Managing Your Life in a Multitasking World
I still can’t figure out how he did it.
A televised plate-spinning act captured my imagination. As I recall, the performer set up several upright sticks about six feet tall each. Atop each stick he spun a china dinner plate, creating a small forest of spinning plate trees. He then scrambled furiously to keep the plates spinning, lest one crash to the ground.
Sometimes my life feels like that plate spinner. Work, family, recreation and relationships can involve a blur of responsibilities that all need to be accomplished yesterday. Can you spell s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d? Maybe s-t-r-e-s-s-e-d?
Quiz: Have you ever…
- Talked business on your cellphone while pacing the sidelines watching your kid’s soccer or baseball game?
- Greeted your spouse or partner at the door after work and – to facilitate meaningful conversation – asked him/her to please follow you around the house as you hang your coat, put away your groceries, change clothes and check the mail?
- Stayed up late at home working on emails while finishing laundry and listening to Leno or Letterman as the rest of your household sleeps?
- Watched exercise infomercials featuring sculptured bodies promising “real results for real people” and wondered if M&Ms and potato chips were part of the program?
- Rushed home from work to catch the basketball game on TV while … oops, that reminds me. I’ll be back soon….
OK, I’m back. My team won a squeaker.
If you can answer “yes” to some of these questions, chances are your life could use some balance. Not a 50-50 balance, necessarily, but something practical and appropriate. Humans have physical, psychological, social, and spiritual facets in personal and work life. Books, courses and coaches exist to assist your life management. Consider a few tips to help you keep your plates spinning while remaining sane.
- Physical life
Food, exercise and sleep can affect your health, work and relationships. My taste buds love meat, sweets and fat while my conscience and waistline favor fish, fowl and veggies. Find a diet you can trust and follow it. Regular exercise can keep your blood flowing, the pounds at bay, your mind clear and your spirits bright. Choose early rising more often than late bedtime to get a jump on the day.
- Psychological life
This involves your intellect, emotions and will. Might a course help improve your intellectual skills? Read a newspaper or online news source to better understand your world. Investigate perspectives different from yours. Conservatives, take a liberal to lunch. Liberals, reciprocate and enjoy. One of the best decisions I ever made – besides marrying Meg – was returning to graduate school mid career. It sharpened my mind and honed my communication abilities.If managing your emotions is difficult, maybe a qualified counselor could help. Life is a series of choices. Make wise ones based on sound knowledge and awareness of how your feelings influence you.
- Social life
If you’re single, do you spend weekend evenings alone watching Frasier, Friends or Cheersreruns? How about trying hiking, bowling or attending a concert with friends? Does overwork have your marriage in a rut? Try a weekly “date night.”One husband shared the secret of his lasting marriage. “It’s really very simple,” he explained. “We take time two evenings a week to eat at a lovely restaurant. A nice dinner; some candlelight; soft music; a leisurely walk home. She goes Tuesdays; I go Fridays.”Seriously, time away together can do wonders. Perhaps work on service projects together or make friends with other couples.
- Work life
Would your boss’s time demands make good Dilbert cartoon material? Consider requesting some slack. Do you run yourself frantic without prompting? Ask yourself why you work so much. Do you need money? Does your output inappropriately determine your feelings of significance? Try refocusing on your life objectives, re-evaluating them if necessary, and revising your work schedule accordingly.
- Personal life
Practice sound financial management. Read a book on this or take a course if necessary. Track your monthly spending. Plan a budget you can live with and follow it. Simple computer financial management tools can be lifesavers. Quickenworks well for me. Avoid credit where possible. Save what you can. Give away what you can to worthwhile causes.Manage your time. Plan each day in light of your life’s objectives. List, prioritize and schedule tomorrow’s activities the evening before. Follow your schedule, allowing for appropriate interruptions (they will come). Reward yourself for reaching small goals to help stay motivated.
- Spiritual life
While speaking at the University of Memphis, I mentioned that a good marriage requires a total relationship: physical, psychological and spiritual. One man, married twenty-five years, responded, “My wife and I have had a physical relationship; somewhat of a psychological relationship; but no spiritual relationship at all. Many of the problems of the last twenty-five years could have been avoided if we’d related on all three levels.” May I mention to you what I suggested to him about spiritual life?The biblical God loves us all and wants us to have fulfilling relationships with Him. But a flaw – our selfishness – blocks us from knowing Him personally. He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for this flaw – called sin – and to rise from the dead so we might experience real life.If I had a traffic fine I could not pay, you could offer to pay it for me. Similarly, Jesus paid the price – physical and spiritual death – required by a just God to pardon our sins. One of Jesus’ followers wrote, “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” [i]
Would you like to know God by accepting His free gift of forgiveness? You can tell Him something like this in the quiet of your heart:
Jesus, I need you. Thanks for dying and rising again for me. Please forgive me and enter my life as my friend. Help me to get to know you better and to manage my life according to what’s really important.
If you asked God to forgive you, He did. Tell another believer of your decision. Click the “yes” button and ask how you can grow in your faith.
How can you manage your life and find the right balance? Organizing your physical, psychological, social, work and personal lives is important. But I encourage you not to neglect the spiritual. What a tragedy it would be to spend an entire lifetime climbing the ladder of success, only to reach the top and discover the ladder had been leaning against the wrong wall.
This article first appeared in Answer magazine 11:3 Fall 2005. Copyright © 2005 by Rusty Wright. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[i] 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT.