Because How You Spend Your Days Is How You Spend Your Life

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. – Annie Dillard

I love that Annie Dillard quote because it both reminds me of what’s true and challenges me to live differently.

So a question for you: how are you spending your days?

In my experience, very few of us are in balance. Tell me if this isn’t true in your experience:

Most of us either run too fast or don’t run fast enough.

I tend to run too fast. Work energizes me (for the most part) and having a variety of high intensity projects and challenges on my plate is something deeply attractive to me.

I also see leaders who perhaps aren’t running fast enough. I’m not talking about getting out of balance (I admire people who keep their lives balanced), but I’m talking about people who are, well, a bit lazy. (I appreciate this simple definition of laziness: Laziness is resting when you’re not tired.)

Running too fast and not running fast enough have shadow sides. We miss out when we’re out of balance.

Here are six unintended casualties of mismanaging your time, 3 for those of us who run too fast, and 3 for those who don’t run fast enough.

Those of us who run too fast suffer from at least three casualties

1. Intimacy. Intimacy never happens in a hurry. If you are going to build a relationship with God that is deep and rich, you can’t do it on 90 seconds a day. Ditto for your spouse by the way. Speed dating can’t sustain a relationship. If you desire a deep relationship with your Heavenly Father, your spouse, your kids or your best friends, you need to slow down and savour the time you have with them.

2. Kindness. I’m at my least kind when I’m running too fast. Traffic irritates me. I have little time for anyone who needs grace. I skim over complex issues. I am at my most kind when I have the most margin. I am least kind when I have the least margin.

3. Joy. Most of us who run too fast skip joy. We just don’t have time for it. Joy is often found in the unhurried moments – the smile of a baby, the party after the victory, the still delight of watching the sun set, a prayer time that went deeper than you expected. Joy is an emotion that rarely surfaces among the over-committed.

It would be easy to think the answer is for all of us to slow down. And for some of us, that’s exactly it.

But slow down too much and you lose again.

Here’s what those who don’t run fast enough miss:

1. Potential. In the same way that’s it’s heartbreaking for a parent to watch a child never realize his or her potential, it must be heartbreaking for God to see people he created never realize their potential (or even try to realize it). You were created for a purpose – to glorify God. I agree with Paul in Romans 12 that every believer is to release the full potential of the spiritual gifts they possess, whatever they are.

2. Accomplishment. I want the world  to be a better place because I was here, even if that’s in a very small way. Even if that only gets as far as my wife, children and friends, I will have accomplished something worthwhile. I don’t think God created me (or you) to simply indulge want we want, but to accomplish something God himself desires.

3. Satisfaction. When you miss your potential and accomplish little, you also miss out on feeling the satisfaction that comes with achieving what you were designed to achieve. There is dignity and self-respect that comes with accomplishment, and a satisfaction in hearing “well done”.  This is something I especially long for younger leaders to experience (I wrote about younger leaders getting labeled as slackers here).

So how are you running these days? Too quickly? Too slowly?

What will you do to adjust your pace?

Because how we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives.

11 Comments

  1. […] 6 Unintended Casualties of Mismanaging Your Time […]

  2. Chris Shumate on April 15, 2013 at 9:03 am

    I tend to run too fast, then stop suddenly, rarely slowing down, just simply stop. Case in point, I’m workin on two book projects and getting frustrated about the feedback process. I honestly feel like giving up. If I do though, I accomplish nothing.

    • cnieuwhof on April 15, 2013 at 10:23 am

      Chris…keep going man. Keep going! I think most of us are most tempted to quit moments before our critical breakthrough.

  3. Brent Dumler on April 14, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    I really love this topic. Early in ministry I used to run, run, run until I practically ended up in the hospital. But I’ve learned some hard lessons. Now I focus on planning for margin and rest. 90% of the time, my ‘day off’ is really my day off with a Sabbatical-type rest. Also, I am learning more and more how to protect my ‘down time.’ So, dinner time with my family only happens when our phones are muted, TV is off, and the dog is outside. I’m at a pretty nice pace currently, but it’s about to get more busy.

    • cnieuwhof on April 15, 2013 at 10:23 am

      Great insight Brent. Downtown used to be off time. Now my office is in my pocket or in my hand. So true!

  4. jandvicki on April 14, 2013 at 6:41 am

    Carey
    Thanks so much for this post. Too often I feel as leaders we are either rebuked or admonished for running too fast, working too hard, or simply being too focused. Your post reminds us, great leaders know how to balance between steady pace and enjoying life. My mission statement is 1 word “Always” In that mission statement I list my “Always” items 2 of which are; “Always work hard” and “Always take vacation.”
    Thanks again for good leadership substance

    J

    • cnieuwhof on April 15, 2013 at 10:22 am

      I love that. Always work hard. Always take a vacation. Great thought!

  5. Tim Ritter on April 13, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    So true

  6. Chad Billington on April 13, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    That does it, I’ve read enough of your blog posts that I’ve made a decision. I subscribed by email. Carey, that was another great set of thoughts. I appreciate your honesty and reflectiveness. (Good definition of laziness by the way too.)

    This is only the second blog I’ve ever subscribed to. I look forward to the reading (and discussion).

    Thanks.

    • cnieuwhof on April 15, 2013 at 10:22 am

      Chad…that’s a high compliment and high responsibility. Thank you. I hope this community and the content helps grow all of us!

      • Chad Billington on April 16, 2013 at 9:06 pm

        It is a compliment that is deserved. I’m grateful my wife ran across you at the Orange Conference a few years ago. Hope I can lend some thoughts to the community here as well in time. Looking forward to where we go.

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