In my previous post, I talked about the importance of getting off to a good start. In today’s post, we’ll delve into some practical ways to do this.
Resisting the Siren’s Song
In Homer’s, Odyssey, the Sirens are creatures who use their enchanting song to mesmerize sailors and lead them to crash their ships against the rocks. The protagonist, Odysseus, escapes this danger by preemptively plugging the ears of his crew and tying himself to the mast, so they would not be tempted to veer off course.
This story provides an apt metaphor for starting well. In our morning grogginess, we are especially susceptible to distraction. We need to combat the sweet siren song of our devices through preparation. By preparing in advance, we protect our future morning self from short-sighted decisions. Positively, this means eliminating decision fatigue by planning what we’ll do in the morning. Negatively, it means preemptively removing distractions so we don’t need to rely on our frail and fickle willpower.
Below are 3 practical ways I try to prepare to start well:
- Prepare your environment. If we want to do devotions in the morning, for example, we can set up the night before. For me, this means cleaning unnecessary clutter off my desk, putting away devices, laying out a notebook, and opening up my Bible to the passage I’ll be reading the following day. Additionally, I find that by reading the passage night before, I’m much more likely to read the following morning and be primed for deeper reflection. By preparing my environment, beforehand, I proactively address the excuses that my sinful flesh uses to avoid spending time with God. Even as I sleepily stumble to my desk, I can still read, pray, and experience God’s refreshing grace through the means of grace.
- Prepare your digital environment. As my responsibilities have grown at work, I receive an ever-increasing barrage of emails. I would find myself spending the first hour of the day just sorting through emails to get my bearings. I’ve gotten into the habit of moving this more passive work of processing my inbox to the end of my workday or during my downtime at night. Doing this, combined with closing open tabs and documents, ensures I can start the work day with clean workspace and a less chaotic and cluttered inbox.
- Prepare your priorities. As part of processing emails, I’ll write down actionable tasks ordered by priority (2-3 main highlights for work and personal life, moderate tasks, and “easy wins”). From there, I can check my calendar for meetings and roughly time block how the day will go. This way, instead of wasting time in the morning spinning my wheels on low-reward administrative tasks or figuring out where I should start, I can immediately focus on my most important priorities while I have the most energy.
Only One Thing is Necessary
In Luke 10, we find the story of Mary and Martha. Martha is troubled, anxious, and consumed with busyness, while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, eagerly hanging on his every word. It is easy to begin our days like Martha. We are confronted with everything we must do. We feel we must get straight to business, or else we will drown. As a result, we go through our days with restless hearts and frantic spirits. What would it look like to imitate Mary? I think it would look like carving out unhurried time to sit at the feet of Jesus, learning from his Word, and communing with him in prayer.
Jesus gently corrects Martha and the busy-body spirit of our hearts: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:41-42). So much calls for our attention, but Jesus reminds us that our most important priority is communion with him. Devotions can often feel like an unproductive use of time compared to all the urgent tasks of the day, but they are actually what our souls need most.
Spending time with Christ prepares us for the day to come. It is a time for us to unload our burdens and anxieties. It is a time to confess the sins that entangle us and remind ourselves of Gospel promises and blessings. It is a time for us to commit our upcoming days to God and ask him for strength for our responsibilities.
There is common grace wisdom in the world’s infatuation with morning routines. It is crucial to get off to a good start to build momentum for the rest of the day. As Christians, we understand this even more deeply. By cutting away distractions and making time for Christ, we go forth into the day’s responsibilities, secure in his love and strengthened to face the opportunities that God provides.