For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV).
Have you ever met a woman and wondered, “How does she do it all?!”
I know I have. I see the mom who has the kind of house where everything has a place and kids with perfectly coiffed hair and coordinating outfits and I wonder, “What does she have that I don’t? How does she do it all?” The same goes for the homeschooling mom and the mom who recreates every DIY Pinterest idea to perfection. I make judgments: They must be super-human. They mom way better than me.
Yet there are also those who would say the same about me.
When outsiders look at me, they see what I do: full-time PR pro, ministry volunteer, grad school student, wife, mom, part-time consultant … the list goes on. They think I’m organized and accomplished. They jump from the facts to judgments: intelligent, super-human, even perfect. They want to know what I have that they don’t.
Sound familiar? Have you ever had these thoughts? Would you believe that somewhere out there, someone thinks the same thing about you?
Our perceptions and judgments are comparison clutter, and they secretly interfere with our relationships. Comparison keeps us at arm’s length. The desire is there to go deeper and know each other better, but we have to dump the clutter to get there.
Others use their perception of what I do to highlight what they think of as weakness in themselves. I get it. I see gifts in others and think of my own deficits. But Hebrews 4:13 tells us that it’s God to whom we must give account – not each other. I do what God created me to do. These gifts were made for me, not for others. Just like the gifts of organization and crafty creativity that come so easily to others missed me by a mile. Comparison clutter is sneaky. It separates us not only from each other but also from what God has designed us each uniquely to do.
This is where I hope we can remember the spirit of Ephesians 2:10. God created us individually to do good works that he already has prepared for us. We all have a sweet spot when it comes the number of hats we wear. Some of us can be working moms who invest in their marriage and in their community. Others can’t handle more than just a couple of roles before feeling over-extended. It’s by design. You were made to do what you do, just as I was made to do what I do. Neither of us gets salvation bonus points by reaching beyond God’s desires for us.
We often wear our busyness like a badge of honor, an outward sign of our importance or our sacrifice. This is like putting the welcome mat out for comparison to enter. What if we instead looked to live life within the margins our creator designed for us? What if instead of comparing ourselves to others, we celebrated the way we each use the gifts God has given us?
One Small Win
Write down all you do – all that keeps you busy – in a given week and pray over it. What on that list has God created you to do and what might be meant for someone else? Consider what can be delegated or eliminated and take the appropriate action, knowing you are fulfilling God’s design.
Do you feel mental overload? Do you wonder if you’ll ever get your home or office organized? Maybe you think if you just work overtime, or if your kids could stay at Grandma’s for a week, you could finally get it together.
What if I told you working harder or having a child-free home isn’t the solution?
I’ll venture to say 75% or more of our clutter problems aren’t because we don’t work hard enough, or that our homes are too small or our children are messy. Most of our problems start because we can’t think through what needs to be done. We can’t get our minds under control. We can’t make decisions. We are on mental overload.
Do you know that feeling?
How to deal with mental overload
For years, I lived with an ongoing sense that I should be doing something all the time. It ate at me. Even when I focused on something important, there was a latent unease about what else I should be doing. It was an underlying anxiety that hung around, even when there was no pressing deadline or responsibility.
It caused stress and lack of sleep.
It wasn’t until I read David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, that I discovered a reason for this tension. It seems our brains aren’t designed to store and manage all of the information, deadlines and demands that swirl around us at all times.
Allen writes, “The big problem is that your mind keeps reminding you of things when you can’t do anything about them. It has no sense of past or future. That means that as soon as you tell yourself that you need to do something, and store it in your RAM (your mind), there’s a part of you that thinks you should be doing that something all the time.”
It was a head-slapping moment when I read those words. That was it! Allen goes on to explain that the first step to finding a solution is to get everything out of your mind and store it somewhere safe. Not the “safe” place you stored an important document at home, and now can’t find. But somewhere close at hand.
The right to-do list
I realized my mind tried to manage more stuff than it could hold. One to-do list wasn’t the answer because it wasn’t keeping things in safe places.
With that in mind, I’m going to ask you to do something painful. Not as painful as stepping on a scale, but close. I want you to take a personal assessment of all your responsibilities, projects, priorities and tasks. Everything. Get it out of your mind and onto one document. This could be a paper notebook or digital file, it doesn’t matter. If you have multiple to-do lists, combine them into this one list. Leave this list where you can see it morning, noon and night for a few days.
On this list write down everything you need to get done. You might start with your home and add repairs, cleaning projects or laundry.
Put down things you need to do for your family, such as make a dentist appointment, write a letter to a teacher or take clothes to the dry cleaning.
Then move on to other areas of your life: church, community involvement, sports teams, etc. Include big projects and little things, like errands and emails that need to be sent. Nothing is too small to include.
You might want to dedicate one page for future projects, such as planning this summer’s vacation or researching colleges with your daughter. Another page might contain things you want to do years from now, but you don’t want to forget.
This process will take you days. If it helps, you can organize this list however you see fit if it helps you remember things. Or just write things down as they come to mind. Whatever works for you.
It’s okay if there is no order to it. Actually trying to organize it now might hinder you if you are a perfectionist. You might not leave yourself enough room in a certain category and then you’ll be frustrated.
For now, capture it all. Don’t be surprised if you feel a bit panicky at how much you have to do. Just take a deep breath and ask for God’s peace.
I promise you feel a sense of relief soon because finally, maybe for the first time in your life, you have everything in one place.
There are many things you can do with this master list. You can organize it in to tasks (one action) and projects (more than one action). You can organize it by area of your life or deadlines. You can sort it by things that need to be done today, this week, next month, in six months, etc.
Hold on to that list. Add to it. Next month, I’ll share how to create a project management planner.