Can we have it all?

out of officeYou know, we can’t do it all. Not all of the time. None of us can.

Sorry to start the post with such a strong pronouncement, but I’m hoping it’s not too much of a shock for you.

I think that each of us wants to have every area of our lives sorted out beautifully all the time. Each of us is striving for:

  • Good family relationships
  • A satisfying career
  • A healthy body
  • A vibrant spiritual life
  • An exciting social calendar
  • And the ability to eat unlimited amounts of chocolate

But it’s just not possible to be there in that paradise at all times. No, not even that last point.

Not even if you quit your job and start your own business from home. Even then it’s impossible to have all of it, all of the time.

There is no silver bullet. And believe me, I’ve spent a fair bit of time searching for one.

This week’s podcast interview is with Professor Matt King, and I asked him about his work-life balance. I know that in academia, the pressure to work long hours is intense. And Matt is trying to balance that with a young family and some ministry opportunities as well.

He said something really wise.

He said, ‘I’d prefer for some parts of my career to be diminished than to just respond to the pressures of being more, more, and more. … At the moment, my personal research is taking a hit. … It’s about priorities.’

So there’s a difficult path for each of us to walk. Which thing do we compromise on right now? Which thing do we concentrate on? What is the aspect of our life that needs special attention, and what needs to be dropped lower on the list for the time being?

Perfection will come, but not until the next life. For this life we are stuck in an imperfect, fallen world and that means making some hard decisions.

I think I may be worse at this than a lot of people. I love being needed. I love it when someone sends me a text and says, ‘Can you help out?’ Whether it’s ministry or editing or just being there for a friend, I love to help out in a crisis. But this means that my schedule fills quickly, that my life gets too full, and that I run out of time for myself, for my family, for my spiritual growth. I need to continue to learn that sometimes it is important to say no.

As I write this, I am frantically working on getting all my jobs finished so that I can take two weeks of holidays next week. I haven’t had a proper holiday for a long time, so I’m really looking forward to it. And I’m intending to book this type of holiday into my schedule regularly, even if that does mean saying no to some editing jobs, or saying no to some ministry opportunities. It’s not easy, but it’s very, very important.

How do you set your priorities? Do you feel the pressure of being ‘more, more, and more’? How do you deal with it? Do you take holidays?

 

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

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When a To Do List is the Worst Thing To Do

doing your best

I got up on that awful Monday morning, got dressed and ready to go, and sat at my desk to begin my day’s work.

First, I wrote out a list of things that I needed to accomplish in the week. I usually write that in my bullet journal. I write about the projects I’m focussing on and the tasks that need to be accomplished. So the list has things like:

Write DM3 (that’s the latest novel in the Deadly Miss series that I try to write something in each day – that’s one of the project-type tasks)

and

Book car in for a service (a task that doesn’t really relate to any special project)

Then I turned to my day planner. This has the day divided into hours and I can plan my day with it, using the tasks I’ve written in my bullet journal. Having the time allocated to certain projects or tasks usually helps me to work when I need to, and to not put too many tasks into any one day.

Usually it helps me to get my work done.

Usually.

On this particular Monday morning, I finished my list in my daily planner, looked at the day and the week, and realised that I wouldn’t get it all done. Again.

I had been through many weeks like this, where there were just too many tasks for the time available. And here was another one. And I couldn’t see how the work could get done.

I couldn’t handle it.

I went to bed and cried for half an hour.

Sometimes lists are a really good idea.

Sometimes crossing the tasks off makes you feel so productive and useful.

But sometimes the list just shows up how much you’re not getting done. How far you still have to go. How overwhelming life is right now.

Sometimes a to do list is (gasp!) a bad idea.

I got out of bed eventually, and I made it through the day and through the week. But for that week I ignored the daily planner, and just worked off the list of tasks and projects in the bullet journal.

That is, I sat at my desk, knowing that I had half an hour or two hours or whatever, I looked at my lists of tasks, evaluated whether I should be doing a thinking or non-thinking task, and just had a go at whatever took my fancy.

And I got through the week. I got heaps achieved. I felt great about it.

I didn’t knock everything off my list, but for that week I went easy on myself. If I achieved anything I gave myself high praise. If I missed things, I didn’t let myself worry about it. The aim was to get through the week with my mental health intact, not to get everything done.

This week’s podcast interview is with Amber. Amber suffers from a couple of fairly severe mental illnesses and she shares with us how we can help those we know who are mentally ill. But talking with her also made me think about each of us, and how we can help ourselves stay mentally healthy.

