The alarm sounds. You slowly roll over to hit the snooze and out of instinct you grab your phone. “Just going to scroll through my Twitter or Facebook feeds to make sure I didn’t miss anything.” Before you know it, you’re rushing to the shower, grabbing a cereal bar, throwing on some clothes, yelling at the kids to put on their clothes, and sprinting to school or work.
Arriving at your desk, you re-read the same e-mails that have been in your inbox for days but you don’t want to address. You pull up Facebook and Twitter on your browser. Maybe you SnapChat a few friends and upload a picture or two to Instagram. #newday. #blessed. You watch a few short videos on YouTube, scroll through the latest news on ESPN, CNN, or FoxNews. Before you know it, two hours are gone. And you have consumed enough information to fill any normal computer’s hard drive.
Just another typical day? It is for me.
Consumed and connected. Two words that describe our culture perfectly. Smartphones place the world’s information and people’s activities at our fingertips. And we love to be informed. And we are terrified of missing something.
So, we refresh our Twitter feed…again. We check Instagram. Facebook. Pinterest. Snapchat. E-mail. Hoping this refresh will produce the news we are waiting for. Hoping we will stumble across a post that prompts us to text our friends and say, “Did you see what Jill wrote? Did you hear what happened to John? Did you see the final score of the Braves game?”
Combine the 24/7 connection with the demands on our time from friends, activities, family, job, co-workers, and the neighbor who thinks it is his or her job to carry on a two hour conversation every time they see you. The result? Severely burned out, extremely overwhelmed, habitually anxious people.
No wonder a recent Barna study found over half of men and women felt physically or mentally overwhelmed in the last 30 days. We post our best photo hoping it goes viral. We read the latest viral post. Viral is a trendy word in social media culture. But it seems the only things consistently going viral are our stress levels.
There has to be something else, right? Something better. Surely this isn’t the life God intended. Surely. I sense it during a rare alone time. I feel it in the car when my phone dies and I am forced to deal with my thoughts. I see it when I look at my family and friends. I know my time is better spent with them, but the connection is calling. I sense something better is out there.
Maybe you feel the same.
Recently, I decided to make a change. I read some articles and looked at a few books in an attempt to find a few principles that would restore my life. And make no mistake. My life was lost. I felt completely overwhelmed. I was constantly anxious. And, at times, I bordered on depressed. But discovering a few simple but profound principles changed things for me.
And I want to share these principles with you. I am not big on acronyms. But the shoe fits here. So, I will wear it. The acronym I put together is RESTORER.
This acronym is fitting because the God I serve is a restorer. He is in the business of restoring all things. That includes my life (and yours). If you feel overwhelmed, teetering on the edge of burnout, know that there is something better. I am not a productivity guru. Far from it. But I know these 8 principles work for me. If they work for you, awesome. If not, throw them out. Find some that work for you. It’s time to experience something better.
RESTORER…8 principles to restore your life and God’s purpose for it.
R – Reflect (pray or be still)
I love the words of Paul in Philippians 4:6-7. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” Did you catch that? The peace of God is a by-product of prayer. Let that truth sink in.
While many search for peace, and others try to manufacture it, the Bible says peace is ours if we simply spend time in prayer. So, this is where we start in our quest to restore our lives because this is most important. In a world of constant connection, we must disconnect to restore the most important connection: our relationship with God.
ACTION STEP: Spend focused time in prayer everyday. Start your day in prayer. Take a few minutes in the morning to allow God’s peace to frame your day (I wrote a post on waking up at 5 a.m. You can read that post here). You might just sit and listen. Regardless, find a space where nothing will distract you. Leave your phone on the night stand. Allow God’s peace to fill you.
E – Empty (get everything out of your head)
My mind runs all…the…time. I constantly think about tasks to complete, people to meet, and ideas to spread. This isn’t all bad. But it is when you can’t be present during important times. Recently, God introduced me to David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done (watch David Allen deliver a TED talk about this idea here). In this book, David Allen says one goal to creativity and productivity is to write everything down. This was a game-changer for me.
Big. Small. Insignificant. Very important. No matter the task or thought, write it down. Get everything out of your head. Doing this will free up your mind to focus on the task at hand. It will also reduce anxiety and stress. No more missed opportunities. No more waking up wondering, “What am I supposed to do today?”
ACTION STEP: Buy a notebook or invest in a program like Evernote. Every time a task pops in your brain, get it on paper. Immediately. And never worry about it again.
S – Selfish (invest in yourself)
If you want to pour into other people and be the best spouse, parent, and co-worker you can be, investing in yourself is a must. Even Jesus spent time away from people and teaching (Luke 5:16; Luke 4:42; Matthew 14:23). Most of Jesus’s retreating involved prayer, but I am sure Jesus took time to sit and rest. He was human.
You must find some activities that nourish you. It could be anything. Painting. Reading. Spending time with family. For me, golf, working in the yard, playing organized sports, and running are nourishing activities. Don’t feel guilty about nourishing yourself. Most of your life should focus on the needs of others. But don’t neglect yourself in the process.
