Today, At the Well, we’re talking about one of my favorite subjects: planning and scheduling! Next to becoming a Christian, I think this has changed my life the most. I am naturally extremely spontaneous. Following a schedule is still a “flexible” event for me, and though I still like a little spontaneity in life, I have found that scheduling brings peace to my life and home, and that it advances my spiritual life. Let me explain.
God is a God of order and gives commandments in His Word. As a Christian, thinking about His priorities (His goals) for my life and my family, is necessary before I can really even begin to think about making a schedule. Thinking about His goals is a process which causes me to humble myself before Him and submit myself and my schedule to Him. And attempting to follow a schedule causes me to be more consistent in reading His Word and memorizing it, in praying, and in doing those things involved in being the “keeper at home” and helpmeet that He designed me to be. When I am more consistent, I experience less guilt, I am able to hear from the Lord more easily (after all, I’m spending time consistently with Him at the beginning of each day, when He has my undivided attention!) and I am a much more Christ-like representative to the world because when I and my life are exhibiting more peaceful order more consistently, it is totally opposite to what the world experiences. My wild fluctuations on a regular basis don’t bring Him much glory!
This time of year is a great time to start scheduling, if you’ve never done it before, because no doubt you have already been thinking about what God might want you to change and some goalsetting and prioritizing may have already taken place in your mind. I’m not going to share with you my present schedule, because I’m in the process of looking ahead to a new year and new goals, which will involve changing my schedule. When I have it all written out, I will plan on sharing it with you.
When planning a new schedule, the first priority must always be prayer and Bible Study. Fasting, for a day, is helpful. I prayerfully look at my life (the big picture and also the day-to-day) and ask God to show me the areas He wants to change. I write down ideas in the major areas: Spiritual, Mental (Academic/Intellectual), Physical. I take a look around at my home and my physical environment. Does this prompt any ideas for change? What’s working? What’s not? Are there major areas of disorganization? Cleaning needed? Repair? I think about relationships. God comes first. Then my husband and family. Then my church and friendships. What changes need to be made? Are there relationships He wants me to end? To start? Is there building, forgiveness, or restoration needed anywhere? I pray with a notebook and pen to write down the promptings He gives me.
Sitting down with a blank calendar and a blank lined sheet of paper, I place my life and schedule back on the altar. I think about what God has spoken to me about: what He wants included in my life, and I schedule that first. The Spiritual goals come first: in my life, in my thoughts, in my schedule, in my day. If you’re having trouble getting everything done, it’s probably because you’re not spending enough time in the Word and prayer at the beginning of the day. Some women, in order to find time in God’s Word, have even set an alarm for the middle of the night, in order to have undistracted time with the Lord. If you are serious about spending time with the Lord, He’ll show you how to make it happen. Don’t set unrealistic goals in this area. Start with a goal of small, consistent amounts of time: 15 minutes, rather than an hour a day–you can always work up to an hour, or spend longer when you have more time, but the goal that is important is to be with Him every day, and to hear from Him.
Then I think about pleasing my family (my husband first), and their needs. If I’m not fulfilling my responsibilities at home, changes have to be made. The other things don’t have to be done, no matter how much I think they do. My family is my first priority. If disorder in the home is a problem, I can schedule consistent times to work at cleaning and organizing–putting it on the calendar is an appointment I make with myself to do important things, and it helps to get it done.
I pencil in the approximate amounts of time needed for the different activities I know have to happen. Then, what are my other responsibilities? How much time do they require? I pencil that number in next to the activity. I add in the travel time, the preparation time, everything. Adding all the amounts of time together, am I trying to spend more time than there is in a day? Are there any activities/responsibilities that God is prompting me to remove from my schedule? I try to remember that the “good things” are the enemy of “The Best.”
Also, it’s wise to remember that there are “Seasons” in life! You may not be able to do now that thing which is dearer than life to you–and you “just know” that it is the will of God for you! Remember: when God called people in the Bible to do something for Him, often there was a long delay before they were able to accomplish it, while God took them through a “Preparation Period.” Think of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and even Jesus! The “thing” or “ministry” you so dearly desire to do may be years off, and having to obey God now in the humdrum day-to-day of dirty diapers and daily dying to self (or whatever training ground He’s taking you through) is the training He knows you need to go through to make you ready to be used in a mighty way. How can you do great things for the Lord without first learning to be obedient in the small things He’s giving you now?
So, what are those things that God has spoken to you about? Everyone has the same 24 hours every day. If you are frustrated by not having time to do what you know He wants you to do each day, ask Him to show you where you’re going wrong. Ask your husband to look at your schedule and offer suggestions. Be prepared to be humbled. A husband has a way of seeing, and ruthlessly slashing away at, a wife’s “favorite” time-wasters, and wrong priorities. See your husband as God’s messenger to help you:)
Set goals. Only set a few. Set them carefully, and prayerfully. Set them according to, and based on, what God has said to you in your time in the Word and prayer. Make sure they’re do-able.
Finally, pencil into a seven-day calendar with days of the week at the top and time in 15-minute increments on the side, all the main categories of things that you have to do. It takes me multiple calendars and many changes to finally come up with this rough-draft calendar. I know that, once I begin to use this calendar, my week will not look exactly like it, but doing this exercise shows me two things: It shows me if I’m trying to do too many things, and it shows me I need the Lord. No one can accomplish, without the Lord’s help, all that He wants them to be and do! Isn’t that great to know?! With small children, you especially have to be flexible, and remember, no matter who you are, your schedule isn’t written in stone! We don’t know what the Lord is going to surprise us with in the future, or what changes are going to take place in our lives. Make “Lord-willing” a common phrase in your vocabulary.
The wonderful thing about a schedule is that you can change it and revamp it to solve problems that come up. For instance, if you’re finding your family is exhausted and too harried and hurried every Sunday morning, and it’s causing you to miss church, or not to be able to worship Him properly, eliminate all activities on Saturday nights. (We very rarely planned anything on Saturday nights when our children were small. We still try to be at home or get to bed at a decent time every Saturday night, even now that our children are grown, so that we’ll be ready for Sunday.) You may want to plan an earlier bedtime for all of you, and block out half an hour, or whatever’s needed, before bed to get the clothes and diaper bag, Bible, etc. ready for the next day. Or, if your husband is upset every workday morning because you’re ironing his shirt as he’s walking out the door, plan 15 minutes, 3 times a week, to iron (or one hour once a week–you get the idea).
Look at your schedule as your friend. Don’t let it strangle you or handcuff you or make you its slave. It is a valuable tool. Let God use it–it may just change your life!