I read a good book last week: Women Who Do Too Much: How to Stop Doing It All and Start Enjoying Your Life, by Patricia Sprinkle. I chose this book because I met the author at our yearly ministry retreat. She was both interesting and engaging, and I expected the same from her writing. I wasn’t disappointed.
As you might expect, this book focuses on ways to declutter your life. Unlike many of the time management solutions available, Sprinkle’s advice is based on Scripture—she starts and ends with prayer and the word of God. This is advice you can trust.
The chapters form a logical sequence. She begins by asking the question, “Why did God create you? What is your personal calling?” If we don’t know why we’re here, how can we possibly prioritize our activities and commitments? Through a series of worksheets (they’re at the end of every chapter), she leads us through the process of defining our personal life goals. This is an essential step, as the rest of the book hinges on this overarching purpose.
Next, we’re asked to make a list of what we already do. What commitments do we have—family? Work? Volunteer work? She insists on being specific. For example, we can’t just write down “raising children”—we’re to list just what that entails—carpools, after school activities, homework help, etc. As you might expect, this process can take a while, especially if we are overcommitted—and who else would be reading this book? When done, we’re asked, “Do our calendars reflect our life goals?”
Now comes some soul searching. Why do we do all these things? Are we motivated by the Holy Spirit, or by other people—our husband and kids, our friends, the committee leader at church? Has God given us a specific assignment, or do we say yes so we don’t want to disappoint anyone, or because it looks like a good thing to do, or because it’s fun? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having fun. It’s just that she states (and I’m finding it to be true) that if we do all the things God sends our way (including times of rest and celebration), we won’t have room for anything He didn’t specifically tell us to get involved in.
With this foundation laid, the rest of the book deals more specifically with putting it all into practice, such as ways to be more organized, or how to overcome the guilt of saying no. (Here’s a hint: that guilty feeling isn’t necessarily from God!)
As I read each chapter, I was struck by the way each real-life examples personalized the general principles. Sprinkle interviewed a number of women to make sure that her advice worked for others. The diversity of the women who contributed means that no matter what your situation, there’s a story you can relate to.
My initial reaction as I read through the each chapter was that, yeah, this is good, but I already know all this stuff. After all, I’m one of the most organized people I know. But long after I finished reading the book, God keeps bringing to mind issues that need work. Maybe I “know it all,” but apparently Someone doesn’t think I’m putting it all into practice as much as I should be!
As you can tell from the title, Sprinkle writes specifically to women. She explains that she wasn’t sure how well she understood all the pressures men are under. I’d like to change the title to People Who Do Too Much. Women don’t have a monopoly on exhaustion and stress. In fact, I’d love for my husband to read this book—but he tells me he’s too busy right now.
This is the sort of reference volume that I want to reread every few years. How am I doing? Am I still on track? While I skipped through many of the exercises in my first quick read-through, I want to go back and take the time to prayerfully work through every one. In fact, I highly recommend reading this short volume during a time of rest, perhaps a vacation or personal retreat. It’s hard to assess your life when you’re too busy living it!
As I apply what I’ve learned here, I’ve got a bit more free time for reading books for fun. That’s great, because Sprinkle has also written a series of murder mysteries. I can’t wait to try them!