In the same way that we eat healthy food and exercise to keep our bodies healthy, each of us can also do things that help our own mental health to stay tip top. (And, of course, in the same way that we go and see a doctor when our physical health is breaking down, any of us may, at some time, need to see a specialist about our mental health.)

Sometimes the thing we need to do is give ourselves a break, like I had to do in the ‘no to-do list’ week. Sometimes we need to put down our phones and have a break from social media for a while.

I also think it’s important to think about what we’re putting into our brains. The Good Book says, ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable –  if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.’ (Philippians 4:8) We can help ourselves to stay mentally healthy by reading good books, watching uplifting shows, talking about positive things.

What do you do to take care of your mental health? Have you had to give yourself a break at one time or another? Have you found that sometimes to do lists don’t work? What excellent or praiseworthy thing do you like to think about?

 

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Finding the Rhythm

2017-07-04 08.38.09

It’s been nearly a year now since I started working from home. Just a few weeks short of a year since I have been in charge of my own schedule.

When I started this process I was excited. I thought that if I just listened to myself, and worked out my circadian rhythm, that I could find a schedule that suited me perfectly and I would be able to work well each day, get the jobs done, and still be energetic and energised at the end of each day, and ready to go each new morning.

I thought that when I was no longer a permanently exhausted pigeon, I could figure out if I was an early bird or a night owl and run my day accordingly.

I thought that if I wasn’t squeezing myself into someone else’s schedule, that I could make it all work and be relaxed and happy about it. That I could find the perfect way to structure each day. That life would become easier to juggle.

And don’t get me wrong. I love my life. I really do. Even when I’m feeling totally challenged and busy I love my life right now. It’s great.

But I’m learning a few things about schedules.

I like schedules, I’ve written about them before. I like to have a plan, laid out, set out for me so that I know where I’m heading, what I’m doing. But if I’m not careful, that structure, that framework can become a cage. A prison with solid stone walls. And when things change – I get more work or I take up a new opportunity – then I can find myself squeezed against the bars of the schedule.

Life changes. There is a rhythm to the day, for sure. But there is also a rhythm to the week, to the month, and to the year. And I don’t know what all those are yet.

Right now it looks like winter is likely to be a busy time for my editing business. A time when I get a few extra jobs. Where there’s more to squeeze in.

In the summer I didn’t have much editing work at all. But I did a lot of writing work – producing books, marketing and rewriting, and even playing with book covers.

In the summer I worried that I would never get any editing work and that I wouldn’t make the business pay. In the winter I worry that I’ll never get my books to market, that they’ll be stuck in the editing, interior formatting, and cover design stage forever.

I think there’s a better way of living.

In the summer: to be grateful for all the writing I can do. To be busy creating. To enjoy the creative growth.

In the winter: to be grateful for the money coming in through editing, and to keep the writing just ticking slowly along, without feeling guilty for not reaching unrealistic goals.

I need to learn to live in these rhythms, not put burdens on myself that I can’t carry. I can’t keep up the amount of writing and book preparation and marketing that I did in the summer right now, because I have editing to do instead. I need to let it go a bit, allow myself to slow down. Not stop completely, but slow a bit.

I need to be more flexible, to keep the framework for sure, but to use it like a vine, weaving myself in and around it in order to grow.

I thought I could find the perfect schedule that fit everything into my life in perfect harmony, day by day, week by week. But I’m finding that is just not possible.

Instead I need to find the rhythm of my own life. Not just the daily rhythm, but weekly, monthly, and annual rhythm. Small adjustments each day depending on my energy levels, and larger adjustments as the seasons change and the workload changes with it.

The world is made with seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter. Sowing and harvest, times to work hard and times to rest. As we have sheltered ourselves from these changes using electricity to give light and heat, and big-name supermarkets to give strawberries all year round, have we lost the rhythm we need to feel for ourselves?

Do you see these rhythms in your life? How does the change in season from summer to winter affect you? (Or from winter to summer if you’re in the north.)

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

It Works!

Intro

If you’re like me, you see the amount of books and articles about how to change your life for the better and you wonder if the ‘three easy steps’ outlined therein actually work.

I mean, we all know that we are striving for a more peaceful, less busy, more organised lives. We all know that we should cut down on what we’re doing. We all know that we should rest more, simplify, find jobs that work with our personalities, remember to make time for ourselves, watch less TV, pay less attention to social media, read more, exercise more, etc.

