On Saturday, I experienced a cockroach encroaching on my coffee, but today I realized other bugs have been encroaching on my sleep. I don’t mean creepy crawlies; I mean things that are bugging me.
Such as the feeling that my summer is slipping away.
For the past week, my usual sound-sleeping habits have been disturbed by dreams of the computer kind. I wake up because I am inside a Web site or a computer program working out problems or completing my school work, frustrated because they never end. Or I can’t get to sleep because I am thinking about all I have to do–or all that I might have done wrong. Or I fall asleep and wake up well before my alarm, my mind alert–and anxious. And, always, always, I am counting the dwindling days–grieving–until I return to school as a teacher. July is so short.
I’m suffering encroachment issues. As I began this summer, I had high intentions (which I wrote about) of following a schedule, making time for writing, for my student work, for my teacher work, for housework, and the like. I have failed in that regard. I underestimated the number of hours and the mind power my summer courses would take. The past four weeks, my two online classes–each estimating 16 hours per week of work–have overlapped, claiming a whopping 32 hours per week of my time. My summer classes began before my teaching year ended and end after my teaching year begins. In addition, I took on a task from the school where I teach, the hours inestimable currently, but the task always pressing hard–at least on my mind.
I’m not complaining about the classes or the work. I think the fault is with me. I suffer encroachment issues because I fail to establish and uphold boundaries.
The past weeks in my Managing Educational Projects course, I’ve learned a lot about managing projects, of course, but I’ve also seen how I fail to manage myself, specifically in two concepts: scope creep and Parkinson’s Law. (Not favorable terms, by the way.) While scope refers to all the work involved in getting a project completed, scope creep is the tendency for that scope to get
better and better bigger and bigger. (And since I accidentally typed “better and better” first, you can tell I often experience this creep and fail to recognize it as a negative.) Parkinson’s Law, quite simply, states that work expands to fill the time allowed.
Unfortunately, those two concepts are defining my summer. I am simply allowing my school work (as a student and as a teacher) to consume my time–allowing my projects and assignments to get bigger and bigger (albeit, better and better) and expand to fill my summer days. At the end of the hot, humid day, I still have an A (and a job, which I don’t undervalue) but I have no novel started, no house painted or even deep-cleaned, no spiritual walk or friendships deepened, no relaxation and rejuvenation, and, clearly (as I began typing at 2:30 a.m.), no rest for the weary.
The Eagles’ song lyrics, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin, slippin’ into the future” is a refrain in my brain. Except my summertime is slipping into the past–too quickly–and a school year with so little spare time is my future.
This stress and lack of sleep isn’t God’s plan for me. Psalm 127 says:
“Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves” (verses 1-2, NIV).
I need to embrace the wisdom in the Psalmist’s words. If God is not building me as a student and as a teacher, then my efforts are for naught. If God is building me, then my stress and lack of sleep are unnecessary to the process. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NIV). If I am merely lamenting the passing of these summer days and not becoming wiser in my handling of them, I have gained nothing. I need to put God first, trust Him to accomplish through me the tasks I believe He has placed before me, do my best–without stressing or lacking sleep.
So let time keep on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’… I’ll be nipping that scope creep in the bud and granting smaller windows of time to my schoolwork to combat my Parkinson’s Law tendencies–so I’ll have time for some sleepin’, sleepin’, sleepin’ and the other joys that my precious days of summer hold.