One of the ironies of our present moment is that our lives are filled with time-saving devices, yet we find ourselves with less and less time and energy. The noise starts the second we wake up. Many of us check our phones before we do anything else. Our phones allow work to follow us home and one “quick” check of your email can ruin a whole night. We have more demands on our time, people expect us to respond to requests immediately, and we spend less and less of our leisure time doing the kinds of things that help our bodies recoup and rejuvenate.
The result of this constant connectedness and pressure is that we stay in a state of constant exhaustion and burnout. Our minds either stay consumed with what we have to get done or stay distracted by content we are looking at on our phones. Our energy to devote ourselves to other important tasks is drained and we struggle to connect with God, our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our churches.
The lie we tell ourselves is that we are going to “find time” to rest and to give ourselves to the things that really matter, but that rarely happens. Instead, to break out of our cycle of being constantly stressed out, tired, and distracted, we need to make time for some important life rhythms.
1. Make Time to Disconnect
An increasing number of books and studies are showing that our digital leashes are draining our energy, increasing our anxiety, interfering in our relationships, and interrupting our sleep. Looking at your email can drop work back on your plate and ruin your evening with family or friends. A “quick” check of social media can lead you down a wormhole of links and comments. In addition, social media often upsets us because we get angry with people for the things they post or we experience a letdown because our lives do not seem as interesting as theirs.
The best way to stop this cycle is to have some time every day when you completely unplug from your devices. Set a time when you are going to have your phone away from your person and not pick it up. In addition, set a time to disconnect at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. The blue light from our phones signals to our bodies that it is the morning. This is the last thing we want our body thinking when we should be winding down to sleep for the night.
2. Make Time for Spiritual Disciplines
Nothing boggles my mind more than how easy it is for me to go through a whole day of pastoral duties and have so much going on that I neglect the devotional reading of Scripture. You would think that it is easy for a pastor to read his Bible every day, but I assure you that it is not. In the same way, those of you who are not pastors face a load of work and family responsibilities. Neglecting the reading of the Scriptures becomes all too easy because your Bible doesn’t have a chime, a buzz, a deadline, or a blinking light.
It is imperative that we make time to spend with the Lord in his word and prayer each day. Look at your daily schedule and figure out the best time for you to carve out for Bible reading. Currently, the best time for me is right after I eat breakfast. The kids usually aren’t up yet and I still have time before I have to get to the office. Your best time may be after lunch or before bed, but whatever you do, drill down when you are going to devote time to Scripture and prayer.
3. Make Time for Sleep
“There’s plenty of time for sleep when you’re dead.” With these words, a professor told a college freshman that a full night of sleep is not necessary. The man speaking to me may have been one of those rare breeds who doesn’t need much sleep, but most of us do. In fact, as D.A. Carson said, “Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep—not pray all night, but sleep. I’m certainly not denying that there may be a place for praying all night; I’m merely insisting that in the normal course of things, spiritual discipline obligates you get the sleep your body need.” (Joe Carter quotes Carson in this great post on sleep.) (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-to-love-god-by-getting-more-sleep)
Unfortunately, our televisions and phones get in the way of healthy sleep patterns. Look at what time you need to get up in the morning and plan on going to bed so that you can get whatever amount of sleep you need. Also, don’t be afraid to take a nap if it is necessary. We have glorified working past the point of exhaustion and demonized taking a short nap, but this is because we are foolish. Without proper sleep, we get short with people and lack the energy to give ourselves fully to the things we have to do. A full night’s sleep will help us treat people with kindness and devote ourselves fully to the things we must do each day. Make no apologies for making every effort to get necessary rest.
4. Make Time for Your Friends
Most of us look back fondly on our college years because connecting with friends happened organically and took very little effort. We lived in close proximity to each other, had few responsibilities outside of school, and saw each other on a regular basis. Making plans came easily and our friendships flourished as a result.
Then life after college hits and connecting with friends becomes more difficult. Whether it is a result of work, family obligations, commutes, or physical location, we see making time for friendships as a lower priority as adulthood comes into full bloom. The truth is that we need healthy friendships so that our walk with Jesus can flourish and so that we can live out the New Testament’s “one another” passages. Adult friendships take more thoughtful in advance, but they are worth every bit of the effort.
5. Make Time for Your Family
Some of you might quibble with my placing the need to make time for friends before the need to make time for family. I did this purposefully though because those who are married with children instinctively know we need to spend time with our families and neglect our friendships in the process. The problem comes though, in the fact that we often don’t spend meaningful time with our families. We all sit around on our devices and neglect the people in front of us because we are paying attention to the outside world.
Instead of merely sitting in the same room with our families with everyone looking at a different device, make the time to do something together. This may entail getting outside, sharing a meal, reading a book, or playing a game, but make ways to do things together. These times when we pay attention to each other and do things together can be some of the most rewarding and refreshing times we experience each day.
Our lives are busy. In many ways, they feel as if they are busier than they have ever been. This makes it easy to neglect the Lord, ourselves, and the people around us. We stand in great need of turning the tide on this trend and relearning how to give ourselves to our most important priorities.