As we countdown to a productive new year, may we manage our time in a way that promotes peace in our hearts, our lives, and our world.
Following peace can guide us in how we productively use our time
As I mentioned last week, during the four weeks of December we’ll be counting down to the new year, with each episode focused on a different aspect of what I see as the mission of this podcast. December is a busy time for many of us, with holiday gatherings, school programs for the kids, end-of-year rush at work, and more. But if you are using part of your time to listen to this podcast, I invite you to use it as an opportunity to pause, look ahead to the holiday and the coming new year, and give some thought to what you want out of the holiday season and the year.
TPW’s purpose is to help give you the tools and encouragement you need to manage four things: your time, your life, your stress, and your stuff. As part of our countdown look at those four areas, last week we considered, indirectly, managing our stress by looking for ways to find joy in our day-to-day lives.
This week I want us to consider together how to manage time by focusing on peace.
Like many episodes, this one–in fact, this whole December countdown–started as my own attempt to come up with ways to address something I’ve been pondering in my own life.
I am not always by nature a peaceful person. I’ve always been a worrier, always been a person who expects a lot of myself–even more than I expect of other people–and I naturally tend toward anxiety when things don’t go the way I expect or want them to. My perfectionist tendencies can lead to procrastination–I delay starting things I’m not sure I can do perfectly, so I end up scrambling at the last minute to complete things.
I’ve been remembering lately something someone told me many years ago about making decisions. I was pondering a choice that would have a big impact on my life, and was feeling anxious and stressed, unsure which was the right option. This person counseled me to follow peace. Meaning as I thought about the options before me, get quiet and listen to my heart: which one gave me a deep-within sense of peace (even if it was scary)? Go that way, she said. Even if I couldn’t see how it would all work out.
That phrase–follow peace–has been on my mind a lot lately, as I’ve found myself struggling to keep up with work demands during this hectic season. And I’ve been thinking about how that guidance can apply to how we manage our time. I thought it was worth digging into as we prepare for this holiday season and for a productive new year.
What is peace?
One dictionary I consulted defines peace as freedom from disturbance; tranquility. Merriam-Webster defines it as freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations.
According to one article I read, September 21 is designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Peace. Obviously this relates to the absence of war and international conflict, but I do wonder if peace among nations might be easier to maintain if we humans were better at being at peace within ourselves.
Like joy, peace is an internal thing, separate and independent from your circumstances. As writer Samantha Vincenty says in an article called How to Find Inner Peace and Happiness in the Chaos,
“Peace of mind doesn’t require peace and quiet.”
It doesn’t require us to retreat from the world and do nothing. We can be at peace even in the midst of a life of activity and accomplishment.
What interferes with personal peace?
One writer offers a good summary, most of which boils down to spending too much time focused on things beyond our control, like other people (what they do, what they think of us), our circumstances, the future, the unknown, and the impossible, like achieving perfection.
Our minds, left to themselves, will take us down unpeaceful paths–regrets over the past, worries about the future, and rage against the world or other people.
Any of the above can affect our personal peace by how they affect our use of time. Not just the time spent on thinking about those things, but the things we agree to do (or things we don’t do) with our time because of those regrets, worry, or rage: saying yes because we want people to think well of us; over-filling our schedule because of fear of missing out; procrastinating due to perfection; and more.
Why does it matter to a woman who wants to be productive?
An article by the Kentucky Counseling Center lists several benefits of finding inner peace:
- Better everyday function in handling your day-to-day affairs
- Increased energy levels and improved emotional management
- Less drama, fewer worries, less stress, and positive thoughts
- A kind and compassionate treatment of other people
- Not being easily affected by society’s negative comments
- The ability to learn how to deal with difficult emotions
- The ability to have a clear judgment when dealing with stressful challenges
- Better sleep quality”
A post on the Life’s Journey blog agrees, noting also that when we are at peace, we’re less distracted and better able to focus, and we are likely to have better relationships with other people.
What’s the connection between peace and time management?
When we realize the value of peace, we can choose to follow peace as a principle by which we manage our time. For example, when we are considering an activity, commitment, etc., pause and ask, do I feel at peace with this decision? Will this choice contribute to peace in my mind, my home, and my life? When looking at my schedule overall — how full it is, how my days go — do I feel at peace?
But also, how we manage our time–what we choose to do with it–can contribute to peace . . . or not.
Where should we consider following peace?
We can seek to be at peace with how we’re using our time–be purposeful about it.
We can learn to be at peace with ourselves. We have nothing to prove–that is, our value and worth are not found in what we do. If we believe that, and internalize it, we might not succumb to the drive to always be doing, to always say yes, to fill up our calendars, days, weeks, hours, with activity that might or might not be productive, that might not bring joy, that might not serve our goals. Instead, we can purpose to let what we do reflect who we want to be in the world
We can work to be at peace with others (which is much easier to do if we’re at peace with ourselves!). So for instance, don’t spend any time trying to change them, or hating them, or trying to change what they think about you. It’s impossible to be at peace if you’re at war with others–even if the war is only in your own thoughts and they have no idea it’s occurring
Maybe above all, we can learn to be at peace with what is instead of fighting against it or resenting it. By this I mean, on a practical level, when we are choosing how to use our time, be aware of our current conditions and circumstances–our health, stage of life, etc., and work with those facts instead of fighting against them. This awareness can guide us in how much we take on. Of course, I’m not suggesting we make excuses for not trying or doing what we need and want to do, but rather be honest about our own capabilities, capacity, and limitations, AND then strategize ways to work around or overcome them.
