Saving Tomorrow’s Time Today

Time management has never been my best-developed skill–at least not when it comes to knowing where to stop. While I prefer to approach each day/week/month in terms of finishing a list of tasks rather than of starting and stopping at set hours, the task list has a tendency to overflow its boundaries. And not just through individual daily lists growing beyond what can be accomplished in eight, ten, twelve, or even sixteen hours. The worst-case scenario is finishing Thursday’s (or even Wednesday’s) task list with a couple of hours to spare or a free evening ahead, looking at what was put on Friday’s calendar earlier in the week, and hearing the tempting whisper “If you did those tasks today, you could have a three-day weekend”–then refusing to stop until the rest of the week’s list is finished, seeing it stretch to 10 or 11 p.m., getting to bed two hours late–and blowing the “three-day weekend” anyway by finding eight hours of busywork for another “got to finish this list” trap come Friday.

As you may have guessed by now, the “saving tomorrow’s time today” in this post’s title is pure sarcasm. I very seldom come away from the above approach feeling that I got any worthwhile time usage out of it. And I’m still a long way from finding a consistently effective alternative; when you’re short on regular work and income and are fully responsible (humanly speaking) for planning your own schedule, it’s hard not to wander toward either the “take any excuse for extra time off” or the “must force quick results by working constantly” trap.

What I do understand by now is that the latter is a manifestation of the “worrying about tomorrow” problem Jesus referred to in Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Not least the Parkinson’s-law trouble of work expanding to fill the available time. We wouldn’t try to eat or sleep twice as much today so we could do without it tomorrow; why try to do that with our work? If I really need an extra day off, can’t I just take it, without worrying about whether that day’s business gets done a day “early” or a day “late”? Science itself confirms that regular rest makes for greater overall effectiveness, but the average American (even if he learned the Ten Commandments and the word “Sabbath” as a child) lives 80 percent of the time in “keep running; something might get away from you” mode.

In that phrase lies the real clue to the running-ahead-of-ourselves problem; we don’t want to relinquish the hope of gaining control over our own lives. We’re afraid to let go and let God: afraid He doesn’t really know or care about what we need, afraid that we have to take charge because we can’t trust Him to. All the little jobs that smother our chronological breathing space are the little pieces that make up the larger problem of our trying to do God’s job–to finish the endless, to do the impossible. We chase that futile dream until we collapse in despair.

But in God’s mercy, that collapse often proves to be the very thing that finally slows us down enough to respond to His invitation from Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

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  1. janetanncollins

     /  November 7, 2014

    I hope you can practice what you preach. 😉

  2. Jo Swank

     /  November 7, 2014

    Bless you, Kathy! I hope you are responding to his invitation as we enter a beautiful day!
    Peace, Jo

    • Thank you, Jo. I really need it right now; did I mention that I’m moving to a new apartment next week and am going crazy trying to coordinate schedules on all sides?

  3. Gina Etherton

     /  November 7, 2014

    Thanks for this!!

    Gina Etherton.gif

  4. Susan Bozarth

     /  November 10, 2014

    This sentence really stood out to me–“We wouldn’t try to eat or sleep twice as much today so we could do without it tomorrow; why try to do that with our work?”
    That is such a great point when thinking about working, schedules and lists. And bringing in the bible verse about worries and tomorrow. That is something that we should all probably work on if we are honest with ourselves. I guess I’ll add that to my list. Susan

  5. Thank you so much for this piece! I read it last month, shortly after it came out, and the timing couldn’t have been better. I am exactly the type of person who is trying to squeeze all the to-do list into today and feeling exhausted and disappointed when the efforts to complete it fail. After your post, for the first time in my life I started thinking about how the wish to control everything is, essentially, an attempt to compete with God. A very unexpected and important discovery, for which I feel truly grateful.
    So, once again, thank you so much for you’re writing. It really does make the world better.


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