CHAS­ING PROB­LEMS? — OR PRE-EMPTING THEM?

Activated - - NEWS - By Maria Fon­taine, adapted

Most of us are pretty busy peo­ple. We usu­ally have more to think about and tend to than we can ac­tu­ally fit into our day. We all want to stay on top of our lives, but for me at least, keep­ing my pri­or­i­ties straight re­gard­ing the many things that I want and need to do can some­times be a chal­lenge, and my days are usu­ally filled with more than I can fit into them.

It’s not just that I have too much to do, but rather that I need to work more ef­fec­tively, more ef­fi­ciently. Oth­er­wise, I end up chas­ing prob­lems, try­ing to catch up, in­stead of find­ing the great ful­fill­ment this life can pro­vide as we walk in sync with Je­sus. I’m sure many of you face your own set of on­go­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, chal­lenges big and small, and the never-end­ing flow of things that have to be done—things that so eas­ily pile up into stress­ful, big­ger is­sues if not han­dled prop­erly.

Too of­ten I’ve found my­self caught in a down­ward cy­cle of get­ting grad­u­ally in­un­dated by dif­fi­cul­ties and the un­fore­seen or un­ex­pected com­pli­ca­tions of life and work. When things would start to pile up, my de­fault was to ig­nore the less press­ing is­sues, be­cause they didn’t ap­pear to be as crit­i­cal in the mo­ment as the more ur­gent ones. But then, be­fore I knew it, I’d find my­self face to face with one of those once-small prob­lems that I had pushed aside and that had now grown into some­thing much big­ger, de­mand­ing my time and at­ten­tion. So I’d start try­ing to fix this newly en­larged is­sue, which by that time usu­ally had also done some dam­age or caused more com­pli­ca­tions that had to also be fixed and re­quired even more of my time. Mean­while, I’d be re­peat­ing the mis­take of ig­nor­ing all the other lit­tle is­sues that would, of course, keep crop­ping up dur­ing that time.

It’s a dilemma that seems to af­fect many busy peo­ple. This pat­tern of pri­or­i­tiz­ing based on fac­ing is­sues only when they be­come large, rather than deal­ing with them while they’re still small, seems like the ob­vi­ous thing to do at the time, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to spend our lives chas­ing and stress­ing over life’s chal­lenges, do­ing dam­age con­trol, and feel­ing fre­quently over­whelmed by the on­go­ing spi­ral of our “prob­lem debt.”

I’ve been try­ing to pay more at­ten­tion to things while they’re small and eas­ier to man­age. I’ve been chang­ing my modus operandi,

shift­ing my work and life ethic into more of a “pre-empt and pre­vent” mode rather than one of on­go­ing dam­age con­trol.

It has taken more than just chang­ing in one area. It’s re­quired a mind­set change in how I look at what­ever comes into my life. It takes a con­scious ef­fort to see the is­sues as they arise and take ac­tion— or bet­ter yet, to fore­see po­ten­tial is­sues and be ready to nip them in the bud as soon as they be­gin to de­velop.

Some­times, chas­ing prob­lems can be the re­sult of a lack of suf­fi­cient self-dis­ci­pline. I’d fre­quently strug­gle with stop­ping my work on some­thing in­ter­est­ing in or­der to start some­thing else that I had sched­uled. I’d get so busy con­cen­trat­ing on one thing that the other things I was sup­posed to be do­ing that day would get pushed back. Fi­nally, I’d find my­self rush­ing to try to get all the other things taken care of, lead­ing to pres­sure and stress. In turn, the added pres­sure would of­ten lead to mis­takes that re­quired even more time to fix.

I re­al­ized I needed re­minders to help change this. Af­ter pray­ing about it, I got the idea of us­ing a timer to help me stop one project on time in or­der to go on to another. Such a sim­ple lit­tle so­lu­tion! Why didn’t I think of this be­fore? Well, it’s amaz­ing the lit­tle things that are right there in front of us but that we don’t see un­til we get se­ri­ous about change and pray about what to do.

Mak­ing the best use of your time isn’t the same as just be­ing busy. We need a bal­anced life that in­cludes times of fo­cused work and times of re­lax­ation to un­wind and let go of the day’s con­cerns. For ex­am­ple, I had fallen into the habit of con­tin­u­ing my work in the evenings un­til shortly be­fore bed­time—un­til I re­al­ized it was an in­ef­fi­cient use of that time. The hours I worked late at night weren’t very pro­duc­tive but still re­quired at least the same amount of ef­fort.

I needed to in­vest time in re­lax­ing to avoid “chas­ing” the prob­lem of get­ting less sleep. Work­ing right up to bed­time left my mind so filled with busi­ness that even af­ter I’d fi­nally stop, I couldn’t sleep for an hour or two. In­vest­ing time in re­lax­ing in the evenings has im­proved sev­eral health is­sues that were be­ing wors­ened by lack of sleep.

Hav­ing time to re­lax and wind down be­fore bed is crit­i­cal to get­ting the kind of qual­ity sleep that helps to keep us healthy in body, mind,

and spirit. Car­ry­ing our work over into our sleep time, even if it’s only in our mind, cre­ates a stress-tainted, in­ef­fi­cient sleep that can lead to dam­age rather than re­build­ing and strength­en­ing.

This prin­ci­ple of pre-empting prob­lems large and small is im­por­tant for ev­ery­one in ev­ery as­pect of our lives, be­cause it af­fects every­thing from pro­duc­tiv­ity and fi­nances to safety, se­cu­rity, health, and peace of mind.

I read a good ar­ti­cle1 on how small prob­lems can grow into big ones if we don’t deal with them. It’s about a cou­ple who rec­og­nized the im­por­tance of per­sonal fam­ily time but strug­gled to make reg­u­lar qual­ity time over din­ner with their chil­dren a re­al­ity. They would find them­selves chas­ing a grow­ing pile of com­pli­ca­tions that be­gan ac­cu­mu­lat­ing from the start of their work­day, un­til the back­log made it nearly im­pos­si­ble to make it home on time for din­ner to­gether. They knew this time with their chil­dren was a price­less op­por­tu­nity that was be­ing lost for­ever.

The so­lu­tion re­quired them to find the root of their prob­lem and pre-empt it. Iron­i­cally, it was some­thing they had never imag­ined. A small lack in fore­sight was caus­ing a chain re­ac­tion through­out their day that left them in­un­dated, try­ing to play catch-up. But once they took the time to dis­cover what was at the root of the prob­lem, all that was needed was to take some sim­ple steps to pre-empt the prob­lem, en­abling them to achieve their goal of pro­vid­ing what their fam­ily needed.

There are many more ex­am­ples that could be cited. I’m guess­ing that you can prob­a­bly think of some from your own ex­pe­ri­ence. In­tro­duc­ing a few new habits and ad­just­ments into your life can make it so much more pro­duc­tive, ef­fec­tive, and less stress­ful. Why not take a look at your life and make a list of ar­eas where you could take charge of your sit­u­a­tion? Dis­cover how much more qual­ity your life can have, free from the stress and frus­tra­tion of chas­ing prob­lems!

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