority. If we’re devoting our time accordingly, God will lead us to our other priorities.
Going through this thought process over the last few weeks has led me to the conclusion that our faith, our families, and choosing to do good should be our primary focus. No more foolish pursuits. Anything that doesn’t contribute to reaching these three main priorities should go on the back burner.
Choosing to good involves discernment, and figuring out what God wants us to do. It means doing our jobs to the best of our ability, even if we’d rather be doing something else. It means seeking out how to best use our talents in service to God to make this world a better place.
If we prayerfully seek out God, he’ll help us to find that balance and keep our plates spinning. They may be different plates than we now spin, and there may be more or less of them, but when we earnestly seek out His will for us He’ll show us the way.
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