Balancing Balance, Part IV: Personal Filters for Life Management

Read Part I here
Part II here
Part III here

Personal filters serve us as we make choices in life — from the vitally important to the trivial. There are at least three categories of decisions they help us make: non-time-related options, time management, and what activities will and will not be a part of our lives.

For me, non-time-related choices are the easiest. I am finishing up preparation for dinner for my family and a few guests. As I lay the plates around the table, I ask myself, “Paper or cloth napkins?” For me, that question sets up an automatic, almost unconscious cascade of follow-up questions:

1. How formal is the meal?
2. Do I have enough of both types of napkins?
3. Are the guests environmentalists? (hateful word, misapplied, but you understand me, yes?)
4. Are they more likely to be pampered or intimidated by cloth napkins?
5. Do I feel like bothering?
These are my lesser personal filters in the categories of: Guests, Meal, Napkins.

Time management can be straightforward or tricky, depending on the number of factors. The 4H leader sends an email asking who can help sell cookies outside a local grocery store this Saturday. I filter my answer through:

1. What is already on the schedule for Saturday?
2. What is not on the schedule but I know I have to accomplish on Saturday?
3. If I devote ____ hours to selling cookies, what will I have to move to another day? Can I do that?
4. (Because it is Saturday) If I’m away from home for ____ hours selling cookies, how will that affect the Lord’s Day – will we have clean dress clothes, will we have a meal prepared, will I get my class lesson done, will we get enough rest?
5. How important is it for me to participate in this? How badly is my help needed? Is this activity worthwhile?
6. If I think it is important but I don’t think I can help this Saturday, is there an alternative way I can assist in getting the cookies sold?
7. And, for me, most likely, because I’m wimpy about these things, what is the weather going to be like on Saturday?
In this particular situation, these are my lesser filters in the category of balancing time with service (with a dash of personal comfort thrown in).

Still with me? Here’s a time management scenario I find tougher: I have an unexpected block of free time – an appointment cancelled or weather made it impossible to do what I’d planned. How will I use it? Options:

1. Scrapbook?
2. Nap?
3. Clean the bathroom?
4. Write out a menu and grocery list?
5. Make a special dessert?
6. Watch a movie?
7. Read my Bible?
8. Write a note to someone who needs a lift?
9. Visit somebody?
10. Wash the curtains?
11. Wash the DISHES?
12. Pay bills?
13. Read a novel?
14. Write in my journal?
15. Dig out my knitting?
16. Match odd socks?
17. Wash windows?
18. Write a letter to the editor?
19. Invite someone to study the Bible?
20. Sketch the birds at the feeder?
21. Fill the feeder so birds will visit it so I can sketch them?

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Twenty-one options and I am just getting started! If I am not careful, a situation like this can paralyze me so I end up spinning my wheels and doing neither what I need or want to do. What is the problem? Too many choices and not enough filtering!

My primary filter is Does this Please God? Probably the second filter I most often use for time management is What is the Best Use of My Time Right Now? Another title for that very important filter is What Area/Chunk of My Life Needs the Most Attention? Third is a dual filter: What Do I Need to Do? and What Do I Want to Do? Then comes What am I Fit For? (What does my energy level allow me to do?) Another consideration is Is There Anything I Can Do Now to Make the Rest of the Day/Week/Month/Year Easier? These help me choose how to spend that most precious commodity, time.

Personal filters can keep my life from becoming too full when I allow them to act as gatekeepers. When I get a new idea or opportunity – to take up bird-watching, bread-baking, or a trip to Baja – my filters help me to decide whether to give my time and physical and mental space to another commitment. When I am asked to chair the PTO fundraiser, raise awareness for orangutans, or race for the cure, I can send the request through my filters to figure out if I should agree. Likewise, personal filters can help me usher out something I have been doing that is no longer valuable enough to continue. Deniece Schofield, author of Confessions of an Organized Homemaker, called that knowing how to select what to neglect. In my life, I happily and gratefully select to neglect almost all ironing (nothing but no-iron dress shirts are allowed!), re-washing-to-re-use disposable cups and flatware, and collecting of any kind. Oh, and I dust as little as possible, I don’t clip coupons, and I only buy organic if it is a good deal. I know how to sew but I hate it, so I only make curtains and do the simplest of alterations and repairs. I turned over all cake decorating to the kids when they were about four years old. I don’t do costumes. We do minimal holiday decorating. All this we select to neglect because it does not fit through my Is It Important to My Family and Me? filter.

Can you think of a decision you made today using personal filters? Share it here.

We do NOT select to neglect dish-washing at our house.
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  1. Posted October 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Great thoughts Mrs. Lori! I’m loving this series! Today’s personal filter: “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”, i.e. – it is laundry day and I’m doing laundry. I’m not going to think about tackling the chicken stock until tomorrow. 🙂

  2. Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    That’s a GREAT personal filter, Church Mouse! Mine that’s similar to that is, “You’ve done enough for today. That’ll keep.”

  3. Posted October 19, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Excellent post. I’ve recently been thinking about the filter of “Is this helping me or someone else grow?” There are several things I’ve decided to get rid of (like my jewelry/vintage shop) and other things I plan to re-work and change (like my blog, from being business related to being home related).

    I love the “select to neglect” concept. I’m definitely with you on ironing and dusting!

  • Your comment is the best part of this blog! Share what’s on your mind here.

  • In My Kitchen, In My Life is a place where women (and the odd male) can be encouraged, nudged, and occasionally kicked in the pants toward living their lives on a higher plane. Oh, and readers get plenty of chances to laugh at the author's foibles, which is always worth a click.

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