For years I have heard people say they don’t have enough time to pray, get involved in parish ministry, attend daily Mass, take part in Eucharistic adoration, be involved in children’s activities, serve in the community, etc.
I believe our misconception about time is one of the biggest obstacles, along with living in “silos” and failing to surrender to Christ, to leading an integrated Catholic life. As someone who is also challenged about having enough time each day, I wonder: Do we own our calendars or do our calendars own us? Are we willing to make the changes necessary to get back on track?
Friends and colleagues have long wondered how I seem to squeeze so much activity into each day. As a reformed workaholic, I have always had a tendency to be fully engaged throughout the day and usually maintain a full plate of faith, family, and work-related activities. As I have gotten older and hopefully wiser, I have thought a great deal about how to make “time” work for me as I seek to grow as a Catholic, husband, father, business leader, and servant of the community. There is no magic bullet, but I would like to share five ideas for how we can begin to tame our calendars and lead fuller, richer, integrated lives.
Five Ideas for Taming Our Calendars
1) Have our priorities in order.
Are we trying to juggle serving Christ, work, and family responsibilities each day? Is Christ sometimes an inconvenient add-on to an already packed schedule? Stop. Let’s change our mindsets. As I have shared in my books and previous articles, we should be serving Christ first, family second, and work third on our list of life priorities. Being lights for Christ and serving him trumps everything! Second, our true vocation is to help our families, ourselves, and everyone else get to heaven. Third, our work should be given up for his greater glory and to serve the needs of our families. The “Big Three” should be followed by our health, friends, and other things important to us.
2) We control our calendars; our calendars do not control us.
The most common complaint I hear about time is: “My calendar is full and I can’t squeeze that (prayer, Mass, service, etc.) in.” Who enters the activity into our calendar? We do. With the new priority list in mind, let’s start scheduling around Mass, prayer, family dinner, kids’ activities, community service, exercise, etc. If you are in an environment with a rigid calendar controlled by others, think about what you can get accomplished before work, during lunch, and after work, and do the best you can. You may find more relevant help in the next few ideas.
3) Combine activities when possible.
This concept has worked well for me. When I go for a run or get on the treadmill, I pray the rosary. My wife and I use our time going to and from sports practices/activities with our kids to talk about life, faith, or whatever is on their minds. Keep a Bible or some other great faith-based book in your car or bag to read when you are waiting on an appointment. Check out Audible.com for great Catholic material you can listen to in the car or while exercising. If you want to serve in the community, you can take your spouses and children along and do it as a family activity. There are a number of ways, but the combining concept is very easy to implement.
4) Remove the unnecessary and replace it with the necessary.
Want to pray more? Get up fifteen minutes earlier and pray the Morning Offering and the Angelus before leaving home. Add an Examen to your calendar and create five very short periods each day for reflection and prayer. Want to spend more quality time together as a family? Kill the TV and video games and replace them with talking, praying, reading, or outdoor activities. Go to Reconciliation and Eucharistic adoration together as a family. Want to start attending daily Mass more often? Start by giving up one early morning or lunch hour each week and attend Mass at our home parishes or one near where we work. Are the demands of work the cause of your issues (travel, demanding bosses, can’t turn off e-mail, etc.)? We should ask ourselves whether we have become attached to a larger-than-needed lifestyle that our career is supporting and consider making a change. Downsizing your lifestyle may even be the ultimate answer.
5) Know where we are going.
All of these ideas should help us on our journey to heaven. We are made for our heavenly home and not this world. Our busy lives and daily activities should lead us to this end. Are our lives ordered to this purpose or do we serve other priorities that are of this world and not as important?
It is also vitally important to find quiet time for ourselves when we can detach, reflect, think, pray, exercise, and restore our energy before we jump back into the daily grind. The concept of leisure is an alien one to our culture, but we need to find that time to restore our mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. One idea, if you are married, is to work out an arrangement with your spouse each week to give each other the gift of guilt-free time to relax and detach. It is important, and I need to personally do a better job in this area.
Let’s take control of our lives and not let the calendar become an excuse for avoiding what is important and necessary. I know in these difficult economic times it can be challenging to recalibrate our thinking about priorities, especially if we think it will affect how we earn a living. Time is precious, and there are only so many minutes in the day, but I argue that we can more effectively integrate our faith, family, and work without sacrificing our livelihoods. It comes down to recognizing the need, a sincere desire to change, asking the Lord for help and creative scheduling.
Do we really want to stand before Christ some day and say we could not fit in time to joyfully serve Him during our lives on earth? I think we know the answer.
Editor’s Note: Would you like to learn more about “regular Catholic heroes” and the joyful witness they give for Christ and the Catholic faith? Randy Hain’s exciting sixth book, Joyful Witness: How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic (Servant Books) is available through Amazon and all Catholic bookstores! All of Randy Hain’s books are also available through Amazon.