Saying “No” to Doing it All

water-2071240_960_720Do you ever try to do it all, and in the process, never complete anything? Or fail to do it as well as you’d like?

I had to give up on the idea of doing everything a long time ago. It was hard to pry my fingers loose and let go. I like to think of myself as relatively competent and interested, even enthusiastic, about lots of different areas.

But it just wasn’t working for me to do a whole pile of things so-so. So I whittled down the list to a few things. Maybe then something would turn out.

In a lifetime, perhaps you can do it all, but I haven’t met anyone yet who can do it all at any one time. There are seasons where you focus on one aspect of life or another, but in order to do that, something has to give. It either goes bye-bye through an intentional decision or it suffers by default.

You have to say “no” to some things so you can say “yes” to your priorities for that particular season of your life.

I had to re-learn this lesson recently. During most of the 3½ years I worked on my graduate degree, I tried to keep doing all the same things I had been doing before. I just squeezed in class time (with a long commute) and homework time on top of my full-time job, my full-time life, and everything else.

At first, the only things I let go were sleeping and cleaning the house. House cleaning wasn’t hard to let slide at all. 🙂

When I decided I’d better double up on my courses if I wanted to finish before dementia set in, I realized I’d sink unless something drastic happened. I started throwing all the dead weight overboard, just grabbing ballast and heaving it. I said “no” to all kinds of things, out of desperation.

I had to give up things I liked doing. I ditched good things for better things, at least better for the season I found myself in.

And I said “yes” to finishing my degree and writing a novel.

This is what I learned:  Before you cram more things into your stuffed-to-the-gills schedule,  something has to come out. Something besides sleep.

When I relaxed my expectation to blog every week, I felt free. But now that I’m trying to add it back in, I find I’ve gotten out of the habit. And it’s hard to go back.

Maybe you already discovered you can’t do everything, but you’re having trouble letting go. Your schedule is still pretty full with things you decided to keep. So how do you do those tasks in such a way that you’re not stressed-out and unapproachable?

Jesus never rushed but he completed his task. He finished the work. He walked everywhere, and talked with people along the way. Just imagining that lifestyle–no traffic or freeways–makes me feel refreshed. People never felt second place to his agenda. They were (and we are) his priority.

When you’re the busiest, try adding to your day.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive. Impossible, even.

Jesus added time for relationship. And then he added time for rest.

Rest? When I’m stressed, I feel like I have to keep going. I can’t stop.

Once when Jesus’s disciples were exhausted, he invited them to rest. “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

He took his friends away by boat to a secluded spot on the lake. Can anything be more revitalizing than that?

Rest is what they needed. It’s what we need.

That same invitation is open to us, too, every day.

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Saying “yes” to time alone with Jesus gives back to us. It never takes away.

On the way to the R & R spot, Jesus saw a large crowd gather and he felt compassion for them. He willingly postponed his plan. The result was 5,000 being fed with five loaves and two fish. It was all that the tired disciples had to offer, but it was enough.

I tried to picture how I might respond if/when someone interferes with my plans. Am I willing to submit my agenda to the Lord’s plans for me on any given day?

What about you? Are you interruptible?

When you’re meeting with someone, do you look at your watch or other people around you, or do you focus on the person you’re with and their needs?

Sometimes I’m so stressed with my growing To-Do list that I don’t notice God trying to rearrange my day. I can get frustrated with interruptions, but they may be divine appointments.

I’m still trying to learn what to say “no” to, so that I can say “yes” to the things that matter the most.


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