A day holds a lot of time: 24 hours. 1,440 minutes. 86,400 seconds. Yet for most of us, our daily cry is “If only I had more time!” We all feel so busy—overwhelmed by our lengthy and never-ending to-do lists.
Busyness has become a status symbol in the United States. Even Christians fall into the trap of over-scheduling, over-doing and over-committing our time and resources.
“Time is our most treasured possession,” says Marcia Ramsland, The Organizing Pro and author of Simplify Your Time: Stop Running and Start Living. “But we often act as if it’s not.”
Start With Jesus
Jesus is the ultimate example of rest. Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”—is such a text for any age, but if it ever had resonance and poignancy, it is our age because heaviness and weariness defines most people in our day and age.
In the midst of our extreme busyness, we can forget that being too busy can be a sin, too. In the Middle Ages, the sin of sloth had two forms: paralysis, or not being able to do anything, and busyness, running around frantically all the time.
When thinking of how we view time and time management, we should start with Jesus. “We try to help people view time in light of eternity,” says Rick Grubbs with LifeChanging Seminars and host of the radio show, “Redeeming the Time.” “We need to make the connection between how we spend our time today and what the result of that time spent will be in eternity. Once we have that as a frame of reference—that life is short and eternity is not—we realize how important our time is, since what we do in this short period of time in this world will have results for all of eternity.”
Why Manage Time?
As Christians, we should be managing our time because it is not ours. Just as we should think of our possessions and money as on loan to us from God, so is our time. “Time management is important because God calls us to be good stewards of all that he has entrusted to us,” says Ginny Hamlin, a writer who lives in California.
“Some people have the mistaken idea that time management is all about cramming more stuff into an already overloaded schedule,” adds Grubbs. “That’s not good time management. Good time management is all about finding the right balance in all the different areas of life.”
We also need to remember that our time is limited. We have been given a certain amount of time here on earth for our lifetime. “We are all limited to 168 hours a week,” says Ramsland. “From the janitor at the grocery store to the president of the United States, we all have a certain amount of hours to accomplish our tasks.”
Our most valuable possession is our time. “Queen Elizabeth I was the richest person in the world in her day. Yet when it came time for her to die, her last words were, ‘I would give all my kingdom for one more moment of time,’” relates Grubbs.
When we rightly view all time as belonging to God, then we see how we fill that time in a different light. Grubbs recommends asking two simple questions when thinking about committing your time to any activity.
1. What will be the result of this activity in five years?
2. What will be the result of this activity in eternity?
“Thankfully, God has already given us the answer to how we should prioritize our commitments,” says Hamlin. “Matthew 6:33 says, ‘But see you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’”
Time to Say ‘No’
Keeping a balance between work, home, children, husband, church, family, and friends can be a daunting task. Time management includes saying no. “We only have 24 hours in a day,” reminds Hamlin. “As such, I believe we must decline some things to do those things that God calls us to do.”
Before taking on any projects, stop, pray, and wait to say either yes or no. Remember, just because someone asks doesn’t mean you have to accept or even answer right away. Discuss each opportunity with your spouse, pray before taking on a new task at church or with the children, and always weigh the opportunity against your family’s needs and with what God has called you to do. Keep in mind that every opportunity—no matter how good or helpful it may be to others—is not necessarily right for you at this moment.
“Saying no is very important, especially when things are out of control,” says Ramsland. “You need to give yourself an emotional break at times.” She recommends each time you add something to your calendar, you take something out to keep your life balanced and yourself from feeling overwhelmed.
Cultivate a Day of Rest
Time management also means scheduling a day off. Jesus demonstrated rest and restoration cannot be separated. “When it comes to finding the right balance between work and rest, God has already established what the proper ratio should be,” says Grubbs. “He did it through the principle of the Sabbath day when he prescribed six days of work to one day of rest.”
By resting on the Sabbath, we show that we believe that God will give us the energy, the time and the provisions to provide what we need the other six days. “God finished his work and then rested,” says Ramsland. “Our problem is, we never finish. We need to take a Sabbath rest in order to be more productive on the other six days.”
Maximizing Your Productivity
By managing our time, we can be more productive—and less stressed, more able to fulfill our calling. “You need to find the best rhythm for your day,” says Ramsland. “Put the hardest things first in the day, so you can leverage your time better.” Here are some more tips on how to be productive while juggling your house, kids, husband and job.
Beware of the waste zone. We all have tendencies to waste time, whether it’s Internet surfing, chat-room discussions, FaceBook updates, talking on the phone or watching television. I don’t think these activities are necessarily bad in and of themselves, but they can grab great gobs of time that could be spent doing more productive tasks.
Plan your week. On Saturday or Sunday, take a few minutes to jot down what you need to accomplish each day of the coming week. Incorporate housework, shopping, children’s activities, appointments and job-related tasks. But be realistic—if you continually miss your daily goals, you could become more stressed.
Prioritize tasks. When you have a particularly busy week, separate your to-do list into what’s absolutely necessary from what can be put off until another day. Keep your mind focused on the important tasks and temporarily ignore the other things.
Multitask with purpose. Be wary of trying to do too much at one time. Sometimes we can accomplish more if we only focus on one thing at a time. With all the newly available technology, the ability to multitask all the time is greater than ever—but that doesn’t mean we should constantly do two or more things at one time.
Ask for help. Enlist the help of your husband and children for extra assistance around the house when you have a fuller schedule. Don’t be shy to ask family and friends to help with childcare or even meals when needed.
Hunt for shortcuts. Find ways to do some tasks in less time. For instance, throwing dinner in a slow cooker before leaving for work in the mornings can make after work time less harried. Many appliances—such as dishwashers, oven, slow cookers, and clothes washers—have timers that can help you manage household tasks better.
Learn to work in increments. Train yourself to be productive in small amounts of time, because sometimes that’s all you get. Being able to start and stop projects quickly is a handy tool to being productive.
Schedule busywork, both job- and home-related. With any job, there’s “busywork”—those housekeeping tasks like checking and responding to e-mails, returning phone calls, filing and bookkeeping. Every household has some of those tasks, as well. Block out specific times to check e-mail or put together a mailing project. Set a timer to keep on track, so those tasks don’t become time wasters.
Organize your day the night before. One of the easiest ways to lower daily stress is to get ready for the next day the evening before. The day goes much smoother if the morning is not rushed.
Develop a relaxing bed-time routine. Experts say going to sleep at the same time each night and waking at the same time each morning is the best for your body. Resist the urge to stay up late working or being online. Set aside 20 to 30 minutes of “downtime” before crawling under the covers.
Keeping uppermost in our minds that our time is on loan from God will help us become better managers of that time. “I remind myself throughout the day that, not unlike the dollars and coins I spend that belong to God, the minutes and hours also belong to him,” says Hamlin.
“Remember that no one gets it all done,” Grubbs points out. “We only have to do the things God wants us to do—no more and no less.”
Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ through the Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coach Institute. She’s also a freelance writer and editor. Sarah lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children, and she often speaks on time management. Visit her at www.parentcoachnova.com.
Publication date: February 28, 2013