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Jesus Creed


Ordering a Day

posted by xscot mcknight

I don’t know how you are, and I really don’t know how important this is, but when it comes to a day and I’ve got a few errands or chores to do, the question becomes this one: Do I do the chore as early as possible so that I clear the schedule or do I do my normal tasks and then do the errand or chore later in the day? Here’s how I do it:
As soon as possible.
On a Friday afternoon I realized that we would be gone Saturday and Sunday and it dawned on me that the grass would get too long. So, at about 4:30 I mowed the grass. While I was mowing behind our garage I realized that I had never mowed back there in the evening because … you guessed it … I always mow as early in the morning as the weather permits. Which means, when I take my first study break — say somewhere between 9 and 10am, I see if the grass is dry enough to be mowed.
This got me to thinking about when to do errands … like mowing and going to the bank or to the post office or to the cleaners. I don’t like to have those things hanging over my head during the day, so I do them early and (as we say in Chicago) often and then I have the rest of the day’s schedule clear.
How about you? What’s the wisdom here? Am I giving up my best hours for errands in exchange for tranquility?



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Diane

posted September 11, 2007 at 4:34 am


Interesting question and I may start a firestorm with my answer. The dilemma: risking using your “best” energy doing mundane tasks that nag at you. I have limited energy and want to make sure I can get done what’s “really important.” So how to determine what is really important to do first? Now for the firestorm part: when I have my wits about me, I stop and pray about it. And yes, even though I will undoubtedly be sneered at, I do think God provides guidance in this kind of minutiae when I stand back and ask. What happens is not news but ridiculously and boringly commonplace: when I try to control everything, I run out of steam. When I follow God’s rhythms, even though sometimes I question them, I get things done. This started for me when my twins were babies and I happened to read a book by Henri Nouwen about prayer. I had felt in a state of being torn between the babies constant need for being held and the need to attend to at least basic sanitation in the house. The prayer was so helpful it was revelatory: it was almost always hold the babies (put people first) and when I did, eveything was OK. But now the ordering of events varies day to day, and I realize over a week’s time (more or less) I’ll get things done. But if only I could remember this rule about prayer more consistently …



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Diane

posted September 11, 2007 at 4:37 am


Oh and Scot,
To my mind, tranquility is highly underrated. I would go for the tranquility! Especially as you apparently seem to get things done.



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Diane

posted September 11, 2007 at 5:02 am


After praying of course!



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Jason Dye

posted September 11, 2007 at 6:41 am


voting is the only thing that happens early and often in Chicago. and that’s no mundane task around these parts!



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Duane Young

posted September 11, 2007 at 6:52 am


This post reminds me of that wonderful old question I have often pondered, “Does a well ordered life derive from well ordered days, or do well ordered days derive from a well ordered life?”



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RJS

posted September 11, 2007 at 7:23 am


General rule: To each his or her own. But I find that details – some important and many more rather picayune (does a clean desk really matter?) – will consume my day and my best energy if I let them. Make time for the “big” things (God, people, projects of lasting import, provision for family) first – and let the rest fit in if possible. (And avoid committees at all costs?)



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Jim Martin

posted September 11, 2007 at 8:02 am


Scot,
For me, my best study is done in the mornings so I try to hold off on errands until after lunch. If I meet someone for lunch, I will often go by the bank,etc. on the way back to the office. Otherwise, I will typically stop by the cleaners, store, etc. on the way home from work.
That seems to work best for me. One reason why I do the errands like this is because in earlier years, I found that I would often run errands to avoid other (often more important) tasks that I did not want to do.



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My 2 cents

posted September 11, 2007 at 8:07 am


I think you are dancing around attribution theory of behavior. Art Linkletter used to use it. Also, Monte Hall: he would open the purses of women in the audience to see how neatly their belongings were kept. He attributed neat purse with a neat life and vice versa. I think it sounds like a version of: work first, then play! I’m all for that! I usually bunch the errands up in the middle of the day, then I have fun-duty/work-fun!



