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Numbering My Days

I’m busy. Working through a couple of new book ideas and proposals. Preparing for a speaking engagement tomorrow night (Saturday, Oct. 13) and a multi-session event at a church next weekend. Working at my regular full-time job. Juggling a couple of magazine assignments. Starting a new art project. Thinking about a new entrepreneurial venture. Finding time to exercise. Trying to be a good, present, available dad and husband.

Feeling guilty for not having blogged in a long time. (Forgive me!)

I often get myself into places like this — places where I suddenly come up for air and realize I have a whole lot going on. Right now I’m rereading that first paragraph above and thinking, “Man, I SO shouldn’t have listed all of those things, because I didn’t realize I had so much on the table.” Suddenly I’m stressed. They say writing things down is supposed to be a great way to get organized and take control. Apparently, that’s a dirty lie. Ignorance, as my grandmother’s tattoo reads, is bliss.

(Just kidding about the tattoo. It doesn’t say anything. It’s just a barbed-wire armband engulfed in flames. Shoutout, Grandma!)

In times like this, my mind keeps turning to two different things. One is the word productivity. To get everything done, to keep all the plates spinning, I need to be productive. I need to not waste time. I think of chunks of time as buckets — each day is a collection of 15-minute buckets, and each one of those buckets needs to be filled up. I fill up three early-morning buckets writing a book proposal, and another three buckets getting ready for work and eating breakfast with my kids. I assign several work buckets to getting ready for tomorrow night and finishing up other details for the weekend. Right now, I’ve devoted a couple of buckets to banging out this blog post. I’m always doing something. I’m always producing. Always working. Always filling gaps of empty time with…something.

The second thing I keep thinking of is a familiar Bible verse, Psalm 90:12 — “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” If my buckets concept is anything like what the Psalmist was talking about, then I’m halfway there. My days are filled with numbers, with 15-minute increments of productivity…but I can’t say I’m all that wise. Busy, perhaps. Over-committed. But not really that wise.

I want to live a simpler life…yet you don’t really simplify by adding things. Simplification comes from subtraction.

I’m trying to learn to rest, to do nothing, to practice a real Sabbath…but I’m almost always engaged in my stuff. If not physically, then mentally. In my mind, I’m always assigning buckets.

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I want to make the most of every day — to “number my days aright” — but somehow I doubt this means doing as much as possible on a daily basis. Quantity isn’t the same as quality.

Part of me thinks Kevin Kelly’s “Life Countdown” is a great idea for productivity (HT to my long-time friend Matt). But the other part of me thinks that’ll just add to the ever-growing pile of buckets. More to do. Gotta produce something of significance. Gotta create while there’s still time. Gotta work. Don’t waste this day.

And yet some of my best days — my best work — have been the ones where I did nothing. Where I just sat and relaxed. Where I jumped on the trampoline. Where I spent two whole buckets wrestling with my kids on the living room floor. I need more of THAT kind of bucket. Or maybe I need to toss the buckets altogether.

Simplicity looks good. How does it look in your life?

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