The idea that we must use time effectively and have a plan that occupies every minute of every day does not mean that we are always busy with tasks. Many people who see me from a distance or who receive my advice about linking time to goals often assume that I advocate perpetual activity. But those who know me well know that while I am a firm believer in planning the use of every hour of the day, that includes planning to do nothing.
Gordon MacDonald wrote a book some years ago “Ordering Your Private World” and in his book he made a distinction between being “called” and being “driven.” That distinction helped me understand that it is not healthy to pursue even laudable goals in a way that ignores personal needs, responsibilities of relationships and the need to be reflective. This is what he called being “driven.” So many people are so driven to reach goals and attain success that they ruin their own lives and destroy the lives of those who are close to them. The alternative understanding offered in the book is that we are all “called” to a purpose and that calling should embrace self-nurture and maintaining healthy relationships. Passionate pursuit of a mission that is all consuming need not conflict with personal growth and reflection.
When we develop our time charts or our personal schedules the key is to actually schedule time for that. If we use every minute of every day for tasks, we leave no time for thoughts or plans about those tasks. If we are completely consumed with helping others, we run the risk of doing too little for ourselves.
If one were to look in on my schedule, one would notice three types of “do nothing” times. The first is time to do nothing important or significant. This is time that I watch movies, read books or magazines or participate in some leisure or recreational activity that has nothing to do with my work. These activities give me a mental break. The second is time when I do nothing physical but I spend time reflecting and planning my work. This is time that I make plans for the church, my businesses, my family or myself. During this time I appear to be doing nothing but I am really doing nothing that others want me to do – responding to their needs. In my business there is always something I could be doing to help someone else. The third “do nothing time” is literally spent doing nothing at all. Some might call this meditation and sometime it is. But during this time I rest my mind and my body without going to sleep. And all of these times are written onto my schedule to protect my schedule from appearing to have available time for doing something. In that sense I am doing something by doing nothing. This protects my do nothing time by making a commitment to it.
These times are in increments of hours, days and weeks. But making such a commitment can help protect us from undermining the truly important aspects of our lives by passionately pursuing great goals and ignoring our basic needs.
Check you schedule and make sure that you have made some plans to do nothing.