I’ve entered middle age. I wake up around 5:30 most days regardless of what time I went to bed. I’m usually refreshed—unless the Red Sox had a late game that I half watched since I often doze off when they run past 9. The kids begin waking up with the sun most days, so I use the time in the morning as intentionally as I can.
I am finding these days that after reading Morning Prayer I want to explore the day to come and map out what has the potential to bring me life on this day. I regularly do the Examen (an Ignation spiritual practice where you reflect on the day asking what fed your soul today and what took life away from you. Want to learn more? Get the book Sleeping with Bread). But it has been only recently that I’ve wondered if I could mold my day to tilt to the life-giving side of the equation.
In my work I know administrative things drain me while time one-on-one with parishioners feeds me. I love taking time to craft words into sentences that have the potential to change someone’s life. Reading a blog that makes me think invites me to try on new ideas. In my personal life I enjoy time with my kids and my wife, and especially having meals together. Reading together at night often revives my soul. Tucking my children into bed always brings me joy as it does them. Laundry is always a drain, although I like it when it’s done (who doesn’t?).
I’m laying it out in its most basic form because many events happen in a day that we cannot plan—an interaction with a coworker or something I read that moves me or an unexpected pastoral situation like an illness or a death in a family. Frankly, I love that about my job too, the enormous variety of things that come up in the work of a priest, otherwise I’d be bored out of my skull.
Or you may be in a different phase of life. Maybe you’re retired or your vocation is to stay at home. Maybe you’re a student. Whatever your situation, there is that which feeds you and that which doesn’t.
It comes down to this: What if I knew I had many things in store for today that brought me life? Wouldn’t that make me more eager to engage the day with gusto? What if I could tackle anything I thought might drain me as early as possible so it didn’t drag me down all day? What if I lived more intentionally?
Here’s my plan:
- Take 5 minutes to think about the day ahead, about the tasks that need to be done. It helps me to be more intentional if I write it down.
- Determine which of those things would bring you joy or life or energy. Imagine which will drain you. But don’t be so certain! Sometimes I think something will be hard when it’s really great.
- Map out the day as best you can. Obviously meetings are usually fixed but other things can maybe be more flexible.
- Start with something you love, then do most of the things that might drain you. The weight of dread is horrible to bear an entire day and will color everything else.
- Make sure to do at least one thing that feeds you each day. It seems obvious, but there have been times when I’ve reached the end of the day and realized I missed opportunities to take delight in my day. Too many days in a row of slogging through can make you miserable.
As I journey further into my life, I’m recognizing more and more that intentionality is key. It’s easy to drift, to get sucked up into social media or some drama in my life, and then wonder where the day went. But if I take a few minutes and reflect on all the good things that can come from this day and plan to to them, then I give myself the possibility of ending my day with the Examen and with gratitude.