hell week doesn’t have to be

Normally, this time of year is incredibly stressful for me. I find myself wanting to grow some hair just so I have something to pull out. I would be in my office late every night, editing my butt off, and barely seeing my bride for a few groggy minutes before we both crash for a few moments before starting all over again. I always had good reason to think of the last week of April as my own “hell week.”

I’ve had my share of hell weeks, from the insanity of the last week before opening a theatrical production to many a finals week where I tried to cram every last bit of knowledge possible into my brain. Others (fortunately not me) experience hell week in fraternities or military settings. I almost think we default to it because we’re lost without it.

So why is this week, the last of April 2010, not hellish to me? True, I found out yesterday my car may need prohibitively expensive repairs very soon. That was the bad news. But it was eclipsed by the incredible good news that the hugest part of my video project is DONE! The clips of all 18 seniors and their families have been completed and transferred to the iMac we will use this Sunday to show at the recognition. I am wrapping up the creation of the DVD that will become a keepsake. In years past, we’ve resigned ourselves to delivery of this DVD after the “big event,” since the format we use to display it is independent of a physical DVD. But this year, we will be able to hand each senior a copy of the DVD in plenty of time to show at graduation parties and gatherings of extended family and friends that couldn’t come this weekend. What an amazing feeling to know I can give that extra touch.

What has made the difference this time around? How am I so relaxed, even joyful? In what other last-week-of-April have I been able to go to a middle school track meet and stay as long as I wanted? I think two things have been tremendous factors.

First, I structured the entire project differently. I established clear goals and deadlines for myself before I ever started. I tracked my time so I could see how long each phase actually took. (We’ve never really known precisely how many hours I spent in other years, but we think it’s been nearly 300.) I learned to say NO! By scaling back on the number of unique elements, I was able to focus on really excelling in the core aspects of the project. I am confident the families will be very pleased. I will post an online preview this weekend or early next week.

I truly believe that God added His blessing to this year’s project.

Second, and more profound, I went into this year’s project with a firm commitment to not work on Sundays. Let me explain. Normally I don’t work on Sundays anyway, but I have often found myself cramming in a few hours on Sunday afternoons to make sure the work got done in time. But with my commitment to keeping digital Sabbath already in place, not only would I decline to work, I wouldn’t even be interacting with screen-based devices. The direct result: I truly believe that God added His blessing to this year’s project. While there were a few hiccups here and there, it was a fraction of the stress and constant low-grade anxiety I have always felt about getting this $#*&^% thing pulled off. (Moment of transparency there.)

I believe my experience bringing this huge annual endeavor to a restful conclusion has some broad applications. Every parent, every professional, and yes, every student, would reap bountiful rewards by being intentional enough to simplify amidst the chaos of modern digital life and to take make time for the people and things that really matter. Bless you as you at least give it a go.

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About andrew burden

andrew blogs about being a volunteer youth leader, teacher, video editor, husband, friend, child of God
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