But sometimes I wonder, does it actually work?

I mean, I wrote a whole book on saying, ‘no’. I wrote about setting priorities and about not letting the need define your response. I wrote about all sorts of good ways of getting more energy back in your life.

Some days I feel like I really need to go back and read my book again.

Others look at my life and tell me I need to go back and read my book again.

Yes, my life now is full. I have plenty to do. I have exciting projects coming out my ears. And from the outside it may look like I haven’t made any progress at all.

But I have.

And I’ll tell you how I know that.

Last weekend was one of those weekends where everything happens at the same time and you can’t spread the commitments out.

On Friday I had my parents 50th wedding anniversary. And the best way to celebrate that was to have a dinner party at our house. So we did. Eleven of us over for a candle-light dinner in my lounge room.

50th anniversary cake
The beautiful cake Elford’s Cakes made. It’s based on the original cake, of course.

On Saturday there was a book fair. Me, in a room full of people, selling my wares, giving a reading and a talk about my publishing journey, from 9 am until 5 pm.

TIA book fair
The view from my book-selling table

On Saturday evening our church had a women’s ministry evening and I offered a writing workshop as part of that. In my house.

Writers workshop
We had such a great time. The food-to-people ratio was pretty good too. 

Now, last year, any one of those events would have been enough to tire me out. And I admit that having all three of them in a row sent me into a bit of a spin. But this year it was different.

This year I could spend the time leading up to the weekend getting organised and ready. I could put some normal commitments on the back-burner and take them up again after the busy weekend was over. I arranged to have the party catered so that I didn’t have to cook, and I arranged my son and his girlfriend to clean up for me on Saturday so I came home to a clean house. I could think this all through. I had the time to think.

This year I had the time to rest afterwards.

On Sunday I chose not to go to church. I sat in bed and read a book (Katherine Scholes, The Perfect Wife, great, if you like literary fiction) and then in the afternoon Moz and I went for a drive.

This year I was fine. I could cope. I felt tired but I didn’t feel completely empty.

And today I’m ready to get back into it. To write this blog. To do my editing job. To potter around and do the banking and make dinner and do all the things I didn’t get done on the weekend, as well as the things that my work-from-home life entails.

I think that last year, or the year before, a weekend like the one just gone would have wiped me out for a week. I would have got sick. I would have used up every last bit of my resources and I wouldn’t have had time to recover.

But now, now that I’ve changed my life, I’ve made choices that work well with who I am and how I do things, now I can cope with the occasional full-on weekend. And I can cope with the rest of life as well.

I’m not perfect. My life is full. Maybe I’m still saying ‘yes’ too much and need to keep saying ‘no’ more. I know I need to keep an eye on it. I’ll need to keep an eye on it for the rest of my life. But I am improving. And my life is improving as a result.

It does work.

I’m so grateful.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Is it time to take a break?

dscf2387

Last week I took a break over the Easter weekend. You may have noticed that I didn’t post a blog. I decided to have four days off. Really off. No work, just rest, church, and family things.

What I really wanted to do was go to Pop’s shack for the weekend and blob out.

Let me explain.

When the kids were little, way back when, we had no money. We couldn’t go on holidays overseas, or even rent a motel room. But Moz’s Pop had a shack, a beach house. It was in Weymouth, a little town on the north coast of Tasmania. It had three bedrooms and a sunroom, enough for all of us, and it could stretch to fit three families if we really tried (and we did, a couple of times). It wasn’t a luxurious place by any means but there was a lovely long backyard with a BBQ, a hammock and a really old swing set. There was the shed, with tools and the dartboard. There was a lounge room where we could just hang out and play board games and watch TV. There was a kitchen to cook in and we would take up all our food for the weekend to keep the cost down.

We would head up there, leaving home straight after work (or as soon after work as possible), often arriving near midnight and carrying sleeping children in to put them to bed so that we could wake up there in the morning. There was nothing like waking up at the shack, knowing that we were on holidays now.

We would blob out. We would read, play board games, watch TV, go for walks on the beach and rides around the town on our bikes. We would head down to the local park and push the kids on the swings. We would play tennis in the town’s tennis court. Or at least something that looked a little like tennis. And we would jump over the fence of the property next to the tennis court to retrieve the balls that went astray.

In summer we would swim, and body board, and once or twice we took a boat out and went for a paddle around the estuary. The boys did a little fishing. We made sandcastles and looked at the crabs scuttling around in the mud.

In winter we would rug up and fight the icy breeze as we walked along the beach. We would pick up pebbles and skip them on the water. We would go rock-hopping.

But the big thing is, we wouldn’t feel guilty. We read magazines, ate chips and chocolate, just let all the rules go for the weekend. And we would be refreshed, rejuvenated. We would come back with all sorts of plans for regular exercise and renovations on the house, all sorts of things that we didn’t have the energy for in our everyday lives.

Pop has passed away now, and his shack has been sold. And you can’t go back to the past even if you want to, and I’m sure I’m wearing rose-coloured glasses and only remembering the best times.

But for the Easter weekend I rested the way I used to rest at the shack. I decided not to feel guilty. Just to sit, read, snack, walk on the beach, enjoy some silence and solitude (when the boys were out doing other things), pray, think, make plans.

I think that there’s more chance of my plans being put into action this year. I hope so. I’ll let you know as we go on. But one thing I know for sure: I’m very grateful for the rest. It has made a difference to the week just gone. And it will make a difference to the weeks ahead.

God made us for rest and for work. May he help each of us find that balance.

The week ahead is pretty huge, and one reason is that I’ll be at an Indie Book Fair. If you are in Hobart and you would like to come and see me and have a chat, I’ll be Hadley’s Hotel, this Saturday 4th May. Star Wars day.

I’ll be giving a talk about my journey to this work-from-home life at 1.30 pm and I’ll be reading some of my cosy mystery fiction at 11.15 am. I’ll be sitting at my table for the rest of the day (from 10 am until 5 pm) with books to sell, so please come and keep me company! I’ve got sweets to share.

There will be many other authors there as well. A couple that I can really recommend are Lindsey Little (Young Adult Fantasy), WR Gingell (Fairy Tales, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy), and Maria Grist (Tasmanian History). It’s a wide-ranging fair and it should be a lot of fun.

All the time in the world

 

I’ve just been reading (actually, listening to, but it’s the same thing) a brilliant book by Shauna Niequist called Present Over Perfect. (Incidentally, did you know that you can borrow audiobooks from the library here in Australia using the Libby app? It’s brilliant.)

In this book Shauna talks about her journey from frantic to simple. From busy to quiet. This is totally my groove, in fact, she starts her book in the same way I started My Year of Saying NO, by explaining how she wanted to tell us just how busy she was so that we wouldn’t think she was just weak, and how she decided not to because everyone’s busy is different but it’s still busy.

As I’ve been listening, I’ve been realising that I will always need to be reminded to slow down, to say ‘no’, to listen to my body, to rest. My addiction to busy-ness is real and it’s something I need to keep tabs on.

But there was one line, when Shauna was talking about prayer, that really jumped out at me. Here it is:

God has all the time in the world.

teapot and cup

Sometimes I can think of God as a very busy man up in heaven, keeping tabs on everything. I marvel at his ability to listen to so many prayers at once, and I limit my prayers so as not to take up too much of his time.

This is not a well thought-out position, it’s more a gut feeling. When I think it through I know that it’s not the case.

God made time. He exists outside of time. If he wants more time, he can just make some more.

I remember watching a program with Brian Cox where he was explaining space-time. He had a nice animation of a sausage-shaped thing all made with lasers and he told us that it was a representation of time, and for some reason he poked sticks through it at angles. I can’t remember why now. But that image of time stuck with me. If you put us in the sausage, walking along our timelines linearly, God is outside, like Brian Cox, able to interact with any moment in time.

This means that we can talk with God whenever we like, and however often we want to, and for as long as we desire. We are not ‘talking up his time’ we are not ‘getting in the way’. When God wants to spend time with us he doesn’t have to clear his desk or cancel appointments. He’s there for us, whenever we need him.

That’s why the Bible can say things like, ‘pray continually’ or ‘give thanks in all circumstances’. It’s not that God has a bunch of secretary angels filtering out the prayers so that only the important ones get to him. He has time to listen to every one of us.

He has all the time in the world, and more besides.

Then my brain flips the other way and says, ‘Well, if he has so much time, then his time is not precious, his spending time with me is not a sacrifice for him, and I’m not special’. (My brain is amazing at coming up with stupid ideas, let me tell you.)

The thing is, God did have to sacrifice so that I could have this precious gift of time with him. He didn’t have to sacrifice appointments with others, he didn’t sacrifice money-making time, or task-performing time.

