Time is deceiving. It goes by at the same rate no matter what you do, yet we say “Time is dragging” if it’s measuring something we don’t like to do. Then we say “How time flies” when is measures something we absolutely enjoy doing. However, time is constant and does not speed up or slow down based on what we are engaging ourselves in. Imagine if it did…in order to keep time from slipping away from us so quickly, it would involve having to do something we hated…and that’s just not fair at all, is it?
Here’s another interesting overlooked fact about time. We all have the same amount. Unlike money, of which most of us wish we had more, we all have the same amount of time. Why is it then that some people seem to have more time than others? The response to that is a multifaceted answer. But we’ll take two of those facets and look into them a bit this week. In any case, we either spend our time wisely…or we waste it…or we are oblivious to the movement of time as it goes by us. I hope this helps point people in the right direction to get the most out of the time God gives us, that we may use it wisely and not wastefully or neglect the issue altogether.
It was around Father’s Day 2015 that a survey was taken. It simply asked dads what they wanted most for Father’s Day. There were the usual responses of gifts, or tools, etc. But forty-six percent of dads wanted to spend more time with their families on Father’s Day. That’s awesome and sad at the same time. It’s great that dads want to be engaged and spend time with their wife and kids. What’s so sad is that they have to wish for that. Obviously it’s because it doesn’t happen everyday or on any real consistent basis. But good news! It’s a wish we can actually make come true on our own! All it takes is good time management techniques.
The two major time management techniques we will look at today are simple conceptually, but practically, they are also difficult. Yet if we can master these two elements of time management, it will account for probably a ninety percent improvement in your management of time and overall level of satisfaction with your life in general. The great news is that both of those elements are so much in our control that it’s amazing to be shown such a thing. And of course, the Bible alludes to this.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1 Solomon says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Solomon then goes on to describe opposite elements in Ecclesiastes 3:2-8…such as a time to live and a time to die. Being born and dying, if done naturally, are passive starts and stops to people’s lives. In other words, God starts our time at birth and He ends our time at physical death (speaking of the finite earthly time). The rest of those opposite elements are moments in time that WE have the ability to control…such as weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing. Wow!!! You mean we can have control over time? Well, not exactly.
In Ecclesiastes Chapter Three, Solomon is not teaching that we have control over time, but rather that we have control over how we use that allotted time frame. If we’re planting, we’re not reaping, nor are we gathering stones or casting them away. We really can do only one thing at a time at any given moment in time. Multitasking is not necessarily a badge of honor. Just think about it…if I’m planting, I’m not gathering stones or casting them away. If I’m busy embracing someone, I’m not able to do anything else while I’m in that present space with that person. It’s impossible. Oh, our mind can be elsewhere, but what do we usually say about someone whose mind is elsewhere? We say, “His mind is not on the task at hand.” Notice that the word task is singular. It implies, and rightly so, that we can really only be effectively doing ONE thing at any given time.
So if you have ten things to do, and each activity will take an hour, and you only have eight hours to work with, what do you have to do? Remember, you can only do one thing at a time. So how do you approach this puzzle that is ten hours of activities in only an eight hour day? That I can tell you in one word…PRIORITIZE!!! That is facet number one to effective time management. Don’t bother worrying about facet number two yet, because it won’t matter if you can’t learn to prioritize (facet number one).
John Denver wrote a song called Country Boy. Contained within that song is a line that says, “So I fiddle when I can, work when I should.” This speaks to the fact that in life, we have things that are important and things that are not important. There are also things that are important TO US and things that are not important TO US. During the day, every day, there are things that are compulsory and things that are optional.
We need to figure out what is what and prioritize and figure out what needs to fit into our day of limited time and what doesn’t need to be there. I break it all up into three distinct categories that everything can fit into: Essentials (compulsory things), Non-Essentials (optional things), and Who’s Who (people).
The Essentials, or compulsory things, are pretty much activities that are mandated that have to take place around which the Non-Essentials can be plugged in. These include school (for those mandated to attend school), work, sleep, worship, prayer, devotional/study, and eating. Now things like school, work, and worship are usually static, in that they’re scheduled and their schedules are set. School is from 8:00am until 3:00pm. Worship is from 10:00am-12:00pm and again from 6:00pm-8:00pm, with a mid-week service from 6:30pm-7:30pm. Your work schedule is Monday through Friday from 7:00am-3:30pm. These are examples of compulsory activities that are set and regular, and it’s what we plan the remainder of our compulsory activities around. Deciding when to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner is dictated by our set schedule of work, school, and worship. Sleep schedule is often fluid rather than static and can vary in timing and duration based on the timing of Essentials (and the addition of Non-Essentials). Prayer, devotionals, and studying God’s Word are compulsory for the Christian and should be treated as such, and plugged in, and planned around…for I believe the Bible is clear that these activities are Essentials.
