Slow-Down Fast & Simplify: To-Do/Not-To-Do List

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Join me as I embark on a “Slow-Down Fast”: a season dedicated to humbly and boldly simplifying and slowing (schedule, habits, activities, thought-patterns) in order to experience a more focused and intimate relationship with God in my everyday life.The “fast” will begin Ash Wednesday, March 9, and end on Easter Sunday.I’ll be preparing and planning for the next two weeks, publishing Slow-Down Fast posts on Saturdays in conjunction with Cheryl’s Simplify theme. To participate in Cheryl’s Simplify “carnival,” pop over to Culture Smith after writing and publishing something about simplifying your life. She’s got a linky up already for today.You can also link up ideas for your own “Slow-Down Fast” here:

Ann’s Slow-Down Fast Thoughts & Plans:

In my book Not So Fast, I talk about capacity. Like it or not, each of us has a limited capacity of tasks we can accomplish and activities we can attend—when we exceed capacity, especially on an ongoing basis, we enter a kind of survival mode as we deal with consequences like emotional drain, stress symptoms, relational strain, fatigue, and discouragement.To think of it in the positive, however, each of us has an ideal capacity and speed, and if we can discover that, we can enjoy healthy, productive lives that allow for rest and worship as well as work—not to mention time with family and friends. When we’re operating at ideal capacity, minor mishaps can be dealt with more creatively because we aren’t rushing off to the next thing and can adjust our schedule to clean up the mess or wait longer for an appointment.Discovering my ideal capacity is an evolving thing. Just when I find what works, my kids enter a new stage of life and my capacity shifts—it may open up with more possibilities than ever before, or it may shrink when the kids need much more from me than I expected.Lately, my kids have seemed to require less moment-by-moment attention and input. Because they need less hovering attention, I’ve had more free time and emotional space (or so I thought); thus, I’ve experimented with my schedule, agreeing to take on tasks and projects I couldn’t have pulled off two years before. I thought I had adequate capacity, so I experimented.In the past, these experiments have often worked well. Lately, however, they haven’t.In the past three weeks, I’ve realized that I’ve taken on too much; I’m operating at maximum capacity—probably a smidgen over capacity. I’m less patient, discerning and attentive. I feel drained. I even missed an appointment on Monday, and though it turned out okay in the end, I spent most of the day scolding myself and feeling like a failure. I knew it was because I had too much going on.I’m living over capacity and exceeding my limits.And I can’t continue like that.What can change? Here’s the start of my Slow-Down Fast “To-Do/Not-To-Do” list:

  • During my slow-down fast, Lord willing (which can be assumed with each of these points), I won’t launch any new projects or take on new tasks. If people ask for my help, I’ll ask if it can wait until after Easter.
  • Unless we’re faced with imminent issues in that time frame, I will avoid making major decisions.
  • When I reach closure on a project or commitment, I won’t fill that open time slot with something new.
  • I’ll try to do something fun every day.
  • I’ll try to do something relaxing every day.
  • I’ll listen to music. I’m not as auditory as some folks, maybe, but for some reason I have neglected this. Of course, I do have young musicians pounding away on the piano two feet away from my desk, so maybe they’ve become my default soundtrack…along with the quiet that follows when they’re finished?
  • While I may not post all of my list publicly, I will continue counting “One Thousand Gifts” with Ann Voskamp, picking up where I left off long ago.
  • I intend to maintain good habits I have in place (reading, journaling, praying).

How do you hope to slow down and simplify during Lent (or any time)?

Credits: Photo of reading in hammock by Ann Kroeker, taken on a late summer day in 2009. Slow-Down Fast button created from a photo by kacos2000/Costas, used under a Creative Commons license permitting the image to be shared and adapted for non-commercial purposes.
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  • Comments

    1. This just says it so well for me Ann. When I am over committed, everything seems to fall apart – including me. I am finally learning to say no to some things. When I consider my time, though, I realize that I am guilty of getting side-tracked far too easily. One of those “side-trackers” is blogging. I exceed the time I know I should spend on the computer and then the rest of the day is a jumbled rush. I have to learn to have more balance – and not feel so pressured to read and comment on every blog, every day. It is that old “people-pleaser” tendency I have always struggled with. I love your ideas. I’m in this with you.

      • annkroeker says:

        “When I am over committed, everything seems to fall apart–including me.” Yep. That’s it.

        And I hear what you’re saying about getting side-tracked. So glad to hear from you about this!

    2. Ann,
      I love this idea. Now I have to think about how I can do it.

      We speak around here about our “anti-hecticity plan” but have varying degrees of success in following it–probably because it’s too hazy in design. To call it a plan is probably grandiose.

      I’m thinking your list idea would be a good way for us to hang some meaningful flesh on the anti-hecticity bones.

    3. Oh friend, your list is sounding good. I have committed to an early bedtime beginning March 9; I’ll have to see what else might be in store. I could use a slow-down fast; that’s for sure!

      Good to talk with you this afternoon. Hope whatever burned turned out ok.


    4. Beautifully written, Ann. Your commitment to slowing down during this Easter season inspires me to do the same. I often find myself going from one project to another. Easter reminds me that only the Spirit can bring forth new life in me. Thank you for reminding me of what is important.