What did God sacrifice?

Everything.

His life.

The whole lot.

Cross

That’s what we celebrate this Easter and every Easter. The sacrifice that God made so that we could be friends with him. More than friends, children.

His children.

His brothers and sisters.

So that’s my message today. It may be a reminder. For you it may be news for the first time.

God has all the time in the world, and he has given everything so that he can spend that time with you.

May you have a special Holy Week, and may it include lots of time spent with God.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

Overwhelm

Well, it finally happened, and it only took two and a half months. But for the first time since I went freelance I have got too busy working for myself and this weekend I found myself suffering from overwhelm.

The deadline for a big client is drawing closer and the work is increasing in panic, it was newsletter week last week for my fiction business, I’m leading church this Sunday, I’m trying to get a podcast off the ground and that means (gasp) inviting people for interviews, I know that next week a full day is taken up travelling to Launceston with Moz and while I’ve arranged that and I’m looking forward to it, Friday of this week came so quickly I didn’t even see it coming and having a four-day week for all the work next week is frankly quite scary. Not to mention all the wonderful events that I could attend (and possibly even should attend) like the People’s Library exhibition, my friend’s band gig, the Tamar Valley Writers Festival, and the author talks at my local library…

On Friday afternoon I was exhausted and I was worried. I decided that I’d have to work on the client job on the weekend. There was no way I could get everything done. The Sabbath, the rest I usually have once a week, it would just have to be put off.

On Saturday I woke up near tears.

I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t face anything. It was all too hard.

There is only one thing to do at this point. I needed a day off.

I needed to trust God that he’d take care of deadlines, that he’d look after the speed at which my businesses grows, that he had it all in hand.

And this overwhelm and tiredness wasn’t going to be solved by just any day off. There was no way I could go with a just-do-the-housework day off, or a lets-go-out-somewhere day off. I needed a real and total rest.

The weather was in my favour. It was blowing a gale and raining sideways. It was the perfect day for sitting in front of the fire and reading.

So that’s what I did. I made a fire, I found a library book about shepherding in the Yorkshire Dales that required very little emotional energy, and I sat. Later in the day as I felt better I read some of The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard and thought deep and prayerful thoughts. Then I wrote some silly poetry exercises about what I wanted to eat, and what I could hear and see outside the window. Later I watched some TV. There was a little Facebook in all that too.

Late in the afternoon we had to head down to church to set up for Sunday but that meant that I got out of the house for a short walk and that in itself was good for me.

Soup and toast for dinner and a really mindless movie topped off the day.

I found I was much more able to face things Sunday morning. The list didn’t seem so big or difficult. My energy levels had increased. I could cope again.

I am learning to budget my time so I don’t get so overwhelmed in the first place. That’s obviously the place I want to be. But I’m also learning that when I am feeling overwhelmed, sometimes I need to chuck it all and sit for a while in faith that the world will keep turning without me.

I love a quote from The Messies Manual by Sandra Felton: ‘When I works, I works hard, and when I sits, I sits loose.’ Saturday was a day for sitting loose and now I am refreshed and able to work hard again.

I know you’ve heard this sermon from me before. I’ve written a book about it, for crying out loud. I wish I could learn it so deeply that I didn’t have to relearn every few months. But for now, I’m just letting you know, I’ve learned it again.

A day off is a necessary part of every week, no matter how busy I am. I hope you can also find this rhythm of rest and work in your own life.

One thing at a time

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I can’t remember where I read this advice, and I really wish I could. It was in a book about calming your days, feeling more at peace, dealing with technology better. The advice was do one thing at a time.

I have been watching myself lately and I haven’t been following this advice.

I have been playing solitaire on my phone while watching TV.

Scrolling through Facebook while eating breakfast.

Listening to a podcast and playing solitaire while eating lunch.

I realised this was really a problem for me when I caught myself trying to play solitaire on my phone while I was reading a book. It doesn’t work.

On Sunday night I decided that I wanted to relax and just watch the program I was watching on TV. The program was Grand Designs (I’m a bit of a tragic) and you’re not going to get much out of that if you aren’t looking at the screen. You don’t see the houses.

I sat back on the couch and I watched.

It was difficult. I wanted to distract myself with my computer or my phone. But I kept at it. And it was refreshing, it really was, just to let my brain do one thing at once.

I think I need to push myself on this one.

