They say timing is everything.
Today’s story is about my short-term goals not “jiving” with somebody else’s request for my time.
10 goals in 8 days
On Friday I made one of my many lists. This one was called “10 goals in 8 days.” With just eight days before I would head to North Carolina for my first Christian writers’ conference, I had a lot to accomplish. Needing to learn a great deal about what it takes to write good fiction, I’ve been preparing for this five-day training opportunity for months – on every front from wardrobe to possible side trips to color handouts about my myself and my two unpublished novels.
In fact, a whopping six of the 10 goals I listed were conference preparation. Two others were about knitting. (No surprise there.) And the final two were about personal appearance and fitness – neither of which would have been on a list just then if not for the conference.
As luck would have it, the first three of my ambitious eight days were the same days our young adult daughter was going to the beach. Jeff and I had offered to keep her new puppy, Crosby, before I had made my to-do list.
Let’s face facts. No matter how much you fancy yourself a successful multitasker, you just aren’t going to finish a knitted washcloth that’s an overdue thank-you gift for a neighbor who helped during your last plumbing crisis while getting puppy’s leash out from under his front leg six times during each of his “bathroom” walks. You’re not going to cut 1,000 words out of your too-long chapter 10 if your brand-new granddog (who is the #cutestthingever) wants you to play tug of war with his ratty, blue rope toy. No chance of revisiting the scope of chapter 11 and texting grandma/granddog selfies at the same time.
Worse than that puppy-sitting couldn’t be multitasked with anything on my urgent to-do list, only two of my 10 items could be multitasked among themselves. (But what a beautiful pairing! On Saturday I worked through a month’s worth of accumulated ACFW emails while getting a pedicure. Two items – DONE. *)
Sure, if I could have picked a different weekend to puppy-sit, I might have. But this was something my child needed of me, and that was more important than being frustrated over a self-imposed agenda that, if prevented by some other important opportunity, or by a crisis such as an emergency-room visit, wouldn’t have caused my world to stop turning.
Futhermore, now in the lower numbers the of “senior adult” age bracket, I have learned to take unplanned detours and interruptions a little more in stride, a little more with patience and wisdom, than I used to.
Facing interruptions with patience is a great virtue. There is love to share in those moments. There is service to give and something to learn – something that will benefit you down the road; trust me.
More important, it is a virtue because, if you will not welcome or even tolerate interruptions, you are putting your own agenda before the needs of another person. And that’s not biblical behavior. (Philippians 2:3)
If neither parenting nor anything else has taught me this, my past and present jobs in a church office have: people can tell when you are impatient with their interruptions, when you aren’t really listening and want nothing more than for them to finish their business as quickly as possible so you can get back to what you were doing. Perfect opportunity to throw in one of the John Maxwell leadership principles I have internalized: customers and coworkers are not an interruption of your work. They are your work.
Planning out a whole day
Mother Frake and daughter Margie in the old musical State Fair have a brief discussion about planning one’s time:
“Don’t you know you can’t plan out a whole day? There’s no such thing!”
“I do it all the time.”
“You sound just like Harry. He thinks you can plan out your whole life.”
“So you can.”
I would fall somewhere in the middle on that debate. Most people know it’s impossible to “plan” one’s whole life; too many unexpected things happen for that to be a realistic goal. But, sure, you can plan a day or a week or a weekend. Or you can try to. But, should you? Every day, week, and weekend? All the time? As a life’s pattern? No possibility of spontaneity? No getting sidetracked? No patience with interruptions?
I rest my case
Have I mentioned that our puppy-sitting gig turned out to get one of my “tabled” goals accomplished? It was number seven on the list: “get a handle on next blog post.” I had absolutely no idea puppy-sitting would provide the material for a new post – and I now rest my case on the value of tolerating interruptions.
*[Oh, dang! How am I going to keep that precious, energetic baby dog from running across my freshly-painted toenails when I get home?]