Without maintenance a home, bike, or car can be damaged, slowed down, or completely disabled.
While we can see the ways that objects need maintenance, it’s easy to forget that we need “maintenance” for ourselves, our relationships, and our work. It’s tempting to rush from one thing to another without reflecting on how we’re doing, where we’re going, and if we even want to go to there. A little bit of maintenance time helps us take stock of these things so that we can live a bit more intentionally and healthily.
Maintenance could be reading a book, having a conversation, relaxing on the porch with a drink, taking a quiet walk, praying, or journaling. Different practices will come in handy for various seasons of our lives, but we never lose the constant need for reflection and adjustments.
There are three main big reasons why we neglect maintenance time and risk breaking down personally/spiritually, relationally, and professionally:
The Pride of Being Busy
Stopping feels wrong, especially when we see ourselves as critical to our own success. In addition, we’re surrounded by people who are busy as well. Rest isn’t exactly a cultural priority, and we can easily turn that into our baseline expectation for life—assuming that not being busy is a problem.
We tell ourselves that we’ll run out of money, the household will fall apart, or we’ll fall too far behind if we stop to take stock of ourselves and make some adjustments. It’s all up to us, and that breeds a frantic lifestyle that fails to live by faith, fails to value Sabbath, and feeds anxiety.
Take a social media break. Take some time off from work or household chores—even 30 straight minutes will help. Just stop long enough to see that the world won’t fall apart if you stop.
We Forget What Stillness Feels Like
I used to listen to the news in the car, play podcasts while walking and doing the dishes, and browse the Internet while sitting in the living room. I didn’t have much time left to pray, talk to others, think, or read books.
The constant consumption of information and need for stimulation becomes an addiction. It used to be really, really hard for me to take a walk without a podcast or music on. I used to crave the news while taking even the shortest car trip.
Thankfully, we can train ourselves to value stillness and quiet. When I take a quiet walk these days, my worries have time to bubble to the surface so that I can think them over and pray about them. Some of my best writing ideas have surfaced during quiet walks—even when I’m interrupted by a toddler begging to stop and look at the waterfall.
We Fail to Understand Diminishing Returns
Four years ago I read a book by an entrepreneur who said that we should work 12 hours or more each day to make a big project happen. There are tons of hours in a day, right? You can sacrifice sleep, food, relationships, and exercise for the sake of sake of a big project, right?
Well, I tried it. Perhaps some people can do that to launch a business, but creative people can’t. We only have so many words, so much energy, and so many hours in a day. That season of pushing harder and harder brought few serious returns for my effort because I was exhausted, stressed, and had neglected personal and professional development.
I had tried to work 10-12 hour days and completely wore myself out. I’m better at recognizing this exhaustion now. I rarely try to work on anything in the evening because I’m too tired and tapped out to be effective.
If there’s a pressing deadline, I’m always better off going to bed on the earlier end and trying to wake up earlier. Or, more realistically, I just call it a day and begin my next work day as usual, recognizing that I can’t push forever.
We have limits. Pushing for a short time may help launch a project or wrap up something with a tight deadline, but our work, personal lives, and spiritual lives will suffer if we keep pushing.
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We’ve been in a season of maintenance after a busy series of months with travel, childbirth, and book projects. I feel like we’re still recovering and trying to carve out more space for family and for ourselves.
I’m trying to faithfully read some books and blogs that will help me take my next steps in my writing career. I’m trying to savor my walks with the kids and any moments we can quietly play in the living room or we can all sit on the porch as a family and hang out. That’s maintenance for me right now.
Where are you at with the idea of maintenance?
Do you feel like you need a bit of maintenance time in a particular area of your life?
What would a bit of maintenance look like for you right now?
Need a bit of inspiration for your next creative project?
Check out my eBook Creating Space: The Case for Everyday Creativity.