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I have measured out my life with coffee spoons . . .

June 15, 2011

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.

Bucket Lists
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?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2011 12:16 pm

    “To know what I’m called to do helps weed out what other people ask of me.” So true- I’m learning this right now!

    After I read the book Creative Counterpart by Linda Dillow I started making my list when it came to priorities. They are: 1.) God 2.) Husband 3.) Children 4.) home/housework 5.) Exercise 6.) Writing & Blogging

    Of course those get out of order and change but it helps me in the day to day. I actually said no a few weeks ago to a playdate because I needed to do laundry. Time with friends is different every day and is scattered in there as well.

    Very well done post Danielle. Your writing is always refreshing.

  2. June 15, 2011 6:18 pm

    I would be lost without my list and calendar. I am though most intrigued by the image of the coffee spoon. wow. that really resonates with me. I read a line once that went something like this: Lord if I had only realized how much you love us, I would have come to you with buckets, not teaspoons.

    I know I don’t have that exact but your post reminded me of that saying.

  3. June 15, 2011 7:23 pm

    What a poem and thought provoking post. It makes me think of a book I just finished reading called Abundant Simplicity by Jan Johnson. The current of life can distract me faster than I like, so I prioritize reading books like this that keep taking me back, as does Scripture, to the way I really want to live. It involves keeping a simple focus and schedule to keep on path complex in the ways I truly love and desire.

  4. June 15, 2011 9:52 pm

    My hubby orders his days using this as his main guide:

    I tend to live a bit more impulsively than my husband (but I think almost anyone might appear even a tad bit impulsive compared to my hubby….who I ADORE and LOVE with all my heart.) 🙂
    Nevertheless, the way he orders his time inadvertently impacts how I then order my days. Like you and Josh, Lawrence and I talk through a lot of our schedule. We meet on Sun. nights usually to go over the week and occasionally will also look at the month ahead as well.

    Throughout the week, we touch base at night before we nod off or in the a.m. before LA leaves for work to remind each other of what the day holds for each one of us.

    We are always talking about our priorities, too: evaluating what we’re doing, what we’re giving our time and attention to and why.

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