A need isn’t always your personal call to action.
My dad wrote this on a sticky note once and pasted it to his bathroom mirror. At the time, I didn’t really understand – I was a young kid. I just knew that my dad – a bastion of encouragement and helpful support – thought enough about this idea to remind himself daily to try to maintain balance.
Lately, I know exactly why – I understand where I get my own propensity to try to meet every “need” that makes its way onto my To Do list. Sometimes I feel like a baseball batter up to the plate in a batting cage. The balls are flying at me from every direction, and I have to stay taught, alert, ready to hit each one. If I lose focus, some part of me mistakenly believes, I’ll miss a ball, and then everything in the world will go haywire.
The problem is that by keeping my eye on each “need” – typically in the form of a “task,” I sometimes miss out on those precious opportunities for unexpected connection. I’m so busy “doing” that I’m not actually connecting – to God, myself, or others.
How do you know when it’s time to set some boundaries with your internal Task Manager?
- You are mentally distracted. Are you mentally rifling through your to do list while spending time with family or friends? Are you having difficulty being present?
- You are spiritually disconnected. You might notice yourself thinking, “I’m too busy to spend time with God. I have too much work to get done, too many people to help!”
- You neglect yourself physically. Are you so focused on doing that you’re neglecting your body? Maybe you’re not exercising, over-eating, or not eating healthily.
- You’re emotionally frazzled. Are you impatient with others or cutting conversations short? Are you muttering things underneath your breathe that you would never utter to another person?
If you’re noticing any of these indicators, pause for a moment and take a deep breath. Change starts with the simple act of awareness: My inner Task Manager’s on over-drive. Maybe it’s time to set some boundaries internally.
As always, don’t berate this part of yourself. Your hard-working Task Manager has good intentions. You can initiate change with a few small shifts mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally:
- Negotiate with your internal Task Manager. Taking a break will actually increase your ability to get things done. When you take some space from your Task Manager, it doesn’t go away. It just goes on the back-burner, where it can simmer a little bit—and in doing so gets energized in a healthy way.
- Turn toward God. When I’ve neglected my spiritual life due to prioritizing tasks, a guilt-tripper kicks in. Some part of me says, “if you turn to God now, he’s going to be mad at you!” But nothing could be further from the truth. What parent berates their overly-distracted teen who finally shows up for some much-longed for connection? Instead, you’d welcome her with open arms. That’s how it is with our loving God. He beckons you so that you can receive much needed nourishment. . . not a harsh rebuke. Take a step toward him: Lift your eyes up, hold your hands open, or just take a breath and ask for his help.
- Create a plan to care for your physical body. If you’ve been neglecting yourself physically, set an intention to re-prioritize. It may start with small steps—taking a daily walk around the block or working out just seven minutes a day.
- Pay attention to your negative emotions. If you’re feeling impatient or angry, it may be that you’re overextending yourself and operating outside of your limitations. It’s time to take inventory of your priorities and make sure the needs you are meeting are in line with what God is asking of you.