So here’s MY day with respect to Essentials. My alarm goes off at 4:45am. I argue with the alarm clock for a few minutes and am up by 5:00am. I pour my coffee which I programmed the night before, have breakfast, and I study, read, do my devotions, write (as I’m doing now at 5:45am), whatever, but I am doing something related to God’s Word from 5-ish to 6-ish. Then I begin winding down around 6:00am to pray until around 7:00am (again that is actually 6-ish to 7-ish). Now I get my youngest daughter up to get ready for school. Now I have from 7:00am to 8:00am as “free time.” What Non-Essentials I plug in there vary according to my whim. Between 8:00am and 9:00am I am getting ready for work and my workday starts. I come home after 5:00pm and we eat dinner. From the time I get home from work, until I go to bed, depending on the day, I may have to pick up my daughter from ballet, tap, jazz or voice lessons, but other than Thursday mid-week service, it’s all Non-Essential time primarily.
So if I’m up at 5:00am and in bed by 10:00pm at the latest, and I subtract the time allotted for the Essentials, that leaves me with roughly five hours of divided time normally and about only three hours of “free time” on the day of mid-week services. That’s not much time to place a myriad of Non-Essentials. These Non-Essentials could include playing with toys, games, video games, etc. Athletics is a Non-Essential because we voluntarily sign up for youth leagues or adult sports leagues, and they have to fit around the Essentials. You obviously can’t commit to baseball when games are scheduled while you’re working. Relaxing in front of the TV, or listening to the radio are Non-Essentials. Also included in Non-Essentials are activities like going to the theatre, concerts, movies, etc.
***I will continue writing this tonight…it is 6:00am…time to pray***
Now besides the Essentials and the Non-Essentials is a whole other classification, and that’s the “Who’s Who” of time. Who gets you? I state that because sometimes requests are made of others for some of your time. A family can consist of a spouse and one or more children, all vying for your precious limited time. Not to mention your birth family and extended family. How about friends who may have tickets for a sporting event or something? How about your church, your brethren, your pastor? How about God? How about when multiple entities are vying for your time, but the time conflicts or overlaps? It’s a very stressful thing to have to manage your time and all that comes with it, such as missing out on things you want to do because someone else wants you to do something for whatever reason that you don’t want to do…but you do it for them.
The best place to start managing your time more effectively is to prioritize this Who’s Who list first. God should be first…thus making the Essentials like prayer, devotions, and worship priorities that you will automatically set aside time for and have other things planned AROUND those things God wants you to do. Then, if you put your family as the next highest priority, planning family time will take precedence over going out with friends regardless of what the friend has in store for you for that evening. And you know what…families are filled with individuals who have busy active lives, and they get busier as they get older, so put family time a priority while you can, because quality
time spent together may get less and less as time passes. See, if you prioritize the Who’s Who list, many of the other things that we spend time doing will fall into place nicely.
Facet number two is simply this…DISCIPLINE! Who cares if you can prioritize your Who’s Who list and schedule your Essentials and Non-Essentials but NOT stick to it, because you get swayed by everything that seems either more fun, or when family, friends, brethren, or whomever ask you for your time. If you have your time accounted for and someone comes along and you don’t know (or don’t want to) “pencil them in” then DON’T! I have had the hardest time learning that I have to say “No” sometimes, but of course it is harder sometimes than others depending on who’s asking me. I’ve gotten beyond crossing one person of my list because another more fun activity has presented itself, but I still, to this day, have a hard time telling a person “No” even when it involves me doing something I don’t want to do. So it’s possible to be very disciplined in one aspect of saying “No” when something more fun looks to shift your priority and at the same time be not very disciplined when it comes to people asking for your time. If you want the honest truth, I resent that about myself.
I’m not sure there is anything more valuable than time. If you invest money in the stock market and it tanks, and you’re patient and savvy, you may recoup your losses and even make more money than you lost. With time, once it’s spent, it’s gone. The term “wasting time” has no equal when it comes to speaking the truth. All I know is that there SEEMS to not be enough time, in general. The reality is that there is plenty of time, and it’s divided up the way God designed it in Genesis from the setting of the sun to the going down of the same…one day…to fill and use wisely. Essentials and Non-Essentials and Who’s Who are what we need to fit in that timeframe. I don’t make the rules…I just try to understand them and help others to understand them, and the way I see it, if you want to manage your time better and have an overall better level of enjoyment out of life, you must prioritize and once you make decisions, you must have the discipline to stick with what you decided were priorities.