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Dianne

posted September 11, 2007 at 8:41 am


I like what Diane said about “When I follow God’s rhythms” – I am finding that to be true in my life.
And . . . if you have “things” hanging over your head, can you really experience tranquility? So for you, it seems to make sense to get those things out of the way.
When I taught cable instructors several years ago, we always told them with regards to ordering their workload for the day, to get the mindless stuff out of the way first, so as to be mentally ready for any problems that might arise with the bigger jobs. I thought that was helpful but really I think it depends on each person’s personality. I tend to produce better at the midnight hour!



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Mark

posted September 11, 2007 at 8:51 am


I do not like a lot of things especially smaller items hanging over my head. When I have a long list, it can seem overwhelming so it helps me to get some small, quick victories done to help create some momentum. Some leadership stuff that I’ve read suggests saving your energy for the big stuff and do those first but I find that sometimes if I have a lot of smaller items I can be distracted so I get those done especially if I can four or five small things done quickly.
However, sometimes when I have one big project that needs to have major work done (like a writing project, which I may enjoy doing once I get started by don’t enjoy getting started), I get started with the idea that these smaller items can serve as things to do when I need a break.
Anyway, works for me. We do try to teach our kids the difference between “pay now-play later” and “play now-pay later.”
In Christ,
Mark



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Pat

posted September 11, 2007 at 9:08 am


I think it all has to do with our body clocks and whether we are a morning or a night person. I prefer to get things out of the way so I have the rest of the day to myself! I have the most energy in the mornings also, so better to complete tasks then!



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brett jordan

posted September 11, 2007 at 11:30 am


i’ve developed a clumsy saying that goes:
“If it is definitely going to need to be done, and you can do it now, do it now.”
like all maxims/proverbs, it has exceptions… but not very many



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theonlypj

posted September 11, 2007 at 1:36 pm


Here in Texas, anything that requires you to be outdoors is to be done before 10 AM or after 6 PM…lest you burst into flames, drown in sweat, or incur heat stroke.



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steph

posted September 11, 2007 at 1:46 pm


it depends where the errand is in proximity to the coffeeshop, and if it’s chilly enough for a latte, or warm enough for an iced coffee, as they are best consumed at different hours of the day.
i’m kidding.
mostly.



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John W Frye

posted September 11, 2007 at 2:47 pm


You may be the kind of person who hears the nagging voice that says “You’ve got errands to run” when you try to put them off until later. You want to be able to engage that long period of work in silence, without hearing that voice, so you get them done as soon as possible. Get the stuff out of the way so that you can get to the real good stuff. You could reframe the errands as “real good stuff” and then all the day would be tranquil.



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My 2 Cents

posted September 11, 2007 at 3:47 pm


“…lest you burst into flames…” I think I’d definitely change when I did the errands based on that fireswamp!



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Ted M. Gossard

posted September 11, 2007 at 4:14 pm


I would guess if I had that luxury, I would do my work in the morning. In the afternoon I’m really zombied out, it’s my worst part of the day. So that is a good brain-dead time to do some errands. But that’s me. Then after a cat-nap, I’d be back at it again, fresh as I can be for an afternoon (with some more caffeine, probably!).
Of course it’s easy to say that, but I don’t do it, so who’s to know what I’d do. Your plan sounds good to me.



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Heather

posted September 11, 2007 at 5:12 pm


Like you, Scot, I prefer to just get everything out of the way as soon as possible, especially regarding “mindless” tasks that just hang over my head until they’re done. And I honestly cannot do anything effective study-wise with a cluttered desk! However, if some more important activity must be done, I simply have to ignore the voices and put off the smaller errands for later. =)



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J.W.

posted September 11, 2007 at 5:27 pm


Work before you play! That’s the way my parents raised me and I have to say I’ve held onto that. I actually don’t know any other way to do stuff (“mundane” things of life).



