This has been a rough week for me, for a number of reasons:
- Fell sick over a week ago, took a long time to recover, making me fall behind.
- Went to a conference for two days that same week – more time away, and more falling behind.
- Preached that Sunday – due to falling behind, only got 2 hours of sleep.
- Spent the next week trying to catch up on sleep and work. Plus, on top of that, it’s a particularly busy season in my particular ministry areas!
- Went out of town for family reasons, throwing me out of whack schedule-wise and sleep-wise. Took 3 naps in one day because I was so tired!
- Ministry/personal crises came up, derailing me emotionally and physically, leaving me exhausted.
And that’s just for starters. Add to that the fact that because I just moved here 3 months ago I don’t have an established support base that usually helps through tough times like these.
So what do you do when you feel like life is spinning out of control?
Well, what’s helped me is not the solution for every problem, but here are some of the things that helped so that today I finally feel like I am turning the corner on what has been a pretty miserable time lately.
I believe the number one solution to when life spins out of control is a spiritual one. We can turn to other solutions, but without the spiritual foundation that is the basis for all the other areas, the solutions we look to will only be temporary.
There is something unexplainable about how when we look to God, He provides the inner strength and peace that carries us through the tough times.
I knew that with all these things going on, I needed to focus on God and keep him central. When we get a sense of God’s vastness, it blots out the other problems that I may face, or at least gives me the perspective that though there are many things out of my control, God is not.
Some of things that really helped:
- Reading the Bible. This week I read about David’s life before he came king. Talk about challenges! My life is easy in comparison. I do not have to worry about someone stalking me to kill me, living with enemies who could kill me at any moment, or living on the run. Yet in all of his troubles, though he was alone, he had an unshakable faith and trust in God. Great example to me!
- Prayer. God works amazing things through prayer. The prayers of others and my own prayers will be answered in due time and God has sustained me through them.
- Listening to podcasts. It’s been a long time since I have listened to so many podcasts from speakers such as Francis Chan, Erwin McManus, and Andy Stanley. The messages brought perspective and comfort to me.
- Journaling. Through journaling, I can clarify thoughts and reflect upon what God is doing. Haven’t done it in a long time but this week I pulled out the discipline again.
God created us to be in community. When we feel we don’t have the strength to go it alone, we can lean upon others.
- Family. My family brings great support and comfort. Prayers, talking, and just doing life together are like therapy for healing! I am blessed with an incredibly great husband and kids!
- Friends. Today I drove 42 miles roundtrip to get together with a good friend. We spent a long time talking about what was going on and it was like water in the desert. Every minute of the drive was worth it. (I actually drove 77 miles today because of additional tasks I had to do! That’s a lot of driving for me considering my workplace is only 2 miles from home and that’s the extent of my driving these days.) For those that are too far to drive (and even those closeby), I just IM’d them to pray for me. So there were people praying for me in Davis, Fremont, and Boston! Even without the specific details, I knew that their prayers were being lifted up and that made a huge difference.
- Work relationships. Today I shared during the Ministry Director’s meeting that I’d been having some really draining situations. Although there were no details given, the words and notes of encouragement afterwards just meant the world to me. It is such a blessing to work with people who care and are encouraging. I don’t look to people to show me a lot of attention (and actually feel uncomfortable talking about myself), but a simple prayer, “how are you doing?” or note was HUGE.
Getting Organized and Focused
Because I am a task oriented person who finds great fulfillment in being efficient and getting things done, I knew that one of the things that would help me the most was to start getting more efficient. My productivity has plummeted these past two weeks, and it was time to get on track.
I discovered my little business card system I used at my previous job did not work, so for the past few weeks I have been trying another method that allowed me to categorize my tasks more easily so that I could track everything that needed to be done.
It was basically a Word document that had a big table, broken down into the areas I oversee. On the left are the areas broken down into subcategories. On the top are priority levels. Every morning I update the list and print it out double sided. During the day I scratch and update the list. Here’s just the front side:
Recently, I realized this list was not working. The reason is because I am somewhat ADD. (My husband cannot understand why I have 10-15 applications open at the same time. It’s because I keep swapping between them all!) It is very hard to focus on a task because I get distracted — a random thought, a person knocking on the door, a phone call, an email — and suddenly I can’t even remember what I was working on. Before, I would put a business card with my task on the computer to keep me on track, because that was the one task I was doing. However, with the sheer number of tasks I need to manage, huge piles of business cards were now becoming unwieldy.
My clever daughter Megan discovered a new site tonight that, after implementing, has already skyrocketed my productivity tonight. Gubb.com allows you to create customized to-do lists. Being a visual person who loves color, this tool totally appeals to me! You can prioritize by stars, sort in different orders, put in due dates, send yourself email reminders, and access the lists on your cell phone. The only thing I wish it could do better was print out all the lists at once the way they look on the screen.
So I took the time to update my list of things to do… and realized I am a pretty busy person! This is not even the complete list! (Still have 54 more items in my inbox to process through, many which will end up being to-do items.)
I made a bright red box in the upper left, where I can put the one task I am working on right there. This helps me stay on track so that even if I get distracted, I will instantly come back to the task I am doing. Since I use double monitors, I can use one of the monitors to keep this list constantly in front of me. Because most of my work is done on my computer and I am usually connected, this system works for me.
Recently I have buried myself in work to feel better. I know this is not a healthy approach to keep this up (today will be a 14-15 hour day by the time I am done, not even counting the time I am spending blogging!), but once in a while it helps to have something to focus on and get done. (2:53 am: ended up being a 15 hour day for work, total of 17 hours including organizing/grading homework for the kids.) I’ve got a training event coming up this weekend (and am terribly behind) and there is something that feels good about just buckling down and churning through stuff. Not everyone recharges this way. Other people find recreation to be filling, and I do relax in other ways. But during this season, it feels really good to get stuff done.
And anyway, I was relaxing. Organizing is relaxing for me. I know it’s odd — my husband says I need therapy!