Before actually sitting down and writing my Rule of Life, I had to do one thing: I had to figure out what I was already doing with my time. What was the structure of my days currently? How did I spend my hours and weeks now? In other words, I had to know where I was starting before I could figure out where I was going.
Because the truth is: we all already have a Rule of Life.
We just don’t call it that.
But we are all living our lives, which means that we are already making decisions about how we use our time and our other resources. Just because you haven’t consciously decided how you’re going to make your decisions doesn’t mean you’re not making decisions. Of course you are—you have to.
You’re just not necessarily making the decisions you want to be making.
So I started tracking my hours.
And here’s where I admit that I cheated. See, I had an advantage when it came to figuring out how to do all this: I know someone who actually teaches about this stuff at a seminary. So I told her what I was doing, and she cheerfully loaded me down with things to read.
Here’s where I have to admit something else. I don’t know if you always read the forwards or dedications or afterwords in the books you pick up, but I do. And there I’ll invariably find a few lines like this:
Thank you to George Eightarms of the Cephalopod Institute for his insights on the mating habits of the octopus. If my undersea zombie apocalypse romance gets anything right, it’s because of his help. However, all mistakes are my own.
My friend was kind enough to point me towards the starting line. However, she is an expert and I am not. As I pointed out at the beginning of this blog series: This is just an accounting of my own experience. I’m just a layperson here. I’m writing this series both for the selfish reason that I find it interesting and also for the more charitable reason that I hope my experience might help or encourage someone else. But…all the mistakes herein are my own.
Anyway. One of the things my friend has her students do is to track their hours for a while. I used a chart she gave me, but I also went online and found this version, which I used to chart out some theoretical weeks, as I was thinking through the changes I wanted to make. (It’s from Laura Vanderkam’s site. I read a couple of her books this last year. She’s done a ton of original research on how successful women spend their time; it was really quite interesting.)
I took a couple of copies of the charts, and set to work. I assigned a color to each kind of activity I did throughout my week: things like housework/childcare, writing, editing, devotional stuff, etc. I also had categories for rest, differentiated between (for lack of better terms) good rest and bad rest—mostly because I wanted to see how much time I was throwing away on TV and social media (versus actually restorative stuff like reading for pleasure).
|Here's one of my theoretical weeks. The real thing ended up being much messier.|
The point here wasn’t to change anything right away—although I’m sure the mere act of observation did change things—but simply to gather information.
After two weeks, I had a lot of good data about how I was spending my days. The various colored sections really do jump out at you.
Now I had what I needed in order to go on my short, one-day retreat, and to pray through how I was spending my time. I had a record of what I was already doing, and I had a bunch of notes in my journal, and I had the questions that had prompted me to start this process of self-examination. I also reread sections of Holly Pierlot’s book, in order to fill in any gaps I might be forgetting to notice—to remind myself of other areas of my life that I ought to prayerfully examine.
And I also had a place to retreat to: I had been told of a small convent of Roman Catholic sisters in a neighboring city. (And, given that I live in the Los Angeles area, the “neighboring city” was only about a ten minute drive away. We pack ‘em close here.) For a small fee (just enough to cover their costs, I think), they’d provide you with a room and a meal for the day, and access to their chapel and garden, so that those who wished for a day of silence and prayer could have it.
My husband was happy to be parent-in-charge for the day while I went and prayed.
So I made my appointment, and I went.
Peace of Christ to you,
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