Photo c/o Christine Lee Smith
For most of my life I’ve been the person who gets it done. Give me some good music and a worthwhile task, and I’ll crank it out. Rearrange the furniture, run 5 errands in an hour… I’m your girl. It’s embarrassing to admit, because for a long time I was proud of it, the way people are sometimes proud of being perfectionists.
But one day I realized although I could accomplish more in 3 hours than most people could in a day, I had a poor relationship with time.
I wasn’t chronically late, but I was frequently rushing out the door. Or I’d focus too long on one project, then not have the energy to complete more important tasks.
I noticed that time was my catchall excuse. I don’t have the time, I didn’t have enough time, I ran out of time.
I sounded like a victim, and I acted like a victim.
Living with a victim mentality is extremely convenient. It absolves me of responsibility and gives me permission to feel sorry for myself.
The problem is that a victim mindset runs counter to my belief system.
I believe God created us to live within the restraints of time, and I don’t think He wants us to run around like crazy, exhausting ourselves each day then starting all over again.
If that’s true, there must be enough time to accomplish all the things that actually need to get done in a day. So the problem isn’t that I have a limited amount of time — it’s with my decision quality.
I began to reflect on my reasons for cramming so much into every day…
– To win love
– To prove I’m valuable
– Fear of disappointing a friend
– If I feel out of control in one area of my life, focusing on a less important project offers a sense of control
– Fear of missing out
– To provide comfort or a distraction from unwanted thoughts and emotions
I wasn’t surprised by my list, but it was disappointing. I’d had a vague fantasy of being the modern girl who can do it all, but this painted a much different picture.
I thought about how I want my life to look. I want to be rested, healthy, and strong. I want to have space for the people and things that truly matter. I want to keep my word — to myself and to others. I want to live without excuses.
And so I started to do things a little differently.
The biggest change was to honor the time of those around me. These days, if I say I’m going to call at 8, I call at 8, rather than 8:10 or 8:15. If I show up late, I take responsibility for not managing my time and apologize. It’s humbling, and every time I have to do it, it strengthens my resolve to keep my word.
I also began to add buffer to my days. It didn’t feel honoring to rush out the door feeling stressed. But creating buffer required more changes, such as regularly doing meal prep, laundry, and going to bed at a decent hour.
It’s not as if I never did those things, it’s just that I wasn’t consistent – and when I didn’t honor myself with the right habits, things quickly spiraled out of control.
Life started to get better, and I took things even further: on my days off, I forced myself to do less. Instead of having 7 things on my to-do list, I limited it to 3 — which left space for an unexpected phone call, a walk on the beach, or a nap. It was amazing! My days off went from good to great. I no longer felt exhausted and rarely felt overwhelmed.
I’ve been on this journey for a while now – big changes don’t happen overnight! Sometimes I’m tempted to do more than I should, or feel weird guilt about saying no. In those moments I remind myself that just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should. If I’m feeling really wobbly I’ll process it with a friend, and talking it through helps me find clarity.