I recently read Deep Work by Cal Newport—a book centered around the idea of cutting out distractions and working intensely (i.e. – deeply) for extended periods of time on one project.
It was an incredibly helpful, inspiring, and enjoyable book, and I’m still processing all the ways I’m going to implement it in my life (there’s a blog post coming about it).
This past Wednesday, after finishing Deep Work, I set some big goals for October, outlined how I would reach those goals, scheduled out my days, and then happily drank some chai, pleased with how things were looking because things were looking good.
In fact, things were looking like I maybe had my life together. I would get that newsletter out, edit those chapters in False Gods, do some work on a secret project (the High Command fireflies were going to hear about it in the newsletter), and even perhaps bring order out the chaos that is my bedroom. All before Saturday. Yeah, I had things that together.
But even—or maybe especially—the best laid plans can quickly run merrily off the rails.
I won’t go into details because some of the details are not mine to share. Suffice it to say for reasons beyond my (or anyone else’s) control, none of those things got done. None of them.
Come Thursday, my glowingly productive and organized future died a swift and sure death.
People I dearly love unexpectedly needed time-consuming help—help I could give with time God freed up for me weeks ago, help that would require me to let go of many of my glowingly productive and organized plans for a few days.
I was so oddly torn between being so happy to help these that I love but also looking at my completely unchecked to-do list with “I Dreamed a Dream” playing on a loop in my head (please, someone, tell me they know exactly the feeling I’m talking about).
The little planner, goal-setter in me died several times over the course those couple days of not-doing-what-I-had-planned-on-doing as box after box after box in my bullet journal went un-filled. My insecurities about not producing as quickly as my author peers rose up. I wilted whenever I thought of how far behind I was quickly falling.
This is such a bad start to the month and my whole new plan of deep work and productivity, I thought to myself. And whenever I have a bad start, I never accomplish my goals. I’m already so behind; I’ll never catch up. Might as well throw the rest of the month out.
Whenever I made it home from helping my friend, my brain was just dead. Empty. Finished. The newsletter got partway put together and fizzled out. One chapter of False Gods was sort of polished. The secret project just didn’t happen. And the room remained a disaster.
But the Holy Spirit kept whispering that if doing what I was doing took even just a little weight off my friend and her hubby’s minds during their crisis, there was no project I could work on or produce that would be worth more.
“Yes, I know. Obviously,” I replied with an eyeroll. “But my plaaaaannnnnnnnnssssss. My goaaalllllllsssss.” Can you hear the whine?
“Roll with it,” the Holy Spirit whispered, ever patient. “Adjust your sails, because these people are what are important right now.”
Why I Share This
Because people, not projects, are what is important right now. In fact, people will always be what is important right now.
Because there are only twenty-four hours in a day, only seven days in a week, only fifty-two weeks in a year, and we must be wise with our time.
Because plans and goals are good and important and helpful, but we are the ones who make those plans and set those goals. They do not rule us; they are not set in stone.
Because unexpected things happen, and we must learn the art of throwing our plans out the window in the name of something better.
Because godly discernment is absolutely necessary for us to live this life well.
Because there are times when we must still buckle down and stick to the plan despite the chaos the around us.
And because there are times when we must realize our plans didn’t leave room for what is more important.
Because in a world of competition and striving and career-chasing, we must remember that it’s okay to not get there first.
Sometimes the world will go around just as we think it should—the laundry will get done, the book will get finished, the blog post will go up, the dinner will be healthy and at a reasonable hour, eight full hours of sleep will be had, Bible study will be delighted in, the emails will get replies, the leaves will be raked, the plan will be executed.
But sometimes things unravel at the seams in ways we never expected. And when those times come, we must be wise with our time, and we must roll with it, carrying the mindset that there are worse things than unexecuted plans and unmet goals.
And besides, trite as it may sound, God’s in control.
p.s. – that memo from High Command will land in your inbox sometime this week. Probably.
p.p.s. – yes, I realize this post is vague and unhelpful, but it’s a post, which is more than we can say for last week when there was no post at all.
p.p.p.s. – I tend to have an all or nothing mentality; it’s either scheduled to the second or there’s no plan at all. This whole idea of finding “the happy middle” of those two extremes continues to be a stretch for me. Hence, this post which is sort of disjointed and *shudder* half-baked, and I’m still not sure you guys get why I brought up Deep Work at the beginning.
p.p.p.p.s. – there’s a lot more I wanted to include in this post, but my brain’s still like, “Oh, you want to think? Haha, that’s cute.”
p.p.p.p.p.s. – that new Gray Havens album, amiright? Yes, of course I’m right.
p.p.p.p.p.p.s. – okay, I’ll stop now. Bye, kids. *crawls back into the hole of blankly staring at leaves falling from my birch tree* *suddenly realizes this is why Penprints hasn’t gone viral* *couldn’t really tell you what “this” is*