But it did lead me to realize that I can actually do a lot in just 2 minutes. So why don't I get more done on a daily basis when no one is watching? The answer is easy. When no one's watching I have no accountability. My two year old son doesn't care how much time I spend leafing through a magazine, surfing the net, or being a couch potato. There is Someone who is always watching, and I'm all too aware of that, but unfortunately there's not that immediate accountability for each moment of my time.
I have a friend with whom I've teamed up so that we can keep each other on track in these areas that are important to us. We have to answer the tough questions: How was our prayer life and time in the Word? How did we treat our family members? How did we keep up with our household responsibilities? How much time did we spend on TV and the computer? It does help to know that I'll be talking with her each week. It hasn't completely eliminated those completely useless hours (or days, unfortunately), but I think it has prevented me from falling into a long slump of lazy behavior that might have happened before this last year.
For example, unless pressed or encouraged by my husband or a friend/mentor, I'm often too content with mediocrity. The house looks great if there's a reason, such as company coming over. I like it when it looks great, and except for an occasionally busy week, there isn't usually a reason not to spend that time cleaning. My reason is comfort with mediocrity. If the house looks okay, like I wouldn't die of embarassment if someone came over unannounced, then I'm okay with it. But why don't I aim higher more often? It's not really a rhetorical question. I know the answer. I don't spend more time on my household duties, because I like to spend time on the computer, watching TV or a movie, meeting a friend, talking on the phone. . . . I am so aware that I am forever making choices about what to do with my time and those choices matter.
I've often heard the parenting philosophy that we correct, punish, or discipline our children for doing the wrong thing, so that they will learn to do the right thing. At first, they do the right thing, because they know that if they got caught, they would be punished. However, the goal is for them to be self-correcting--to do the right thing, simply because it's the right thing to do.
I so desire to be in the place to be making the right choices all the time, or at least the majority of the time. Things that help me keep improving:
- Short of inviting my accountablility partner to move in with me to keep a watchful eye on all my choices, I try to be honest with her in our weekly phone calls. By stating to her and to myself the areas where I know things should've been better, the next week I am motivated to work a little harder towards that goal.
- I also try to make lists of things that really should be done in a week's time. Unfortunately, I am better at making lists than crossing items off of one. But again, it gives me some standard of "should."
- Last but certainly not least, I pray. I ask God to help me to be self-disciplined enough to choose what I should be doing over what I could be doing.
I've never had a "life verse," but I recently came across one that I have memorized and tried to pray on a regular basis. I have changed the pronouns to make it more personal:
Psalm 90:12 Teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom.
That reminds me that God knows everything that I "need" to do, and in His sovereign wisdom, He knows what truly "must" be done. I know that He wants my best choices, so I keep working towards that goal of doing the right thing--whether or not someone is watching me.
***I originally posted this in May 2006, but I feel exactly the same way right now. My grandmother has been visiting this week, so each time I sit down to read a few pages in a book, or check emails, I feel self-conscious about my time of leisure. I am again getting a lot of little things accomplished in little fits of work. It helps that she herself is a busybody, and if I don't hop up after dinner and do the dishes, she will. I'm not sure that it's good form to let your guests -- not to mention your elderly guests -- do your chores for you!