We are only human—we cannot do it all! When people try to accomplish too much in a given time period, the end result is most often frustration and disappointment. Why do this to yourself? The classic book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend can help you gain control of your life by learning how to effectively prioritize.
We have talked about setting limits on someone else. You also need to set limits on yourself. You need to realize how much time and energy you have, and manage your work accordingly. Know what you can do and when you can do it, and say no to everything else. Learn to know your limits and enforce them, as Laurie did. Say to your team or your boss, “If I am going to do A today, I will not be able to do B until Wednesday. Is that okay or do we need to rethink which one I need to be working on?”
Effective workers do two things: they strive to do excellent work, and they spend their time on the most important things. Many people do excellent work but allow themselves to get sidetracked by unimportant things; they may do unimportant things very well! They feel like they are doing a great job, but their boss is upset because essential goals are not being met. Then they feel unappreciated and resentful because they have put out so much effort. They were working hard, but they weren’t placing boundaries on what they allowed to take up their time, and the really important things did not get their attention.
Say no to the unimportant, and say no to the inclination to do less than your best. If you are doing your best work on the most important things, you will reach your goals.
In addition to saying no to the unimportant, you need to make a plan to accomplish the important things, and erect some fences around your tasks. Realize your limits, and make sure you do not allow work to control your life. Having limits will force you to prioritize. If you make a commitment to spend only so many hours a week on work, you will spend those hours more wisely. If you think your time is limitless, you may say yes to everything. Say yes to the best, and sometimes you may need to say no to the good.
One man’s ministry required a lot of travel, so he and his wife put their heads together and decided that he would spend no more than one hundred nights a year on the road. When he gets an offer he has to check his time budget and see if this is something he wants to spend some of his nights on. This plan forces him to be more selective in his travel, thereby saving time for the rest of his life.
A company president who was allowing work to keep him away from home too much made a commitment to spend only 40 hours a week in the office. At first, he really struggled because he wasn’t used to budgeting his time and commitments so closely. Slowly though, when he realized that he only had so much time, he began to spend it more wisely. He even got more accomplished because he was forced to work smarter.
Work will grow to fill the time you have set aside for it. If a meeting does not have an agenda with time limits, discussion could be endless. Allot time for certain things, and then keep your limits. You will work smarter and like your work more.
Take a lesson from Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, who, seeing Moses’ lack of boundaries, asked him why he was working so hard (Exodus 18:14-27).
“Because the people need me,” Moses said.
“What you are doing is not good,” Jethro replied. “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone” (vv. 17-18). Even though Moses was doing good work, Jethro saw that he was going to burn himself out. Moses had allowed good work to go too far. Limits on good things keep them good.
(Taken from Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend Copyright © 2001 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com)