I need to eat when I’m eating – not watch TV, not read, not scroll through Facebook. Just enjoy the food, taste it, smell it, really appreciate what I’m eating.

I need to watch TV when I’m watching, and read when I’m reading.

I need to remember to turn the wifi off when I’m writing and allow myself to sink deeply into the writing process (I am a bit better with this one).

Sometimes it’s good to do two things at once – some tasks work well together. I like listening to podcasts while walking because the story keeps me going when I would otherwise get bored and head for home. But at the same time, sometimes on my walks I need to turn the noise off and just let myself think.

I’ve been doing some data-entry work lately and listening to audio books has been great to keep me on-task. But it can’t be a book I care deeply about because if I have to think about the work at all then I miss what the narrator is saying. However, I think that the multi-tasking in that situation has worked well.

This world is so full of distractions that it is difficult to concentrate on one thing for any length of time. But I think that’s a muscle worth developing so I’m going to work harder to simplify.

Some good books on this subject are Single Tasking by Devora Zack, and Deep Work by Cal Newport. Also, at the end of Women Food and God by Geneen Roth there is a list of rules for eating which includes:

Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.

How about you? Do you love to multi-task? Are you addicted to distractions? What do you think about doing only one thing at once?

How to ask

Buy my book

Well friends, this is the last post in this Saying No series.

It’s not that I’m going to stop writing about this stuff, it seems to be something I love to explore, but I’m going to be writing about it less regularly and writing about other things more, and I’m going to give my artist a break 🙂

And of course, it’s time to write some Christmas posts, isn’t it?

I’m also going to add a little more to the saying no posts, include some thoughts that have been sparked by your comments, and wrap it all up in a ribbon and make it into a book. I’ll let you know when it’s for sale!

I’ve talked in this series about losing the ‘shoulds’, about figuring out priorities, about making rules beforehand so that we don’t have to make yes/no decisions on the fly, about pushing ourselves sometimes, and resting regularly. I want to finish with something that came up the other day when I was chatting to some good friends over lunch.

We were talking about this blog and the conversation moved to discussing methods of asking people to do things in such a way that they feel free to say no. It got me thinking about things from the other side of the fence and I thought I’d explore the idea.

An interesting thing has changed for me as I’ve been writing this series. Now, when people have asked me to do something they preface the request with ‘you can say no, but …’

‘You can say no, but would you like to come to the quiz night on Saturday?’

‘Feel free to say no, but would you like to be a part of this fundraiser?’

‘I know you’ll probably say no, but there’s a dinner on and I’d love you to come.’

It’s been wonderful. My friends are so great. They can see that I’m working on something here and they are trying to help.

Some requests are not so easy to refuse.

I think one of the worst ways of being asked is this, ‘What are you doing on March the 21st?’

This method of asking assumes that if there is nothing booked into your calendar then you are available for whatever event the person is asking you to.

However, what if there is nothing booked in your calendar because you need the day off as a rest day? Or sometimes you even need to wait and see – if the week before turns out to be huge, then maybe you need to turn the event down.

Now this is difficult, because sometimes the person asking really needs to know how many people are attending an event so that they can plan properly. And sometimes people are putting off answering because they are waiting to see if a better offer arrives, and that’s, honestly, a little rude.

Tasmanians have a dreadful habit of booking tickets to things at the very last moment. We’ve had some big name performers cancel their tours because people couldn’t make up their minds whether or not they wanted to come. I guess this is another place where there needs to be a bit of balance.

Having said that, I still think there’s a better way of asking.

How about, ‘Hey, could you check your calendar and get back to me? I’d love to invite you to this thing on March 21st if you would like to come. I need to know numbers by Feb 20th.’

Or ‘I’d really like to get together with you for dinner, I know you’re busy but I’m free on these days, would you be able to make it on any of those? Or maybe you could suggest one that works for you? I don’t mind how long I have to wait, I’d just like to spend time with you.’

Or ‘There’s this really great event happening that I’m sure you’d like. Have a think about it and get back to me.’

I can see a pattern in these invitations, they all give the invited person time to think. This may purely be my introverted nature but I really hate being put on the spot. I like to have a chance to think about anything before I give an answer. So maybe this is what we can do. Give our friends time to think and the freedom to say no without guilt. Do you have suggestions for good ways to ask? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. I pray that each of us grows in wisdom about when to say no and when to say yes so that our lives fill up with meaning, joy, and peace. And yes, feel free to say no, but when the time comes, will you consider buying my book? 🙂

Sabbath

Indispensable

When I started working at the university on short-term contracts, I had a plan. I would say yes to as many things as possible, and make myself indispensable, and then they would have to keep renewing my contracts and my employment would be as good as permanent.

