T.L. Higley is the author of seven novels, including the Seven Wonders Novels and her newest historical adventure, Petra: City in Stone. She also owns an online retail business, selling craft and hobby supplies, and is a wife and a mother to four. She has traveled extensively around the world, researching her novels set in the ruins of the ancient past. Tracy is beginning a new blog and Website focused on living an adventurous life in the kingdom of God. Join her adventure at www.TLHigley.com.
Time Management for the Soul
I am the self-proclaimed Queen of Time Management.
Don’t let my title fool you, however. In no way does it imply mastery! It is only that I have tried every system, every planner, every online task-scheduling program known to humankind.
As a freelance writer and self-employed business owner, my life does not divide simply into “day job” and “author by night.” Instead, I find each day to be a jumble of tasks related to my business, writing, and marketing my books.
This particular adventure began about six years ago. My eldest daughter, then eleven years old, declared that she wanted a week of Horse Camp in addition to her regular week with the church kids.
“No problem,” I said. “If you can figure out a way to pay for part of it.”
She inherited my entrepreneurial DNA. She set to work purchasing craft supplies at the local craft store, using coupons to get discounts and then reselling the items on eBay. Before many weeks elapsed, we discovered there was a market for these items, and things took off from there. Within two years it became our full-time online business, and my husband resigned from his job. Over these six years, my daughter has continued to play a big role in the business (and proudly claims the title Founder, since Mom and Dad took President and CEO!), working mainly as our Website designer and maintainer. In fact, she just began her college career as a Web Design and Development major. We currently own and operate four craft supply Websites, all of which you can see here.
“How does all this relate to writing?” you ask. I’ve been asking myself that for the past six years!
In any given day you can find me downloading bank transactions into Quickbooks while I wait for the latest html changes to my writing Website to upload, e-mailing my editor while talking on the phone with my business’s customer service manager (I don’t recommend that!), or checking today’s sales while my latest chapter prints out. Yikes! Now you know why I’ve tried every time-management and scheduling system I can lay my hands on. They suck me in with promises of freedom and are like shiny new Christmas presents, until I find myself back in the same multitasking quandary, with never enough hours in the day, and if I’m truthful, more than a little anxiety and even anger at the way my life seems to always be careening a bit out of control.
So how do I find that sweet spot of balance between the writing life and the “other” life? Largely, I do not. But I have learned some things along this adventure, and am continuing.
First, “not enough hours in the day” is not only unbiblical, it points to a deeper issue of my heart. For me, that strong need to perform, to achieve, to feel satisfaction from the work of my hands can easily go from a God-given part of my personality to an idol, an addiction, a driving anxiety that whispers If you don’t get it all done, you’re a failure. Worthless. That’s the Enemy of my soul speaking, and he knows exactly how to push my buttons. Through all my adopting and discarding system after system to manage my tasks, one thing has become clear: No amount of time-management proficiency will ever free me from the idols of my heart. That’s an ongoing work of the Spirit, and only He can achieve it. Not an easy truth for an overachiever like me! To find that place of humility, where I am at the feet of Jesus asking Him to release me from those idols of achievement as only He can do, is hard. It’s why I need the rescue of the gospel every single day.
Second, the adventure of life has lulls and outbreaks of chaos, and where I am today is not the full reality of my life. On our family vacation last summer, we traveled through Colorado, Arizona, and Utah, some of my favorite parts of the country. One
afternoon we went whitewater rafting in Utah—as “whitewater” as you can get with a six-year-old on board! Even so, a few moments of rapids had everyone feeling the thrill, when we thought of nothing but the water and our safety. I was not contemplating dinner that night, or how far we would drive the RV the next day. There was only the water. Yet minutes later, as we slipped downriver through glassy calm, it was as if the rapids had never been, nor ever would be again. Time to rest, to lift our eyes to the gorgeous rock formations, to think of other concerns.
How would my attitude change if I viewed the adventure of my life as a whitewater rafting trip? Times of foamy chaos, even fear, when only the present is in focus. Times of stillness and silence, when beauty and meaning can be contemplated and enjoyed. Allowing, and even insisting, on both of those facets of the adventure frees me from depression in the chaos and complacency in the stillness. I intend to join my trip downriver, regardless of which situation is my present reality!
Last, it is surprisingly easy to find ourselves in bondage that distracts us or prevents us from living our unique, God-given adventure. Did a business that began as a way to pay the bills morph into a master of materialism, urging me to grow my business bigger, better, and more profitable and sucking time away from what I feel God is calling me to do? Have all those worthy church activities become more about pleasing people and avoiding guilt than about pursuing the adventure God has given me? Did my good choice not to be overconcerned with my appearance turn into out-of-control eating and excess weight that drains away the energy needed for my adventure? Before I can fully wade into the unique calling of God on my life, I have to get free of any weights around my ankles, whether financial, mental, or physical. Again, finding this freedom necessitates grasping hold of the rescue held out to me every day in the person of Jesus.
So, time management. It’s always been part elusive dream, part four-letter word to me. A true love/hate relationship. Some days I ask, “Will I ever get it right?” Will I ever balance the demands of work, family, writing, and marketing? It’s a question probably every person asks themselves, no matter what role they play. My answer? Put away the Daytimer for a while. Examine your heart. Shriek a bit with the thrill of the ride. Seek freedom.
Focus on some time management for the soul.