How do we cultivate peace?
This begins with awareness–what does peace mean to you? For me, it’s a quietness of mind, even in the midst of noise and activity.
I saw an Instagram post by Erica Layne of The Life On Purpose Movement inviting people to share what peace feels like to them. She shared some of hers, saying to her peace feels like:
- The moment when the sun slips below the horizon and paints the sky with fire.
- A hug when two people have recognized their missteps.
- A quiet moment in the dark before the rest of the house stirs.
- The steady rhythm of your steps when you decide to walk off the stress of a long day.
- The incredible comfort of knowing that the person you are in private and the person you are in public is one and the same.”
She notes: “Maybe if we internalize how peace feels, we can create more of it in our lives.”
I found lots of resources with great suggestions that I’ll be implementing, one at a time, for cultivating peace in my mind and life. Some of those resources are linked below, and some of their suggestions include :
Spend time in nature
Mind management — such as:
- Meditate (the practice of slowing down your racing mind, breathing deeply, etc.). Even just taking 60 seconds now and then to close your eyes, breathe deeply, and relax your tense body can change your mind from breathless anxiety to calm serenity.
- Journaling–mind dumps to get things out of your head and processing your thoughts
- Prayer–releasing those worries, regrets, etc., to God (I have friends who combine this with time in nature by going on prayer walks)
Feed your mind/spirit what promotes peace (in areas such as music, literature, etc.) and eliminate or at least limit what promotes anxiety, worry, anger, or negativity.
Personally, I find it difficult to be at peace if I spend much time watching the news or on certain social media channels, like Twitter, both of which seem flooded with negativity and hate, so I limit time with either .
Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music all have channels or playlists of music that uplifts and promotes peace
If you’re a person of faith, the Bible or other spiritual texts can help; make time to read or listen, even if it’s just a few minutes.
In addition, you can seek out books that inspire or inform on ways to promote peace. Courtney Carver’s wonderful book, Soulful Simplicity, comes to mind. (We talked about it on episode 182 as part of our Productive Reading series.)
I like to gather quotes on peace and read them, post them where I can see them, and ponder them. They offer both inspiration and reminders that peace is available to me if I choose to follow it.
Declutter–your space, your schedule, your thinking. Studies show that women are negatively affected by clutter in a way that men are not.
With respect specifically to time:
- Listen to your heart and let it guide how you use your time
- Leave white space in your schedule, so you have time to think, to do that listening
- Strategize ways to eliminate activities that don’t foster peace or that actually make it more difficult for you
- Have a trusted system in place to keep track of commitments–use your calendar, task lists, etc., so you are not sacrificing peace to the labor of remembering it all
- Build into your schedule time to plan and prepare–consider Laura Vanderkam’s suggestion, from our recent discussion in episode 420 of her book Tranquility by Tuesday, of blocking out time on Fridays to plan the coming week.
- Build in time for those things–people, activities, etc.–that bring you joy.
Some final thought
Following peace doesn’t mean you don’t do anything and have an empty calendar, just sitting at home in silence. It doesn’t mean you don’t set goals and go after them. Being at peace doesn’t require any of that.
As I was preparing for this episode, I ran across a quote on Instagram from Lauren Gaskill:
“I do not want to be a woman whose life is marked by hurry; I want to be a woman whose heart is at peace.”
As I read that, my eyes filled with tears and my heart said, “Yes!” That perfectly describes who I want to be now, during this holiday season, and in the coming year. My intention is to keep that quote in mind as I make my plans for how I’ll use my time this week, during this holiday season, and in the coming year.
What do you think?
How do you want to use your time in the weeks and year to come? Do you intend to follow peace? And if so, what does peace feel like to you?
Resources and Links
TPW Productive Reading episodes
- TPW182 – Productive Reading: Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver
- TPW420 – Productive Reading: Tranquility by Tuesday by Laura Vanderkam
TPW episodes on gratitude
- TPW167 – Gratitude and Productivity
- TPW270 – Gratitude
- TPW311- Practicing Gratitude, with Autumn McKay
- TPW Mastermind information and online application
- What is peace, exactly? – The Washington Post
- What Is Peace? | Peace In Peace Out
- 30 Best Peace Quotes – Quotes and Sayings About Peace and Tranquility
- 10 Things That Disturb Inner Peace 📽️ – Einzelgänger
- 10 Things Mentally Strong People Give Up to Gain Inner Peace | Inc.com
- 5 Reasons Why Inner Peace Is Important
- How to Find Your Inner Peace – Kentucky Counseling Center
- 11 Ways to Find Your Inner Peace and Happiness Now
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Royse City, Texas