If you’re anything like me, you make lists. Lots of lists. I currently have several on my phone, some on my laptop, and sticky notes wherever I can find space. Yes, I’m addicted to lists! But when your to do list takes over your life, how do you handle it? I, for one, struggle with this on a daily basis. Especially recently. You see, my life was thrown a bit off course. In every area of my life – health, family, homemaking, finances – you name it, I was thrown some curve balls! Needless to say, my to do lists suffered. Everything I had intended to accomplish during the months of August and September needed to be set aside. And I had to learn to be okay with it.
It was during this time, however, that God taught me an important lesson. We can make to do lists all day long. But when your life is driven by them, you have a problem.
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- Establish priorities.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but realistically it’s something many of us struggle with on a daily basis. Truth be told, I know what’s important in my life, but when I look back at how I spend my days, I find that my actions don’t always line up with my priorities. For example, my children are one of my greatest priorities in life. But I often look back at my day only to realize that most of my time was spent doing chores and getting stuff done rather than spending some quality time with them.
Priorities only work if we establish them and live by them in our day-to-day lives. I can say that something is important. But if I don’t live by that truth, what’s the point?
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- Decide what’s REALLY important.
How much of your to-do list is really necessary? When I first make my list in the morning, it’s rather long, and I often stress myself out by how long it is. By mid-afternoon, I begin to cross things off that could have waited until later. Why did I add these items to the list in the first place?
I once heard an analogy that changed my thinking…
If you have a jar that you need to fill with rocks, you have to put the big ones in first. If you put the little rocks in at the bottom, you’ll never have room for the big ones on top. But if you put the big rocks in first, then the little ones will fill in the gaps and you’ll end up with a jar full of rocks. When I began to order my day based on this analogy, I noticed a change. I did the things that absolutely HAD to get done first. Then I filled the rest of my day with the little things.
- Set rules for your day.
Boundaries are extremely important… especially when it comes to our to do lists. A common rule I set for myself has to do with my time spent writing. Because if I’m being honest, I could spend all day working this blog. I have to set some ground rules for myself so that I can complete everything else in my life that needs to be done.
- Surrender your to do list to God.
God never intended for us to be so busy. I know this because He established a pattern of work and rest at the beginning of Creation. Rest is essential… physically, emotionally, and spiritually. One thing God has been teaching me lately is that it’s never good to allow your to do list to get in the way of that rest.
Truth be told, God cares about your day to day life. If it’s true that He knows how many hairs are on your head, then He certainly cares about the details of your day!
Just make sure that He is the one guiding your day… not your list.
The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9
When your to do list takes over, pray. re-prioritize, and ask God to show you where changes need to be made.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.