How to Plan with Vocation in Mind

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You said yes and now you regret it.

If only there were a way to be able to filter requests for your time so that you didn’t feel guilty for saying no or feel overwhelmed because you said yes.

Instead, we often teeter-totter our approach. A bout of overcommitment leads us to cut way back – perhaps cutting too much, not investing our time and energy but rather hoarding it.

We don’t want to be spread too thin, but we also don’t want to squander our lives. We want to abound in good works, be zealous for good works, and yet stay sane at the same time.

Is that too much to ask?

An integral part of both Simplified Organization and Work the Plan is vocation. Vocation is the idea that God has called us to fulfill various roles and responsibilities in our lives, and so we should intentionally and diligently and even enthusiastically do so.

In order to fulfill our responsibilities, we have to know what they are.

So we name them. Naming them also limits them.

Sure, the roles might change throughout our lives, but when we have a limited list of names we want to excel in, we have a grid by which to examine every opportunity or idea that presents itself.

Plus, when we plan according to vocation, we see our time and energy like a pie chart. We see where our efforts are currently going and that allows us to make appropriate adjustments.

For example, if I have 5 active projects plus maintenance tasks under my Christian/person/self vocation but only some minor maintenance tasks under family or church, then I can see that even if I am using the rhetoric of investing in myself so I can invest in others – I’m actually not, I’m only being selfish.

However, if everything I have on my plate falls under family and nothing involves personal development or community service, then I can examine whether or not adding something might not actually stretch me thinner but rather build me up as I walk in obedience to all God has called me to.

When I create a time budget, I color-code my time chunks by vocation. Are my top priority vocations getting the majority of my time or is my current favorite vocation getting all my attention and everything else is fending for itself? Does my time budget – like my financial budget – put my resources where my heart is supposed to be? Then, do I follow through with those budgets, letting my intentional choices guide my in-the-moment choices.

When you see yourself as living out the roles given to you by God, you realize you can’t simply fly by the seat of your pants and make it up as you go along. You have duties to fulfill. You have energy and talent to invest and opportunities to do so.

Vocations give a structure that produces confidence in every day decision-making. Suddenly we are not simply cleaning for cleaning’s sake or making that phone call because it was the task that happened to sound best at the time. Instead, we’re serving our family, preparing for hospitality, or building up our local church body.

So, if we know and name our vocations, what do we actually do with that information when we’re planning?

I’ve already mentioned using them to analyze our time budgets, and Simplified Organization instructs how to write a growth plan for each one, but even in the nitty gritty details, those vocations come in handy.

Quickly filter requests for your time.

When opportunities or requests come up, it’s not only your calendar you need to look at. You also need to look at your energy and attention commitments, which don’t show up on the calendar but do show up when you plan by vocation.

Do you have room for another extracurricular? It’s not just about the time, it’s about what need it’s serving and what responsibility it’s fulfilling.

Can you take food to the thing? Is that one of the ways you serve within your vocations? Or do you serve through other means and would taking that opportunity detract from another responsibility at this time?

Once we get used to categorizing projects and opportunities by vocation, we get better at intuiting whether or not we actually have the bandwidth or even responsibility for the current idea or request.

Choose between two (or more) ideas.

Some of us are project people and idea-generating machines. When we have enough ideas to fill pages of notes and enough zeal to start a million projects (but not enough to finish them), we need criteria to help us direct our limited resources (time, energy, space, and money) so that we can focus and finish.

When we divvy up our potential schemes by vocation, we can keep them in balance with our whole life. We can make sure no area or no important people in our lives are getting neglected while we put all our energies into a side venture.

Looking at our undertakings with this framework helps us make hard decisions and stay balanced.

Build your task list.

Every day we have a million tasks to choose from. What makes it on the list? When we know our vocations, we can pick with confidence. We have named our priorities, so we can use them and act on them in concrete ways by choosing 1-2 tasks per vocation for each day’s list.

Have you found and named your vocations? How has that helped you make better decisions in real life?

Share your stories in the comments!

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