For I have known them all already, known them all;
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot.
The image has always stuck in my mind–measuring one’s life with coffee spoons–ever since I sat in British Literature class and read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I certainly didn’t get the poem completely at first, all the references and metaphors. But under my favorite professor Dr. Pucio’s quiet questions, the poem began to unlock itself to me.
One theme of the poem is time. At first there always seems to be time. “Time for you and time for me / And time yet for a hundred indecisions, / And for a hundred visions and revisions, / Before the taking of toast and tea.” But time is passing, running out. It asks the question “how should I live the rest of my life?” In trivial moments only? Measured out with coffee spoons? In the end time runs out. If there’s anything we know, it’s that time will run out for us all.
So how will I live the time I have?
Measuring my life with coffee spoons is something I don’t want to do. To let time slip by with none of my dreams attempted or accomplished would be a sad thing. That said, I’m not talking about living at a frenzied-filled pace either, doing everything and spread so thin downtime doesn’t exist. What I’m talking about is living a thoughtful, prayerful, and purposeful life. And that can be quite a challenge! It comes down how I organize my life.
I’m finding that being able so say “no” is important to not measuring my life with coffee spoons. To know what I’m called to do helps weed out what other people ask of me. What others want me to do might not always line up with what I should be doing. That said, I also need to not live selfishly, only concerned about what I want to accomplish. There are many times I need to accommodate others’ needs that may come up spur of the moment. But when I know I’m doing what I’m “supposed” to be doing, when things do get hectic, I know God will give me the strength to accomplish all I need to.
Here’s some practical ways I’m currently have in place to organize my time and hence my life:
Let the Fence Hold
I loved this article on time management by Doug Wilson. And I love the visual of “letting the fence hold.” If we don’t build a fence around our life in some way, we’ll be running around like crazy. Everyone’s fence will be different. Everyone will have different values or needs for rest. But everyone needs to figure out where their fence will be. It really comes down to choosing your priorities, as Tsh has already written about so well over on Simple Mom.
I’d never get anything done if it wasn’t for bucket lists. Truly, they’ve revolutionized my life. Mostly, they organize my “free” time in the afternoon when my kids nap. My bucket lists are 1.) meal planning/grocery list, 2.) book proposal, 3.) photography, 4.) blogging, and 5.) read/nap. I move them around every week. They’re not assigned a day. I’m flexible. On weeks I have a photography or writing deadline, I may spend three days on one task. But I’m finding I have to do that less because I’m keeping up with everything better this way. Before bucket lists I was more motivated by the “tyranny of the urgent.”
Talk to Your Spouse
Josh and I generally talk to each other before adding a new appointment or task to our schedule. Why? Not because we’re indecisive but because what one does has a direct impact (usually) on the other person. Even if it doesn’t, the other person can add clarity to the decision or bring up issues the other person hadn’t considered. We want to operate as a team and make sure we’re both on board with each others’ activities.
How do you practically organize your life so that you make sure you’re doing what matters to you?