The alarm sounds. You slowly roll over to hit the snooze, and out of instinct, you grab your phone. Just going to scroll through my Twitter or Facebook feeds to make sure I didn’t miss anything, you tell yourself.
Before you know it, you’re rushing to the shower, grabbing a cereal bar, throwing on some clothes, yelling at the kids to put on their clothes and sprinting to school or work.
Arriving at your desk, you re-read the same emails that have been in your inbox for days but you don’t want to address. You pull up Facebook and Twitter on your browser. Maybe you SnapChat a few friends and upload a picture to Instagram. You scroll through the latest news. Before you know it, two hours are gone, and you have consumed enough information to fill any normal computer’s hard drive.
Just another typical day? It is for me.
Combine the 24/7 connection with the demands on our time from friends, church, activities, family, job and so on. The result? Severely burned out, extremely overwhelmed, habitually anxious people.
No wonder a recent Barna study found over half of men and women felt physically or mentally overwhelmed in the last 30 days.
Surely this isn’t the life God intended. I sense it during a rare alone time. I feel it in the car when my phone dies and I am forced to deal with my thoughts. I see it when I look at my family and friends. I know my time is better spent with them, but the connection is calling.
Maybe you feel the same.
Recently, I decided to make a change. I decided to implement a few principles that would restore my life that I’ve read about and learned.
I am not a productivity guru. Far from it. But I know these principles work for me, and hopefully they’ll work for you too. It’s time to experience something better.
1. Spend Time in Prayer and Reflection
I love the words of Paul in Philippians 4:6-7. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.”
Did you catch that? The peace of God is a byproduct of prayer. Let that truth sink in.
While many search for peace, and others try to manufacture it, the Bible says peace is ours if we simply spend time in prayer. So, this is where we start in our quest to restore our lives, because this is most important. In a world of constant connection, we must disconnect to restore the most important connection: Our relationship with God.
2. Get Organized
You won’t find a productive person who doesn’t maintain a schedule or system to track tasks. The problem with schedules is they often shackle us instead of release us.
So, start with this. Throw out every idea you have about schedules and to-do lists. Claire Diaz-Ortiz introduces a scheduling technique called “Scan To Plan.” I recommend it. It goes like this: Start by writing down the thoughts and tasks that pop into your head throughout the day. Big. Small. Insignificant. Very important. No matter the task or thought, write it down. Get everything out of your head.
After you write everything down, find those tasks you need to complete today. Make a to-do list with them. Then find the most important tasks (three at most) and complete them first. Make a separate list for weekly items and monthly items.
Schedules are about vision. And vision is from God. Jesus was intentional. He had a purpose. You do too. Stepping into your purpose starts with taking control of your day.
Get rid of unnecessary distractions and do your best to complete a few important tasks every day. Celebrate your successes, but stay flexible. Never allow a schedule to enslave you.
3. Invest in Yourself
If you want to pour into other people and be the best spouse, parent and co-worker you can be, investing in yourself is a must. Even Jesus spent time away from people and teaching (Luke 5:16; Luke 4:42; Matthew 14:23). Most of Jesus’s retreating involved prayer, but I am sure Jesus took time to sit and rest. He was human.
You must find some activities that nourish you. It could be anything: Painting, reading, spending time with family. For me, golf, working in the yard, playing organized sports and running are nourishing activities. Don’t feel guilty about nourishing yourself. Most of your life should focus on the needs of others. But don’t neglect yourself in the process.
4. Throw Out Insignificant Activities
One reason we are overwhelmed is we are doing too much. Maybe you feel the pressure of culture telling you to get involved in everything and say yes to everyone. But this isn’t God’s plan. Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone. He didn’t cave in to the pressure of healing or discipling the entire world.
But here’s the catch: Jesus knew His purpose. And until you have some sort of vision for your life, anything goes. Every task and request seems important. However, once you take a step back and look at the big picture, with God as your tour guide, you can filter out tasks that may not be bad in and of themselves, but are ultimately insignificant to the areas that you feel called to.
5. Find Space to Unplug
It’s interesting to consider God taking a Sabbath. I mean, what’s He resting for? He’s God. In 24/6, Matthew Sleeth says, “On the seventh day, God makes nothing out of something. Rest is brought into being.”
God creates from nothing for six days, then He flips the script on day seven. Why? That’s debatable. But this isn’t: God introduces rest as part of the Creation narrative.
Rest isn’t optional or recommended. Rest is essential for the natural order of God’s creation. When you neglect rest, life gets chaotic. This is why a regular Sabbath is important. This is why sleep is important. Rest is part of God’s design for order and peace. It’s no coincidence that this culture is the most connected in the history of the world but is also the most overwhelmed and stressed.
6. Be Present in Every Situation
Set your schedule. Get rid of unnecessary activities. Then, give your attention to the tasks at hand and the people in front of you.
The constant connection to newsfeeds and emails means we are never truly present anywhere. And being present is a key to restoring your life. It is a key to relational intimacy. It is a key to productivity. It is a key to experiencing peace and joy.
When you are with other people, put the phone away. Engage in conversation. When you start a task, give all your attention to it. This might be awkward and difficult at first. Be persistent. Being present will become easier over time.
Adapt these principles to your life. Change them if something else works better. Satan wins when we are overwhelmed and over-stressed. I want to see lives restored so God can be glorified.
Disconnect from the noise. Restore your life. You can do it!
A version of this article was originally published at frankpowell.me