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Bring Sanity to Your Daily Schedule – Part 1

March 21, 2007

I was leading a seminar recently on the reality of our time crunch. Everyone, everywhere, is experiencing a deficit in the time available any more. I mean, who cannot say in exasperation that they spend every day running from one event to another, from one commitment to another, from one important slot on the schedule to another. Intermixed with all this are family, work, recreation, church, friend and entertainment commitments.

For the next week or so, I want to suggest several ways we can bring sanity back into our daily lives. Of course there will be a degree of sacrifice, soul-searching and perhaps even deep sighs, but each person’s experience will differ.

First, what is the problem?

I mean, if we can’t figure out why we are so maniacally busy, is there any hope of turning off the spigot?

I believe an old fable tells the true story. Listen and remember the moral you were taught years ago:

“I shall have to sell that donkey of ours,” said a miller to his son. “I can not afford to keep him through the winter. I will take him to town this very morning to see if I can find a buyer. You may go with me.” In a little while the miller, his son, and the donkey were on their way to town.

They had not gone far when they met some girls going to a party. They were talking and laughing as they went along. One of them said, “Look at that man and boy driving a donkey. One of them surely might ride.”

The miller heard what they said, and quickly made his son mount the donkey, while he walked along at its side.

After a while they came to a group of old men who were talking very earnestly. “There,” said one, “I was just saying that boys and girls have no respect for the aged. You see it is true in this case. See that boy riding while his old father has to walk.”

“Get down, my son,” said his father, “and I will ride.” So they went on.

They next met some women coming from town. “Why!” they cried, “your poor little boy is nearly tired out. How can you ride and make him walk?” So the miller made his son ride on the donkey behind him.

They were now in town. A man coming down the street called to the miller, “Why do you make your donkey carry such a load? You can carry him better than he can carry you.”

At this the miller and his son got off the donkey. They tied the donkey’s legs together, turned him over on his back; and began to carry him.

A crowd soon gathered to see the strange sight. As they were crossing a bridge the donkey became frightened at the hooting of the crowd. He broke loose, fell into the river, and was drowned.

The miller was angry and ashamed. He said, “There! I have tried to please everybody and have only made a fool of myself. After this I shall do as I think best and let people say what they will.”

The man and his son switched the traveling arrangements four times to suit the observations and opinions of onlookers. None of these onlookers had the particular financial need which drove the man to sell his donkey. Yet, each one of their opinions added perceptibly to the eventual demise of, and loss of profit from, the donkey. What happened is that the man did not consider his goal of selling the donkey to be of greater importance than the opinions and agendas of bystanders. This isn’t far from what too many people face as they look at their schedules. Much of what we do is because others have grasped control of our daily lives and strewn their opinions and desires recklessly through our valuable time.

I am thoroughly amazed when I read biographies of great people. Recently, I re-read the autobiography of Lee Iaccoca, the head of Chrysler Motor Corporation. He is highly regarded for the role he played in rescuing Chrysler from the pits of dissolution hell and getting them back on their feet financially. They are now a very strong company due in part to his leadership. I was surprised to find that he only works 45 hours a week and will not allow himself to be interrupted on the weekends. We have been lead to believe that great business leaders become great by working themselves to death. Iaccoca shows that you can lead effectively by setting significant boundaries around your life and requiring those around you to honor them.

But how do you do that when you work for someone else? How do you do that when your family is in crisis, and health issues arise?

It starts with knowing what God wants you to do on a daily basis. That is the subject of the next blog entry.

But to prepare for it, spend several days examining your life. Keep a record of all the things you do each day on a scrap of paper or in your computer. Beside each entry write one of three letters:

M – beside an activity that is your choice primarily

C – beside an activity that is someone else’s choice, but you have committed to it

U – beside an activity that is someone else’s choice for you and you did not take control over it.

At the end of a couple of days, add up how many “C’s” there are. Are they the majority? If they aren’t, then the next few blog entries may help.

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2 comments

  1. At the end of the posting did you mean to say, “If they are, then the next few blog entries may help?”

    By the way, I attended your recent training for men on this subject. The next day at work I recalled the story you relayed to us about the professor who put on the demonstration where he filled up a glass jar with big rocks and asked his students if they could get any more rocks in the jar. They said no. He then added smaller rocks to the jar, which filled up the spaces between the bigger rocks. He repeated this process several times. The point being that the big rocks must go in first or you’ll never get the smaller stuff in. I applied this simple principle at work for one week and the results were amazing. I wrote my four biggest rocks (let’s face it, we all know our big rocks) on a post-it and left it next to my computer all week. Each time I had an interruption I had to decide if I was going to allow it to take me away from my big rocks. Most of the time I politely declined to be interrupted, unless it really was an emergency. It took a lot of will power but by the end of the week I had completed all four of my big rocks, as well as some of the additional things people wanted me to do. The key to making this successful is the ability to say no; something that could be dangerous to your employment health. You see, while this principle works, many employers do not understand that it works. I’m blessed with one that does. Just make sure those with authority over you know that you are playing with big rocks and it could make you more productive and give you more time.

    Thanks for reminding me about that story.


  2. As I will outline tomorrow, the “C” answers are decisions that we each make independent of other people. In other words, these are the big rocks we have decided are most critical for our life. If they aren’t the majority, then we have trouble.

    I love your comments btw. Thanks for the testimony.



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