Time is what we want most, but what we use worst. — William Penn
Whenever I go grocery shopping, I try to carry every bag from the car to the house in one trip. I’ve always been this way. Back when my husband and I lived in a basement apartment and our first child, Kathrynne, was just a baby, I would always play macho-woman when it came to wrangling grocery bags. I’d make the long trek from the parking lot to the apartment with one hand holding Kathrynne’s car seat carrier and every available centimeter of finger space on the other hand gripping the enormous load of shopping loot. My fingers and arm would cry out in pain under the load. I usually barely made it in the front door without dropping at least one bag. But I didn’t care. I was determined to get the whole load into the house in one trip.
Apparently I’m not the only one who does this, as I recently found a cartoon on Pinterest with a stick figure trying to finagle about fifteen grocery bags. The caption underneath read, “Two trips are for pansies.” I posted this cartoon on my Money Saving Mom® Facebook page, and thousands of women agreed they have the same mentality.
This grocery-bag juggling act reminds me how often we try to load up our schedules with an unbearable weight of things, even ones that are good.
We try so hard to do everything at once. In addition to caring for our families and our jobs, we say yes to the bake sale, yes to the PTA meeting, yes to lunch with our neighbors, yes to another work project, yes to hosting dinner for three families from church, yes to planning that party, and yes to leading that small group. Often we feel like if we say no or drop the ball, the ship’s going to go down. But in reality, the only thing that’s going down is our own sanity! Here’s the deal.
Just like it’s crazy to try to carry thirteen bags of groceries into the house in one trip, it’s equally ridiculous to try to say yes to everything.
We can choose to make two or three trips to bring in all the groceries. It might take a little more time, but at least you won’t drop any bags or snap your back out of place. That double-bagged gallon of milk won’t go sour if you leave it in the trunk for a couple more minutes. (But be sure to get the ice cream!)
Pick and Choose the Best Stuff
Living with purpose means wisely choosing and committing to a few of the best things for the season of life you’re in. These top priorities will comprise what we’re going to call your best stuff list — the list of things you will intentionally wrap your life, time, and energy around right now. How do you figure out what should be on your best stuff list? To get you started, refer to the personal priorities list you created in the previous chapter [of my book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode]. Your best stuff list will be directly connected to what you wrote down.
Take your personal priorities list, and flesh it out to determine your full-fledged best stuff list.
Not only will this exercise give you clearer direction for where you should be focusing your time and effort, but it will also enable you to make wiser decisions on what you need to cut from your life and schedule.
If you have two young children and another one on the way, you may need to focus more on your family than adding a three-day-per-week volunteer job. If you are focused on completing your MBA, redecorating your home likely isn’t going to be at the top of your list. Now, does this mean you can’t ever do anything that’s not related in some way, shape, or form to your best stuff list? Of course not! But saying yes to the best means focusing and streamlining your time, energy, and efforts on what matters most at the time. I’ll share my best stuff list with you as an example (you’ll notice that this is just my personal priorities list a little more in-depth).
- Have a strong and vibrant relationship with the Lord. As a Christian, my relationship with the Lord is my number one priority. God’s grace is what sustains and strengthens me and gives me hope and joy. Spend thirty minutes reading the Bible and praying first thing in the morning. Read spiritually uplifting books, and regularly attend our local church.
- Maintain a wonderful relationship with my husband. It’s the little things that keep the spark alive in a marriage. Flirt with my husband at least once a day. Take time to discuss disagreements and sort through conflict. Set aside time every day to spend as a couple. Plan at least one monthly date where we leave our children and go out to dinner or do something fun together.
- Spend quality and quantity time with my children. Next to God and my husband, my children are my top priority. In addition to reading, teaching, discipling, and playing with them, spend at least fifteen minutes with each child one-on-one every day. Take each child on an outing every few weeks.
- Nurture my body and soul. If I’m exhausted and burned out, I’m not a good wife and mom. Try to exercise at least four hours each week. Get at least seven hours of sleep every night, drink a lot of water, and eat at least one big salad every day. Improve my mind by reading and learning new things. Go somewhere alone for at least a few hours each week to get refreshed.
- Write, speak, and manage my blog and business. God has blessed my blog far beyond what I would have ever imagined. I want to wisely steward the platform He has given me and be faithful to using my gifts and passion to encourage, inspire, and bless others. Invest a significant portion of time each week to blogging, managing my team, preparing for upcoming events, and brainstorming new business ideas and strategies. Travel a few times each month for speaking engagements and other business opportunities.
My best stuff list might seem overwhelming to you or filled with items that aren’t important to where you are in life. Don’t worry about it. Our lives are different! One thing our lists should have in common, though, is their long-term values.
For me, this list reflects what will matter to me in twenty-five years. Yours should too!
Remind yourself that there are seasons of life. Your children are only young once. You will eventually graduate from college. You won’t indefinitely train for a marathon. You have your whole life before you to take on some of the other things. In the meantime, align your time with the best. Pace yourself. Be strategic (even ruthless) in how you manage your day. Then you’ll be able to enjoy the journey of life instead of struggling under the weight of carrying all those proverbial bags of groceries.
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What is on your Best Stuff List? Come join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you!