I read a fantastic article today by Carey Nieuwhof called “How to Stop Working 7-Days-A-Week.” It was geared mainly toward clergy and those in professional ministry, but I think this article applies to anyone who works outside of the home. We all need to remember that there is a time to work, a time to play, and a time to rest. Balance in life is a delicate thing that we often ignore . . . especially when it comes to our careers.
My work/ministry is literally a 7-day-a-week thing at times. Does it have to be? No. Thanks to my nifty iPhone I have access to work emails 24/7 and most people know my cell number and can call or text me anytime. There are often times that I look at the person checking me out at the grocery store and envy their job because at the end of the day they just go home and they don’t take their work home with them (or, at least, I hope they don’t). That is very difficult to do in my line of work, and perhaps in yours as well.
Since this is a marriage blog, let me move now into how we neglect our marriages when we work so much. I will be the first to admit that I have put my ministry above my family and it caused a huge fissure in my marriage. My husband struggled with resentment toward the church and toward me because of this and that breaks my heart. My call to ministry IS important, but I’m also called to be a wife and mother. Things became terribly out of balance and I had to work hard to make positive changes to heal my marriage – AND my relationship with my work/ministry.
Carey had some amazing tips in his article that I have actually tried and found to be successful. I will list them below so that you can try them as well:
- “Book down time in your calendar. Slot in family time, personal time, devotional time, exercise time and time to just be. Write your day off in your calendar.” It took me years to finally do this and stick to it. Our staff uses Google calendar and it connects with my phone, which has made this super easy for me to do. This way, if you have family time or a date night with your spouse scheduled on your calendar and someone wants you to do something for them you can honestly say you are unavailable. If it’s on the calendar, it is a priority!
- “Power down.” I will follow up my previous bullet about Google calendar to now say that my phone goes into silent mode every evening and on my days off. This was EXTREMELY hard for me to do at first and I kept checking my phone anyway. But, I now commit to this and I even tell people that my phone is not on after a certain time or on my days off. However, since I do need to be “on call” for the rest of the clergy of the church, they all have my home phone if they need me so I am assured that emergency calls can still get through. Perhaps your job requires you to be overly connected at all times (such as a physician or emergency worker). The key here is to identify “down times” and stick to them.
- “Create categories of things you will no longer do.” Think of the bad habits that created the workaholic in you and create a list of things you can stop doing right now to change those bad habits. Back in the day I would attend anything anyone invited me to because I felt bad if I didn’t. I won’t even tell you how much unneccessary Pampered Chef items I own because of the crazy number of parties I have attended. Serving a church of hundreds means that I was invited to every little thing – and I went out of obligation. It wasn’t until I had kids that I began backing off of that and now I don’t attend any of them. I tell all who invite me that I do not attend any parties because I’m invited to so many that it wouldn’t be fair to attend one and not the other. However, if it’s a product I’m interest in I will ask for an online catalogue and, if I want, I’ll order something. So NO parties is on my list, for sure! I also covet Saturdays because that is the only day when all four of us are together (I work Sundays and Steve works on my day off on Fridays). So, I rarely do anything I don’t need to do on a Saturday and save that day for my family.
Life for many of us can be a sprint – like the rabbit in the “tortoise and the hare” story. We feel like we have to be the rabbit to hurry here and there, and yet when we get to the finish line we realize we missed so much along the way. When did my kid get old enough to drive? How did I not realize that my spouse was so sad all the time? How could it be that I haven’t read an actual book in ten years? Time is our most precious commodity and there is a limited supply of it. If we practice the methods of the turtle we will have the time we need to live life and enjoy all it has to offer: our spouse, our families, our careers. Balance is key and a pace that is healthy makes balance so much easier to accomplish. Be a turtle, my friends. The turtle always wins in the end!