Two weeks ago, I administered my final final. Within an hour after I collected the last paper, I was headed to Connecticut to pick up my daughter from college. A week later, after grading those finals and calculating and entering final grades, I left for a writing conference at which I presented two workshops.
I think it’s safe to say that life is busy.
Although I wouldn’t have chosen to cram quite so much stuff into so little space (a recurring theme!), it’s all stuff I either want to do (see my daughter, go to the writing conference) or accept that I have to do (grade papers, give finals, calculate grades). Meanwhile, regular life tasks remain on the list as well.
Though I can’t say times like this aren’t stressful, I’ve learned that they are manageable with a few key strategies.
Focus. Make lists by due date, color-code them, create a big calendar — whatever works best for your styles — but do make a list. This is not the time to keep track of things in your head. Then prioritize in a deliberate manner. Create your Big 3 for each day (or each morning and afternoon, if necessary), set things up by due dates — again, whatever works. Best part? Cross each thing off (or erase it, if you’re a whiteboard fan like I am) as you accomplish it.
Take strategic breaks. No matter how long the list, you can’t work 24/7. Spend some breaks doing things that need to be done but aren’t as urgent (cooking dinner and doing laundry never looked so good!) just to change your focus for a bit, but don’t forget to give your body and brain a real break as well. It can feel counterintuitive to stop working when there is still a lot to do, but the goal is to keep the momentum going. When you feel yourself stalling or getting cranky, you need a break.
Don’t forget the basics. Eat. Sleep. Talk to actual human beings. Burying yourself in work is exhausting. Recharging physically and socially is essential to both physical and psychological fitness.
Trust that God has this. Some days, I try to force my agenda through, even when doing so goes about as smoothly as fitting an elephant through a straw. On the days that I give my days to God before they get interrupted, I’m better able to handle the moments (or hours … or more) that fail to go according to plan, and to trust that I am where I’m supposed to be, even if I’m not where I planned to be.
Today, as I contemplate coming out on the other side of deadline after deadline, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in the past three weeks. What lies ahead is busy, but less intense, and I’m certain it’s within my grasp.
Especially after some family time and a night out with friends.
Copyright 2018 Lisa Hess