See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
Some days are just plain overwhelming, aren't they? You wake up to a demanding day with a task list that would make a Navy SEAL during BUD/S training look like they are on vacation. You probably always feel busy, in one way or another, but on those crazy days, you feel insanely overworked. You spin from one chore to the next, sometimes not able to quite finish it before you have to drop it and move on to the next.
How can you handle days like that? How can you live your crazy-busy day with passion, purpose, and productivity? How can you be happy and find joy in the midst of these kinds of days? How can you plan your day God's way?
I suggest that, on days like this, you take a ten-minute time out to stop and look over your task list, considering each item based on the nature of its consequences. What you will find is that there are tasks that you can leave undone and others that you absolutely must not. The key is to discern the difference. But how can you do this?
How To Wisely Prioritize Your To-Do List
1. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom.
Ephesians 5:15-18 reminds us that we need to live wisely, redeeming the time because the days are evil, and that the only way we can possibly accomplish this challenging task is if we understand what the will of the Lord is. For this, we need to be filled with the Spirit and consciously living our lives under His control so that we won't waste our days under the control of things which cause dissipation.
When we understand the will of the Lord, we gain all kinds of wisdom about our priorities for the day and for our lives.
2. Consider the consequences of the things we do each day.
One of the ways we can live wisely, understanding the will of the Lord, is by contemplating our list of tasks in the light of their impact on our lives, both temporal and eternal. Here is a simple rubric for determining which tasks should get priority based on the consequences of leaving them undone.
A--Absolutely must be done. Awful consequences if left undone.
B--Better do. Bad to mild consequences if left undone.
C--Could do. But could skip or procrastinate. No real consequences if left undone.
D--Delegate. This task doesn't require you.
E--Eliminate. Not essential to your life. Extraneous.
In your mind, you should draw a clear line of demarcation between A-B-C tasks and D-E tasks in your mind.
E tasks and D tasks don't really need to be done, or at least not by you. E tasks could actually harm you if you do them. D tasks don't help you.
Next, think of the A-B-C tasks as "good-better-best."
C tasks are good and if you are able to do them, that's fine. But you want to postpone them until your other work is done.
B tasks are better. By all means, do them whenever possible.
A tasks are the best things to focus on. You MUST do these things. Leaving them undone can bring tragic consequences. Many of these bring tragic spiritual consequences in your life or in others' lives.
For busy moms, it is helpful to think these things through in advance. Some things are always A tasks. Other things will always be E tasks.
But often the tasks on our to-do list change rank on us. Putting gas in the car when the tank is half full is probably a C task for that day. It might even be an E task, depending on what else is on your list. But putting gas in the car when you are on an eighth of a tank has just moved up to become an A task.
It is helpful even to rank your morning and evening routine tasks by using these preset labels. In my morning routine, I have things like Bible reading (A task), Exercise (B task), Overseeing kids' chores (B task), and Reading a good book (C task). When my morning routine gets shortened because of time constraints, I know exactly which tasks to treasure and which to toss into the harbor like over-taxed tea. This is supremely helpful.
Take a look at your to-do list for the day. What can you do to eliminate, delegate, and procrastinate in order to bring your focus back to the things you truly need to do?
3. Remember the One Needful Thing.
And please, remember the words of our Lord to Martha when she asked Him to encourage Mary to stop sitting at His feet listening to Him and instead come help her serve: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41-42).
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Laura Berrey and her husband Tim are missionaries with Gospel Fellowship Association. They share a passion for missions which has taken them to several countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. They currently minister in the Philippines.