The Christian Mom Planning Fallacy

The Christian Mom Planning Fallacy - Parenting Like HannahIt happens to us all. We think we are doing something routine like grocery shopping. On a good day I can get in and out of the grocery store in a few minutes. It never fails though. If my day is packed with so much I have little wiggle room, I will run into everyone I haven’t seen for years in the store. And they want to talk. A lot. About everything that has happened in the five years since I last saw them.

Now while I am normally a friendly talker, when my thirty minute grocery store run takes twice as long on a day when I have no free time, I get stressed. Something has to be dropped or shortened in order to complete the day. What gets cut?

For many of us, the first thing that goes is our quiet time, our prayer time or our Bible reading for the day. If you have kids and have tried to do family devos, you probably know exactly what I mean. You can generally make it for a few days and then life goes crazy and the devos get dropped.

Strangely, science has studied this phenomenon (okay not the devo part). They found just about everyone has accepted a planning fallacy – that they can accurately predict how long it will take to complete a certain task. What they found is basically everyone underestimates how long a task will take – often by quite a large margin.

Since God is often what gets pushed off of our plates when we run short on time, how can we compensate for the planning fallacy and put Him back in our lives and the lives of our children?

  • Realize the planning fallacy exists and allow extra time for every activity to give you a needed margin for error. Then if you hit extra red lights or have to go back because someone forgot something, you can still complete the task in the time window for which you planned it.
  • Note what your average margin of error is and add it back into your planning. For most people, it is fairly easy to calculate. Are you chronically fifteen minutes late? Take whatever amount of time you think you need to complete a task and add fifteen or twenty minutes to it.
  • Realize the planning fallacy is robbing your children of time you need to be spending pointing them towards God and teaching them His Words. I doubt your children are missing many meals or school because of the planning fallacy. I would imagine they are missing out on much needed family devos, prayer time or time just talking about God and how important He is in our lives. As someone once said, we are allowing the urgent to push the essential, critical need our children have for learning about God off of our plates.
  • Put family devotional time, prayer time and “free” God time on your calendar. Time management experts have found if you put something on your calendar, you are much more likely to actually complete the task. Put those worship services on your calendar too. Decide how much time you want or need to spend on devotionals, praying with your kids or just enjoying God and talking about Him to your kids – then add fifteen minutes and schedule it on your family calendar.
  • Understand failing to compensate for the planning fallacy is also failing to reflect God’s love accurately to others. I know this sounds harsh if you are chronically late to your child’s baseball practice or piano lesson, but being late is showing disrespect to others. Sometimes even the best planning can leave you arriving late and people understand. Most of the time though, it is our lack of appropriate planning which causes us to ALWAYS be fifteen, twenty or even thirty minutes late. You probably don’t realize it, but your tardiness causes issues for the planners of the event and the other participants. Over time, it can harm your witness to them as they become more and more frustrated about your lack of respect for them and their time.
  • For many of us, compensating for the planning fallacy will make us realize we have planned to do too much each day. I am quite possibly the most guilty of this of anyone on this planet. My daily to-do list is usually multiple pages long and I don’t even include the routine stuff. Oh, I try and convince myself it is an ongoing list, but I know deep inside I really think I can pull it off in one day if I try hard enough. The reality is I need to cut some items from my to-do list or move them to another period of time. Some of those things I need to accept I may never accomplish. I have learned what I can never afford to postpone or eliminate though is God and I need to teach my daughter the same principle.

We all fall victim to the planning fallacy from time to time. If however, you find yourself falling victim to it multiple times every day, you are probably also robbing yourself and your children of valuable family time. You may even find you have slowly pushed God out of your lives almost entirely – after all He knows you love Him right?

I encourage you to pull out your calendar, schedule margin time for everything and put God on your calendar in writing. You may find there is plenty of time for sharing your faith with your children after all.

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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV)