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5 Helpful Guidelines for Managing Time

“Time’s this priceless currency and only the slow spend it wise enough to be rich.” ~ Ann Voskamp

We make budgets for our money, and if time is truly more valuable, we ought to make budgets for that, too. The preacher on  Sunday walked us through this logic as a gentle reminder. Really that is what we all need, a reminder. For in the recesses of our mind we already know that a wise life invests time well. However, time is a slippery intangible, never content to hold still, always flitting and fleeing. An undisciplined soul can be caught off-guard by it’s wily tactics. We must master our time instead of letting it taunt us, and what works for one season of life must be re-evaluated for another.

No, there can never be too many reminders. 

We are hurried,

over-committed,

choice rich, but relationally poor,

a people where the words “tired”, and “busy” are the standard greeting responses, void of joy or peace, but worn as warped badges of honor.

Deep down this kind of life feels wrong, but somehow makes us feel important. Ineffective, but important.

I can only imagine how much happier we would all be if we took control of our time and lived each day with purpose, following our own paths instead of looking at the path of the person next to us. Maybe if we slowed down for a moment we would be able to call time to our side and instruct it, instead of the other way around.  Just maybe.

In keeping with the nature of humanity, I am constantly working on this time management, and there are a few principles that I consistently return to.

1. Put the walnuts in first.

Suppose you have a jar that you need to fill with a certain amount of rice and a certain amount of walnuts. The rice representing the little details of life, the daily tasks and errands and chores. The walnuts representing the more important things, like prayer and bible study, loving my family, and serving others. If you try to put the rice in first, and then the walnuts, the jar would be overflowing and unable to hold it all. However, if you put the walnuts in first, followed by the rice, it all falls into place and the same size jar is suddenly sufficient. We need to be diligent to attend to the “walnuts” of life first, and not allow ourselves to be distracted by the “rice”. Have you prioritized your relationships? Do you start your day with prayer and reading the Bible? Do you begin with the difficult and most important tasks first? Do you work before you play?

2. Schedule rest.

It’s so easy to let rest fall by the wayside, but running on all cylinders for too long diminishes capacity, stunts spiritual growth, and reaks of pride. Do you have a regular bed time that you adhere to? Do you practice the sabbath? Do you set aside an hour a day to rest before the Lord?

3. Restrict time suckers.

It’s amazing how little minutes turn into hours if we are not careful. Even in the good things. My daily Bible reading can easily turn into two hours of study if I am not careful. Looking for recipes for dinner can move to internet surfing without warning. Writing becomes an extended luxury instead of a task to be accomplished. To combat this, I often set the timer, or give myself a cut-off time. Once I check my emails for the day, I turn them off. Once I have checked Facebook, I turn on Self-Control, which keeps me from re-entering for a predetermined period of time. I schedule meetings that back up to another obligation so they can come to a close easily. (Conversely, when it comes to jobs that I don’t want to do, I set the timer for 15 minutes and force myself to do them for at least that long. I can do anything for 15 minutes.)

4. Batch.

It is a proven fact that we really can’t multi-task. Our brains truly can only do one thing at a time. It may be that we can switch back and forth between those things more quickly than some people, but multi-tasking is an illusion and in many cases actually makes us less efficient. It is better to do one thing to completion before moving on to the next, lumping all the same activities together. Run all your errands at once. Go grocery shopping once a week instead of every day. Have an email hour, instead of letting them trickle in or out throughout the day. Set out all your outfits for the week on Monday.

And, since I tend to worry that if I don’t tackle something that comes to mind in that moment (which causes me to flit from thing to thing), I have a running list each day of things I need to do, or groceries I need to by, or emails I need to send, or errands I need to run. As soon as I think of it, I write it down, leaving it to do for when I am ready to tackle that “batch”. It really is a time saver.

5. Create a to-don’t list.

Just as helpful as a to-do list, is a to-don’t list: a list of things that I am not going to do. I am not going to work on my computer in bed. I am not going to take anyone a meal (with rare exception), because I can’t even figure out what to make my own family, there are far too many requests for this, cooking is not my gifting, and it takes a long time. I am not going to fold the kids’ laundry. I am not going to make their lunches anymore (they are old enough to do these things themselves). Etc.

You get the idea. Reading the to-don’t list can make you feel a little guilty, until you realize that all the to-don’ts free up time for your to-dos. It’s intentionality at it’s best.

6. Plan, but pray.

You should know better than to say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to the city. We will do business there for a year and make a lot of money!” What do you know about tomorrow? How can you be so sure about your life? It is nothing more than mist that appears for only a little while before it disappears. You should say, “If the Lord lets us live, we will do these things”. James 4:13-15

We can make our plans for the future, but we are never guaranteed tomorrow. We can only do what God calls us to do as we walk with Him each moment. Make your lists, set your course, but then hold it all with palms up in prayer, acknowledging that He is in control and can change whatever He wants.

He is the owner of time.

We are to be the good stewards.

 Hoping to spend time wisely,

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