Managing Time, Monks and Me


I’ll admit that I have a problem with time management.  If you are looking for evidence I can point you to my desk with ever increasing piles (I swear I have been meaning to get it cleaned off for months now), my sewing basket mounded up with over a year’s worth of shirts that have lost buttons,  or my to-do list with items left on there so long that they have  become irrelevant and can now be scratched off. Or you could talk to my husband who, every night, around 9:30  encourages me to close my computer, he reminds me that I want to be in bed by ten, that I need a few minutes to unwind or I can’t sleep. And every night I say in frustration, “I just need a few more minutes . . . I’m almost done . . . if there was only another hour in the day.”

This week in our reading group we are starting The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. It is a poetic memoir of Norris’ time spent in Benedictine monasteries.

In the introduction of the book she gives an overview of what she has learned from monastic communities. One of her comments has to do with time,

In our culture time can seem like an enemy: it chews us up and spits us out with appalling ease.  But the monastic perspective welcomes time as a gift from God, and seeks to put it to good use rather than allowing us to be used up by it.  .  . The Benedictines, more than any other people I know, insist that there is time in each day for prayer, for work, for study and for play.  Liturgical time is essentially poetic time, oriented towards process rather than productivity, willing to wait attentively in stillness rather than always pushing to get the job done.

And suddenly my comment feels so silly. For years I’ve gone to bed longing for an extra hour in the day.   And every day has continued to last exactly 24 hours, nada mas.  It occurred to me that maybe I’m doing something wrong (duh). If I believe that God cares for me,  that all I have is a gift from Him, and that He has work He wants me to do, would He really ask me to do the impossible?  Would He give me 25 hours worth of activities in a 24 hour long day? And if it is important to God that I have time for quiet, rest, reflection, friendship and all the other things that matter in life, than wouldn’t He give me that without  me feeling like I need to find a magic button to pause time.

Now I know there are seasons and situations that may require a brutal schedule. I went through medical school and residency and I worked my 80 hour weeks while nursing my newborn baby.  Those were times where getting enough rest was really impossible. But the longer I was at it, the more I realized that if I went to bed on time (when I could), and if I reserved Sundays as a day of rest (when I could), I felt better, than  if I spent every extra minute trying to catch up on the endless amount of studying and projects that were always hanging over my head.

Of course there are tougher situations than mine, being a single parent, financial hardships, illness and a slew of others which can really demand more than a person has to give.  But even in those cases, would they look different if we faced them with the realization that God is there with us?  Would we perhaps be  willing to take more time to take care of our souls, maybe spend more time resting or praying? Would we be willing to say  “no” when another task was asked of us? Would we  consider asking for help, relying on someone else rather than muscling through on our own strength?

(If you really do feel like you are being obedient to God but are still  pushed to the limits, I get it, and this isn’t for you, there are certainly seasons that are just that demanding, I want to encourage you to keep right on at it.  This is for those of us that have the control but keep choosing to do more instead of slowing down enough to at least ask God if we are trying to juggle too much.)

For me reading Norris (especially after reading St. Benedict), has challenged me to cut some things out. I realized that if my frantic pace is not His agenda but mine, then I  need to do something to change it. I need to re-evaluate what God is calling me to right now. Then I need to decide to do those things well and let go of the others.  It’s just a thought but this afternoon if you are exhausted it may just be that God is calling you to take a nap.



  • Shannon Reply

    This is speaking to my soul right now. My copy of the book is on order from the library so I haven’t gotten to start it yet. Hopefully soon!

    • egjarrett Reply

      Great Shannon. I hope you enjoy Cloister Walk. It really expands on some of the ideas in St. Benedict in a new way. As far as time, it is such a challenge in our culture. I struggle with feeling lazy for just sitting and playing with my daughter but then I think, what better thing could I be doing? Sometimes I don’t even feel like I am doing that much but lately I have been chronically behind so I know I need to do some major cut backs.Sometimes I wonder if our world has just gotten too big. Like now we have access to so many places and information that there is always something new to learn and do and see, which is great, but for a personality like mine it is hard to set good limits.

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