After a relaxing summer, I’m back to busy days and home school, back to the six o’clock witching hour when the kids and I are edgy and tired and I’m trying to get dinner on the table, back to racing to get it all done, trying to juggle ministry and home life. Back to looking at how to avoid overloading myself.
Are women in cross-cultural ministry particularly susceptible to overload? Household tasks are often more complicated. Language study and Hospitality take time. Stress levels are high during the first few years of adaptation. Like most women, I’m into multi tasking: I make phone calls while I cook dinner and work on school planning when my family watches TV. Soon I find myself falling into the trap of thinking I have to fill every moment.
Last week I wrote about making room for God in our busy lives, and a blogging friend commented that she purposely cuts out one activity before taking on another. It made me think about how making room for God is connected with leaving time for ourselves.
Here are my thoughts and hopes for avoiding overload this fall:
Pare Down my Activities
For the next five weeks, I’ll be teaching a spiritual growth seminar on Monday nights. Of course this means I also need to invest time during the week to prepare adequately. Afternoons are my peak productivity time, so I decided that for the month of October, I’ll need to make fewer afternoon visits to local women I want to reach out to. To be more effective, I need to focus on the seminar, and in November I’ll have more time to visit friends again.
Leave Margins in my Schedule
The book The Overload Syndrome introduced me to the concept of margin: leaving space for downtime in between activities. I don’t have to fill every day with back to back activities. My husband and I try to leave every other night free in our weekly calendar.
Yesterday, after I finished making dinner to take to a friend’s house, my husband called to say he was on his way to pick me up. I resisted the urge to turn on the computer and be productive for 10 minutes. Instead I sat down and put my feet up. I reviewed my prayer journal. There’s nothing wrong with “wasting” 10 minutes before continuing my day!
Turn Off the Computer or Television
Do you notice that as much fun as internet surfing is, you’re never rested when you turn off the computer? It’s not the same as curling up with a good book or sitting outside on the back porch a few minutes. I often turn on my computer after my kids go to bed, but I’ve decided that no matter what--I’m crossing my fingers here--I will turn it off by 10:00 p.m.
Get to Bed at a Decent Hour (Most Nights!)
A morning person like me has a hard time in a late night culture, but when you wake up naturally at 6:00 every day, late nights take their toll fast. It’s a no-brainer: if I want to be a reasonably happy person, I need adequate rest. For me a good night’s sleep starts with taking 30 minutes or so to wind down, read, and relax before turning out the lights.
Of course we need to be flexible when life doesn’t go as planned, but these are general parameters I’m trying to set for myself. What about you? How do you combat overload in your life? What do you like to do when you have downtime?