On your journey towards self-governance and time management, it is easy to be sucked into the belief that productivity is the most important thing: that you must always be outputting and performing at your best. But, in fact, those two things are antithetical. You cannot perform at your best if you are always outputting. You need to create space for rest, true rejuvenating rest, to be able to reach your full potential.
Psalm 23 says:
“The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.”
Have you ever been “made” to lie down in green pastures? Sometimes we refer to this as “burnout”: a state of exhaustion due to overwork that can result in anxiety and a feeling of defeat.
I experienced this halfway through college: I had reached a place of overwork to the point where my anxiety was causing other health issues. Physically, I could not keep up with my course load, plus an internship, job, and social commitments, anymore. I didn’t recognize the symptoms of overwork earlier because I liked being busy and was fulfilled individually by all of my endeavors.
But I had lost sight of my priorities. One of the benefits of having a Transcendent There for your life is that you can use it as a sort of litmus test against which to weigh potential opportunities. In college, I would take any opportunity that came my way without pausing to consider if it was leading me down the path towards my There. But now that I have a Transcendent There, I can be more selective with what I say yes to. This gives me the bandwidth to fully commit myself to what I agree to do, so I can do it with excellence instead of doing the bare minimum on more commitments.
An economists’ job is to think about efficiency. They want all resources to be used towards their best end and for there to be as little waste as possible. But, as an economics professor of mine once pointed out, efficiency is not all there is to life. He sees part of his work as figuring out when efficiency is a top priority, and when it is not. If efficiency was all we cared about, we would have no art or beauty or variety. For example, just because hand-crocheting a baby blanket for a friend isn’t the most efficient way of procuring a gift for them doesn’t mean that it’s not a good use of my time.
In fact, some of those leisure activities might help me get There just as much as career-advancing opportunities! When we have our priorities in alignment with our There, we are able to make decisions toward opportunities that will fulfill both personal and vocational goals.
I do want to recognize that this is a “best case scenario.” There may be times when you have to work extra hours or have a job that doesn’t further your There for a period of time in order to pay your bills. In this situation, you may not find your work particularly fulfilling in and of itself, but it can still satisfy a Strategic There of providing for your family or getting out of debt.
Whether you work multiple jobs to scrape by, have a demanding high-income job, or are somewhere in between, making time for rest is important. Now, rest doesn’t have to, and probably shouldn’t, look like sitting on the couch binging a tv show or taking naps all of the time. Pursuing creative hobbies, taking a nature walk, or enjoying a meal with a few friends are all examples of things that can bring rest, not only to the body, but to the soul.
We often talk about self-governance in the context of your vocation: making sure that you’re staying on task and fulfilling your duties at work. But self-governance should be applied to all areas of life, and it can even look like having the wisdom to say no to something at work if you know that it would put your priorities out of alignment. It’s okay if your priorities shift over time, but knowing what they are will help you make informed, sustainable decisions, instead of ones made in the moment.
Gracie McBride is the Content and Systems Management Coordinator for The Crossroad.