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The Proper Order

The first step in dealing with stress is to teach yourself to take it to the right place.  The fact is, stress will come.  But what you do with it will determine if it will work for you or overwhelm you.

As soon as you recognize stress building inside of you, the first thing you should do is take it to God.  Ask for His help, His strength, and the wisdom to see His expectations above everyone else’s.  Don’t turn to the usual sources that numb your mind:  TV, video games, the Internet, or anything else.  Put first things first, and let God enliven you, strengthen you, encourage you, and set you back on the right course.

But even dealing with stress in this way can be a “Quadrant 1” activity.  The stress has already begun to overwhelm you, and you’re running to God in need of rescue.  The great news is, He’s always there to lift you up.  But He also gives us great wisdom in His word about how to manage our time, so the stress isn’t an issue to begin with.

“See then that you walk circumspectly (carefully, vigilantly, with close attention), not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”  (Ephesians 5:15-16)

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”  (Luke 14:28)

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  (Matthew 6:33)

We have to be wise in how we live, being careful to redeem the time we’ve been given, and not filling them with trivial, unimportant tasks that distract us from our true call and purpose.  Start planning out your schedule with intentionality, a week in advance.  I like to create my schedule on Sunday nights to help me prepare and focus for the week ahead.

Scheduling Tips…
  1. Start your schedule by writing out all of your priorities and roles and responsibilities.  Of course, you should start with your relationship to God, and then, if you’re married, follow with your spouse, your children, yourself, your job, your church, your personal ministry or calling, your friends, your parents and siblings, and any other areas where you need to give your attention on a weekly basis.  Take those priorities and write them in order from greatest to least.
  2. Now begin to think about the next seven days.  What key tasks do you need or want to accomplish in each area of your responsibilities over the next week?  Write them down in order of priority.  Then begin to fill out your schedule.
  3. You should fill your schedule with as many “Quadrant 2” activities as you can.  Focus on preparation, relationships, planning, and building (that’s the only way you’ll see your dreams realized, after all).  The beauty about these kinds of tasks (as opposed to deadline-oriented Quadrant 1 activities) is that after your scheduled time, you can stop and move on to the next thing without the stress of failure.  Good things take time and are worth doing right.
  4. You may also like to color code your schedule according to the role or responsibility it falls under.  This will help you identify quickly what items take priority over other ones, and will help you identify and cut out insignificant activities (Quadrants 3 and 4).
  5. Make sure you also schedule in time off.  Schedule family time.  Schedule time for yourself and time for God.  Willard Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs, recommends at least 15 hours of focused time each week to develop and maintain a healthy married, and he recommends just as many hours of focused time with your children.
  6. God recommends, or rather commands, that we take a full day each week just for rest, for connecting with Him, and for enjoying our families.  We’ll talk about that more in the next section, but before we get there, take some time to look at the sample schedule below and download the template for yourself.
Weekly Planner Template and Sample...

Here are some sample templates, prepared in Microsoft Excel, including an example planner that could represent a normal week for me as a pastor and ministry leader, when I'm not traveling or hosting a special event.  Obviously, this will look much different for each one of you, with different priorities, family and career responsibilities (it may also look completely different from week to week), but these tools will help you organize and prioritize your life to reduce stress and protect valuable time for the things where it's needed most.


Get Your House In Order...

Finally, as you get your schedule in order, get your house and your office in order at the same time.  I know, for some of you this can be an overwhelming task in itself, but having a clean and orderly environment can alleviate much stress and make the tasks we have a lot easier and more joyful to accomplish.  If you need to de-clutter, go ahead and put that on your schedule right now before we continue.

Continue to Rest ->
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