Invest Your Time Wisely
- 2012 2 Jan
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Carolyn Castleberry's book, It's About Time!: 10 Smart Strategies to Avoid Time Traps and Invest Yourself Where it Matters, (Howard Publishing, 2008).
You're always busy, yet never seem to accomplish all you want or enjoy the way you spend your time. Sound familiar? If so, you can learn how to invest your most valuable resource - time - in what matters most.
Here's how you can invest your time wisely:
Start a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the most important decision you'll ever make. It will empower you to use your time well here on earth and give you the blessing of an eternity of time with God.
Identify your time traps. Track where your time goes to discover who and what is stealing your time without your permission. Keep a daily log for a few days of how much time you put into each activity in which you're involved. Then analyze the information you've written to see how much time you've spent in unexpected ways, and how much time each activity really took. After you've looked at your activities, consider how you may be wasting time emotionally, by spending time in unproductive ways like worrying and complaining. Figure out your current time management patterns, and notice how those differ from the ways you'd like to start using your time.
Be called instead of driven. Do you feel driven or called when you invest your time? Do you make decisions about your schedule because you're driven by something like a need to succeed or a sense of responsibility for something that really isn't your responsibility? Or do your answer God's call to use your time to fulfill His purposes for your life? Your relationship with time isn't determined by what you do or how much you're able to accomplish. It's determined by how you feel about what you do with your time.
Check your schedule against your priorities. Are you investing your time in what matters most to you? Figure out the average number of hours you spend per week on activities such as worship and church activities, work, caring for your children if you have any, spending time with your spouse if you have one, doing household chores, exercising, your own education/self improvement, spending time with friends, watching television, surfing the Internet, etc. Do your actual activities line up with what you say is most important to you? For example, if you say that your relationship with God is your top priority, do you devote a significant amount of time each week to connecting with Him? If you say that your marriage is important to you, how much time are you devoting to that versus your job? If you say that you value physical fitness, are you spending more time each week exercising than you do passively watching TV or surfing the Internet? How would you change the amount of time you spend doing each activity to increase your sense of well-being?
Deal with feeling overwhelmed. If you're overwhelmed by external time pressures and don't know how to manage stress, you need to develop some basic management skills. Meet with God every day (or night) to read His Word, pray, worship with praise songs, and any other creative way you can connect to Him daily. This will put you in touch with God's purpose and plan for your life. Write a personal mission statement that explains what makes you unique, what principles you stand for, what makes you tick, and what you want your life to be about. Whenever you find yourself off track, your mission statement will guide you back to the best use of your time. Forget multitasking; even though it may seem efficient, studies have shown that it actually causes you to lose time as you switch back and forth between tasks. Instead, focus on just one task at a time.
Create flexible goals that describe the steps you plan to take to accomplish your mission. As you go along, evaluate your progress and adjust your goals as necessary. Each day, list your top three things to do, in order of priority - but be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading, since He may have some different plans for you. Include free time regularly in your schedule, and spend that time simply relaxing and doing something enjoyable. Delegate tasks with which others can help you. Clean up clutter in your house regularly so you won't waste time unnecessarily looking for lost items. Take a Sabbath day each week to really rest and recharge so you can be more productive on other days of the week. At the end of each week, reflect on what God has taught you through how you've used your time, review your goals, and use what you've learned to make better plans for the upcoming week.
Deal with procrastination. If you tend to procrastinate because you're easily distracted by activities that seem more interesting than the ones you need to tackle, you need to develop the motivation to stick to the task at hand. Consider what bad habits may be stealing your time: emotional eating, watching too much TV, spending too much time on a computer, answering email constantly instead of just twice a day, putting off important family or work projects until the last minute, running late to work or appointments with friends, letting clutter piles grow, answering every phone call right away instead of using voice mail, letting toxic people steal your time instead of setting boundaries with them, or putting off spending time with the people you really want to see? Ask God to help you shed unhealthy habits; He'll give you strength you can't access on your own. Ask yourself how you've contributed to getting stuck in a bad habit. Recognize your part in the problem and take responsibility for it. Think of one step you can take today to start solving the problem. Realize that the battle is in your mind; if you adjust your mental attitude to one of possibility - focusing on the potential for success - you can win the battle and make real progress.
Break down your tasks into manageable portions so you can take baby steps steadily toward completing them. Determine why you started a bad habit in the first place. What desire were you hoping to meet through the habit? Then determine what the habit is costing you - in terms of your time, and other aspects of your life, like your health and relationships. See the habit as a choice that you can change. Pray for God to give you power over your bad habit and replace it with a good habit. Find something healthy to fill the need that your bad habit had previously been meeting. Stay the course by remaining aware of your progress, being diligent, and drawing strength through frequent prayer. Finish the process of dropping one bad habit before moving on to tackle another.