      • annkroeker says:

        JoDee, thanks for your note–I’m glad to share with you the journey. “Only the Spirit can bring forth new life in me.” Yes! And yet we keep trying to work so hard and accomplish so much in our hurry-up life. This is such a powerful reason for me to embark on a slow-down fast–to remind me Who is the one who can change me!

    5. And the thing is that our capacity also ebbs and flows depending on what tasks we face. I know I suddenly have way more energy when approaching a task I look forward to. And way less when it’s a task (or series of them) I’m dreading. :)

      • annkroeker says:

        Yes, this is true. I recall what you said in your post the other day when you realized that something needs to change…you asked yourself, “what do you love to do?” And then you went sledding! :) But that seems like what you’re saying; if we are doing something we love or look forward to, it can be a life-giving, positive thing.

        I have to be careful, however–and I almost wrote this into the post above–that even too many good things can get to be too much for me. Sometimes I even have to turn down something I look forward to in order to live more fully the other things that fill my days (even if they are ALL things I look forward to…but who has days that are filled entirely with things they look forward to?).

    6. Some great points, Ann.

      I’ve had some time to think and pray on it too, and…I’m in!

    7. At work each week our staff meets to talk about the projects we’re working on. The purpose it to let our Project Manager know how much “capacity” we have to take on additional projects. Sometimes I offer up that I have “capacity” but my manager may think differently. She’ll say – in essence – “Those projects you’re working on are big enough for now. I’m not going to add to your load.” I always appreciate her perspective, and she is usually right. It’s good to have someone in my life who knows when I have enough on my plate, even when my view gets cloudy.

      • annkroeker says:

        She’s got your back! What a great boss, Deidra. You should write about that and submit it to Bradley for “work.” Truly, how many bosses think like that? Most are trying to squeeze every last bit out of their employees, not thinking long term. Your boss is a wise one, and she wants you around for a long, long time!

    8. Like Linda, I’m in this with you. The need to slow down, fast is significant. For the last few months, I’ve been in a pruning phase already, but I sense there’s more. I especially like the idea of completing projects/tasks and not picking up more, creating margin for God to speak during Lent.

      • annkroeker says:

        Yes, this is critical and I want to bring that up next Saturday, and the idea is that I want to create this space and start listening in order to hear from the Lord Himself during Lent so that I am really ready on Easter to receive Him with abandonment.

    9. Ann,
      I love your idea of listening to music. So many times I need a break from the noise of life. What beter way to block some of the nonsense out than to pump some good noise in?

      • annkroeker says:

        I created some Pandora stations to address my moods, and it has really been a restful, soothing background to discordant days.

    10. Your thoughts and analysis of what steals our energy and rest are so on target! I know I over commit myself and then find I have little or grumpy little to give my family. They should get the best. And sometimes, I just use my energy and time on activities that are not as productive or useful for the overall good. Like sometimes I place too much emphasis on blogging or commenting.
      So in light of this (and, honestly, because of the little response on Aunt Mary’s Enchilada recipe post) I am reposting this recipe next Friday! I figure not too many people saw it so it will be OK. And, I might bake Mom’s Orange Loaf in the meantime and add that to it! Oh, no. There I go again!

      • annkroeker says:

        Sometimes the writing and commenting is an energizing, life-giving thing for me (see LL’s comment above), but sometimes I just plain have too much going on and it doesn’t matter how much I like doing it! I’m just a low-capacity gal.

        • a “low capacity” gal…hmmm, I like that. :) You know, God had to literally bring me to the place of being “low capacity” because I just could not get it on my own. I am convinced that this was the main purpose of the Lord leading me through the valley of depression a few years ago…He had to physically SLOW ME DOWN. And, I still have a hard time saying no. :) But I’m learning! And God is stretching me in the quiet, slow moments and showing me just how beautiful they can be! I also have to turn down even the great things I enjoy doing…I just get so overwhelmed these days. I don’t like it, but I’m learning to accept it and be content in the stillness.

    11. I love the word “capacity” as you’re using it, as well as the acknowledgment that it changes as our children’s schedules change.
      I think I am going to use this Lenten fast to pray through how to work at home this next summer. At the end of last summer, my kids sat me down and had an intervention because I was making their lives miserable. Their capacity is bigger than it was a year ago, but I am more aware of my limits than I was a year ago. Frankly, I’m a pretty limited gal.
      And yes, no new commitments until after Easter!! Amen and Amen.

      • annkroeker says:

        Oh, Megan, I just told Janis (comment above) that I’m a low-capacity gal. In my book, I use the analogy of ships and their capacity, and I compare myself with a shrimp boat. Not only because I like shrimp and long to live along the Gulf or Atlantic Coast in the South, but because they are sturdy and hardworking when focused on just a few things. The thing is, they can’t handle a heavy load for long periods of time. They aren’t a freighter. And so I have to be careful not to behave like a big cargo ship. Or a speed boat.

    12. I may have slowed down too much already!! There is probably some room in my capacity now that time has passed. Tomorrow I will post about my first job and seasons in life that constantly change. The next day, a post on when my capacity was too full and I was short tempered and stressed out. Your posts are such an encourangement to me and I am certain to many others.

    13. This is the link for today: I also entered it on Cheryl Smiths site for Simplicity

    14. The post you requested notice of is: This post still hurts!

    15. When my kids were growing up and I was homeschooling them, this was always a challenge. I just think it’s uphill all the way, because nothing in your life together is static. As soon as you have it figured out, your little people change again!

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