I didn’t say it was a good plan.

You see the problem with thinking like that is that when the time came this year when I really needed to take a break, I didn’t feel like I could because I had made myself indispensable. I felt like things would fall over if I took so much as a week off. And so I came close to exhaustion.

I think it must be a personality-type thing for me or something. I like being friends with people, but what I really like is being needed. I love being the one people turn to in a crisis. I love it so much … until I don’t. I love it until I am tired and I really need a break but there’s no one else who can take the load.

It’s pride, people. Plain and simple.

None of us can carry that burden.

I’m not meant to be the one solving everyone’s problems. I am not meant to be the sole provider of friendship to people, or the sole dispenser of wisdom. It works much better if everyone does their little bit than if I feel (even mistakenly) that it all depends on me.

One of the things that can help stop me from continually falling into this trap is the practice of regularly taking one day off a week. It’s a discipline that helps put everything back into order. That gives a regular reset of the brain.

When I was working full-time, a Sabbath for me meant a day when I didn’t do any paid work. I would make sure I didn’t do any work at all on that day as a statement of faith that God would either make it ok that the work didn’t get done, or make me cope with the fact that disaster happened.

It was amazing how little disaster actually happened. In fact, I can’t think of one time when taking a whole day off work for the week led to a crisis. What it usually led to was a rested, more competent, more peaceful me. And that was a very good thing.

Now that my ‘work’ consists of two days paid work and the rest of the time trying to get my own business off the ground I think I might find it a little harder to take a break. Harder to trust that it will all be ok. But I want to all the same. Because I want to remember that it’s not all about me, about my business. I don’t want to disappear into the rabbit hole of entrepreneur burnout.

So what does a Sabbath, a weekly day off, look like?

I don’t believe that a Sabbath needs to always be taken on a Sunday. I don’t think that we need to spend the day sitting quietly and reading religious texts. I love the idea of preparing meals and such beforehand and not doing any work at all but I don’t think that is achievable for most of us, and for some of us doing housework and cooking is a way to relax – a different way of being than we have for the rest of the week at work.

When Moz and I were doing missions training (back in the day, before we were married) we took Sundays off. We would go to an early church service and then we would just spend time together, chatting, maybe exploring the neighbourhood. We didn’t even have to cook meals because we were living in a missions community. It was a true day off.

Last Saturday for me the day off meant that I did a whole lot of washing, and went grocery shopping, and spent a few hours in the kitchen cooking up a proper meal for my family. I tried out a couple of new recipes and I enjoyed the creativity. I read a book. And I topped the day off by watching a mindless chick-flick.

Eugene Peterson describes his Sabbath in his book ‘The Pastor’. When he was a pastor he would take a day off each Monday, and he wrote to his congregation to explain what he was doing and why. He and his wife would pack a lunch and go for a bush walk each Monday (or a hike I guess, he was in America, here in Australia we would call it a bush walk). For the morning they would walk in silence, just taking the time to process the week that had come before. But when they broke for lunch they would talk to each other and they would keep talking all the way home.

Kris Rusch just happened to talk about her weekly day off in her blog this week. She writes that she takes the day off from work and that she has a no screen rule with that day off. ‘No email, no iPad, no laptop.’ She writes. ‘Phone with me but set on do not disturb except for the handful of people who call in for an emergency.’ She also writes, by the way, that once she started doing this kind of resting her productivity increased because her stress levels went down.

Perhaps if you are parents of small children your day off would include meeting another family at a park for a play – or possibly taking your kids to one of those indoor play centres so that you can sit and read with a nice coffee. Perhaps it means using disposable nappies for one day a week so that you can take one day off the washing.

There are many options and it’s not a one-size-fits-all deal. But however you put it together, I encourage you to take time off somehow to rest and rejuvenate each week.

How do you take a day off? What would your perfect Sabbath look like? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

This is the second-last of these posts on Saying No. But the blog will continue afterwards, don’t worry. If you would like to make sure you never miss a post then feel free to sign up here on WordPress. If you would like to read my regular newsletter about my novel writing then drop me a line at rijamos@gmail.com. And the amazing work of our artist Caleb is always available on instagram @deteor42.