Deal with pressure from others. If you often blame external factors for your inability to manage time well, you need to more effectively handle disruptions and learn to set boundaries in your relationships. Don't give your time - your most valuable resource - to people or things that aren't God's best for you. Ask God to help you discern what's best when making decisions about how to spend your time. Pray for wisdom and have faith that God will guide you. Remember God's purpose for your life and make choices that relate to it. Review the mission statement you wrote and ask in light of it: "Does this decision move me closer to my mission?", "How could this choice move me away from my mission?", "Is this decision really mine to make?", "Am I being distracted by this decision?", "What do I fear in making this decision?", "What do I love about making this decision?", "Who is influencing me in this choice - and why?", "How I taken adequate time to pray about this decision?", "What would Jesus do in this situation?", and "Do I have peace about my decision?" Look beyond mere symptoms of a problem to the figure out the real problem and define it.
Dare to take a risk after you're confident that you have all the information you need to make a decision. Seek wise counsel from people you trust, but be sure to consider the source, as well as how accurate the information is and whether it's fact or opinion. Be aware of your own biases so they don't cloud your ability to make a sound decision. Consider all possible solutions. Also consider the possible consequences. Don't rush your decision; quiet your mind and listen for the Holy Spirit speaking to your spirit before making any final decision. Once you've made a decision, don't waste time by second-guessing it. Act on your decisions with confidence.
Deal with self-stress. If you often blame yourself for your inability to manage time well, you need to develop systems to better manage your schedule and the way you perceive yourself. Decide to make changes now in the way you relate to time. Learn to recognize your time-wasting thoughts, refute the negative ones, and replace them with positive thoughts that are consistent with biblical truth. Ask God to help you see yourself from His perspective, remember who you are - God's beloved child - and keep in mind that time is a gift, so you'll be motivated to invest your time more carefully. Own the power of your thoughts by recognizing how your mental processes are either helping you succeed are derailing the success you could enjoy. Change your internal monologue from negative to positive. For example, instead of telling yourself "I can't …" say "I can …" and rather than telling yourself "I don't …" say "I do …". Challenge your automatic thinking by zeroing in on what kinds of thoughts are keeping your from reaching your potential, writing them down, and replacing those lies with truth.
Choose to use your time to think beneficial thoughts and to believe what God says about you. For one day, record the number of times you speak a negative word to yourself or someone else. Then consider how that negativity is impacting your time with others and your quality of life. Replace negative words with positive words. For example, instead of saying "There's no way we can get there on time" say "Let's do our best and see if we can make it." Think before you speak so you can avoid wasting time speaking. Don't use long sentences when a few words will suffice for delivering your messages. Cut out extraneous or meaningless words and focus on just the heart of what you're trying to communicate. Memorize the Bible - God's Word - so its truths will soak into your soul and transform you for the better. Whenever you fail in your use of time, learn from your mistakes and move on. Keep reminding yourself that God will help you keep growing as you work to use time better. Remember that you're capable and you can excel.
Make time for your loved ones. Follow Jesus' example of investing time into building deep relationships with a small group of people. Focus your time on making solid connections with your family and close friends. Encourage them as often as you can. Limit access to yourself when you need to get something important done. Turn off your cell phone, use voice mail, close the door to your office, say "no" to people who interrupt you (unless they're truly in need), learn to recognize people who are needlessly sapping your time, and set firm boundaries. Respect other people's time by making sure you don't show up late for appointments with them or interrupt them when it's not absolutely necessary to do so. Change the way you manage technology to reduce wasted time, such as recording your favorite TV show so you can skip the commercials while you watch it.
Don't hesitate to say "no" to people's requests for your time if you can't or don't truly want to say "yes." Turn them down graciously by: saying you can't help now, but you'd be glad to consider helping the next time; offering a compromise when asked to do one task by saying that you can do another task that suits you better; or referring the person to someone else who might be able to help. Don't waste time by trying to fix or change another person; that's a futile effort. Pray for people and encourage them instead. Above all your other relationships, be sure to make your relationship with God your top priority. He will help you grow to master your time.
Invest your time in work that matters. The time you spend working is a huge portion of your lifetime. Don't settle for a job that isn't meaningful and fulfilling. Ask God to show you how He wants you to invest the talents He has given you, and to bring the right work opportunities your way. Consider what you love, what you're good at doing, what energizes you, and what weaknesses you have. Ask people close to you to give you feedback on what type of work might be good for you. Don't base your career decisions on how much money you can make; instead, base them how you can best contribute to the world and enjoy yourself in the process.
Remember that time is money, and money is time. Try to manage your money as well as you do your time. Give generously of both your money and your time (through volunteer work) to support God's work on earth. Don't waste your time pursuing get-rich-quick schemes; run from them right away. Research potential investments thoroughly and carefully. Choose a particular investment field (such as real estate) and learn as much as you can about it before actually investing money into it.
Adapted from It's About Time!: 10 Smart Strategies to Avoid Time Traps and Invest Yourself Where it Matters, copyright 2009 by Carolyn Castleberry. Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, West Monroe, La., www.howardpublishing.com.
Carolyn Castleberry is an international television co-host on ABC Family Channel's Living the Life. She has authored Women, Take Charge of Your Money and Get Answers about Your Money. As an award-winning reporter and television anchor, her reports have been featured on such major media outlets as CNN, Fox & Friends, Family News in Focus, and print publications across the United States. She lives in Norfolk, Virginia.