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Alice

posted September 11, 2007 at 5:39 pm


This is the kind of issue that I thought plagued women’s minds more than men’s … especially working moms. My older kids are now in school from about 7:30 – 4 or later, depending on after-school sports. So … I strategically try to use that time to get most everything done, so I don’t have to do work-work or house-work when they are with me. Because I work from both home and church, I strategically plan errands around the drive to and from both places, as well as any driving I have to do related to my kids. Therefore, many errands get done throughout the day, rather than at one specific time.
Each day I have to decide what are the “must do” things that must take first priority, no matter what …sometimes that is a specific errand (i.e. “Mom, I need black dress slacks for TONIGHT’S orchestra concert!”) and sometimes that is a large chunk of time set aside to read, pray and study for a class I’m teaching later in the week or a sermon I’m giving on Sunday.
The whole day feels like a constant strategic maneuver … constant assessment, constant analysis of travel plans and potential synnergistic errands that could occur if I take just the right route. Constant assessment of the “best” use of my very limited time.
Sometimes I grow weary of this and wish for a different pace. Sometimes I find myself energized by it all. But mainly, I do all of it because I either love the people I’m doing errands for, or I love the God I’m serving … none of it seems like second-rate work.
I think it was Eugene Peterson in “Under the Predictable Plant” who wrote that once he finally realized that his daily to-do lists were holy … it changed everything. This helps me … errands are as holy as studying for a sermon … ahhhhh.
Glad to know men have to navigate this whole mental exercise, too.



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Peggy

posted September 11, 2007 at 6:03 pm


Ah, yes…I live by this sequence of quetions: Does this need to be done right now? Does this need to be done today? Does this need to be done before the kids get home? Does this need to be done before tomorrow morning? And of course, the last question is: Does this need to be done…ever? Because, where I am, if the answer to that last question is NO…it gets crossed off my list. ;)
The day may come when I do not live this way, but that is not today…and I’m with Diane (no surprise there) that God lives through each day and all its chores–and somehow it all works out.



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Mariam

posted September 11, 2007 at 6:06 pm


I usually put things off that don’t have to be done right away and as a result my grass is two feet long. I think you have the right idea Scot. I want to be more like you.



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Rob Witham

posted September 11, 2007 at 7:14 pm


I normally prefer to accomplish errands and minor details as early as possible to free my day for larger projects. Of course, I also hate scheduling more than one major project per day… I do make exceptions when weather, etc is involved. Some things (like mowing, outdoor work) are just better coordinated around bigger things than me!



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tony

posted September 11, 2007 at 9:33 pm


The most effective summer I had with ordering my life was after my first year of seminary. After reading St Benedict’s rule, I decided I would do study in the morning and physical labor in the afternoon. I studied from 7-12 and then did chores around the house, ran errands, and cooked meals. It was a great balance…and my wife loved it!



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TDMiekley

posted September 11, 2007 at 10:45 pm


Einstein slept 11 hours each day. Relgious Korean people have ‘Morning Prayer’ that starts at 4:00 AM and goes till 6:oo AM. They set their whole day’s ‘to do list’ around their Morning Prayer. The average person watches four hours of TV each day. The reason I am sharing this is because for each person, they balence their day differently, finding an importance to their days activities. As long as we take time each day to spend in the presence of God (not like a check list deal) but really spend time with God, to each their own. Just my two cents.



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Mark

posted September 12, 2007 at 8:11 am


Another important principle for me:
You lack of planning does not constitute my emergency.
Shalom.
In Christ,
Mark



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brett jordan

posted September 12, 2007 at 8:22 am


nice mark, i’m going to design that on to a t-shirt



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Eileen Warren

posted September 12, 2007 at 12:17 pm


Hey scot,
A book I have enjoyed reading by Ronald Rolheiser; The Shattered Lantern, Crossroad Publishing Company, 2004, has this to say on pg. 23; “There is a huge gap between what we are aware of and what is available for us to be aware of. The quality and depth of our ordinary experience in general determine our awareness or non-awareness of GOD. We can be asleep or awake to where GOD appears.
Is it the order we do things or the awareness of God in the things we do that is important? Is the question not when do I do my chores but do I bring God along? Could it be that doing a simple chore could hold the most important thing you did today?



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