ACTION STEP: What nourishes your mind and heart? Do those things at least weekly.
T – Track (create a schedule)
You won’t find a productive person who doesn’t maintain a schedule or system to track tasks. The problem with schedules is they often shackle us instead of release us.
So, start with this. Throw out every idea you have about schedules and to-do lists. Claire Diaz-Ortiz introduces a scheduling technique called “Scan To Plan.” I recommend it. It goes like this.
After you write everything down (step 2 – Empty), find those tasks you need to complete today. Make a to-do list with them. Then find the most important tasks (three at most) and complete them first. Make a separate list for weekly items and monthly items.
Schedules are about vision. And vision is from God. I can’t imagine Jesus having the mindset I used to have when I started the day. “Well, I will just ride the waves of the day and see what happens. Maybe this. Maybe that. Who knows?” No, Jesus was intentional. He had a purpose. You do too. Stepping into your purpose starts with taking control of your day.
ACTION STEP: Make a “to-do list” daily. Find three tasks that are most important and complete those first. Turn your phone on silent. Get rid of anything that will distract you from completing the tasks. Celebrate your successes. And never allow a schedule to enslave you.
O – Omit (throw out insignificant activities)
One reason you (and I) are overwhelmed is you are doing too much. You feel the pressure of culture telling you to get involved in everything and say yes to everyone. But this isn’t God’s plan. Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone. And he didn’t cave in to the pressure of healing or discipling the world.
But here’s the catch. Jesus knew his purpose. And until you have a vision for your life, anything goes. Every task is important. Every request is important. However, once you set the course of your life, with God as your tour guide, you can filter insignificant tasks. This is why you must find your purpose and establish a vision for your life.
ACTION STEP: Step back and look at the big picture. What’s the vision for your life? Find it, and get rid of those activities that don’t lead you towards it.
R – Rest (find space to unplug)
It’s interesting to consider God taking a Sabbath. I mean, what’s he resting for? He’s God. In 24/6, Matthew Sleeth says, “On the seventh day, God makes nothing out of something. Rest is brought into being.” God creates from nothing for six days, then he flips the script on day 7. Why? That’s debatable. But this isn’t. God introduces rest as part of the Creation narrative.
Rest is essential to maintain God’s created order. When you neglect it, life gets chaotic.TWEET THIS!
Rest isn’t optional or recommended. Rest is essential for the natural order of God’s creation. When you neglect rest, life gets chaotic. This is why a regular Sabbath is important. This is why sleep is important. Rest is part of God’s design for order and peace. It’s no coincidence that this culture is the most connected in the history of the world but is also the most overwhelmed and stressed.
ACTION STEP: Get a full night’s rest. Practice a regular Sabbath. Weekly. Daily. Find a regular rhythm that works and unplug from social media, work, or anything else connecting you.
E – Exercise (get moving)
You know those meatheads who sleep at the gym under a dumbbell? Don’t be one of those. But have a rhythm to your life that includes exercise. Paul even tells Timothy physical training is of some value (1 Timothy 4:8). This seems counter-intuitive, but exercise positively affects energy, awareness, focus, mood, and health.
I have seen this in my life. Seasons when I am exercising consistently I have a more positive outlook on life, increased energy levels, and greater focus. “But Frank, I don’t have time or money for a gym membership.” Me either. Gym memberships are pricey and don’t give me results (but if you prefer the gym, then do your thing).
You don’t have to go to the gym to exercise. Take a walk. Work in the yard. Ride a bike. Dance. Just get moving. If you want to restore your life, you must exercise.
ACTION STEP: Find some way to get moving. Do it consistently. At least a few times per week. I promise it will have a positive effect on your physical and mental health.
R – Reality (be present in every situation)
If you don’t pay ATTENTION to what has your ATTENTION you will give it more ATTENTION than it deserves.Finally. The last point. But a very important one. Set your schedule. Get everything out of your head. Then, give your attention to the tasks at hand and the people in front of you.
The constant connection to newsfeeds and e-mails means we are never truly present anywhere. And being present is a key to restoring your life. It is a key to relational intimacy. It is a key to productivity. It is a key to experiencing peace and joy.
ACTION STEP: When you are with other people, put the phone away. Engage in conversation. When you start a task, give all your attention to it. This might be awkward and difficult at first. Be persistent. Being present will become easier over time.
R – Reflect
E – Empty
S – Selfish
T – Track
O – Omit
R – Rest
E – Exercise
R – Reality
You are a restorer. Practice the RESTORER principles. Write the word on a sticky note and put it next to your computer. It will remind you of a great truth. You ARE a restorer because God is a restorer. And you are created in God’s image.
Adapt these principles to your life. Change them if something else works better. I won’t get mad. I want to see lives restored, so God can be glorified. Satan wins when we are overwhelmed and over-stressed. And I hate Satan having any appearance of victory in my life or in the lives of those around me.
Disconnect from the noise. Restore your life. You can do it!
Are there some principles that have helped you restore your life? Share them with us by leaving a comment below.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!