Do any of these testimonials sound familiar?
“My life is hectic! I’m running all day meetings, phone calls, paperwork, appointments. I push to the limit, fall into bed exhausted, and get up early the next morning to do it all again.”
“I don’t feel in control of my life. I try to figure out what’s important and set goals to do it, but other people such as my boss, my associates, my spouse continually throw wrenches into the works. For every one thing I get done, I can think of ten things that didn’t get done. And it makes me feel guilty.”
“The hours in my day just slip away. Sometimes I finish a full and busy day and still end up with nothing crossed off of my ‘To Do’ list.”
There is no question about it. We are living in fast-paced, complex times. Christians and non-Christians alike are facing heavier workloads, greater demands, and higher stress levels than ever before. Not a week goes by that I don’t talk to some harried, frazzled believer who laments his ability to spend time in the Word or get more involved in church because his schedule doesn’t permit it.
Most Christians who are living this way know, deep down inside, that something isn’t right. They know that something must change. They sense that living this way is costing them something, they’re just not sure what and how much.
The hard truth is, having an overly-complex life will cost you more than you can imagine. In the next few paragraphs, I want to show you what God’s Word has to say about this subject, show you the benefits of simplifying your life, and then give you some keys to doing it.
We All Have These Three
God has entrusted every person on earth with three primary resources: time, money, and relationships. And if you are to fulfill God’s wonderful plan for your life, these three resources must be properly managed. Furthermore, it is the mismanagement of these resources that makes life so complicated.
Think about it for a moment. Mismanage the resource of money and your life can become very complicated, very quickly. Bill collectors, late charges, credit card debt along with the stress and worry that accompany these things is a prescription for complexity.
Manage the resource of time poorly and, once again, your life becomes unnecessarily complex. And nothing else in the world can complicate your life more completely than being a poor manager of relationships. (Ask anyone who has been unfaithful to a spouse how complicated their life got as soon as they started violating God’s law of fidelity.)
Yes, it is nothing more than being a poor manager of the three resources with which we’ve all been entrusted that is making our lives more complicated. If the goal is a simpler life (and it should be), then we’re going to have to become better stewards of these resources.
In a future discussion, we will discuss the latter two, but for the remainder of today’s study, we will focus our attention on the first of the three resources you need to manage your time.
Managing Your Time
FDR once said, “Nine-tenths of wisdom consists of being wise in time.” And it’s true; time is the most valuable resource a person can spend, and maximizing the use of it is critical to successful living. Look at what the Lord says in Ephesians 5:15: “See then that you walk circumspectly not as fools but as wise redeeming the times because the days are evil.”
I like the way the Amplified paraphrases that verse: “Look carefully then how you walk. Live purposefully worthily and accurately not as the unwise and witless but as wise sensible intelligent people making the very most of the time. Buying up each opportunity.”
Now to “redeem” means to buy back something that is lost. So God is saying this: Time is a precious resource. But, because “the days are evil,” your time is lost and virtually unproductive unless you make an investment to buy it back.
We need to “purposefully, worthily and accurately” manage our time. We need to “buy up” as much as possible. Otherwise, it will be lost on something evil, something that doesn’t line up with God’s plan and purpose for our lives. We need to approach time management from this perspective.
Now, let me get very practical here. I divide time management into two phases: 1) the planning phase and 2) the implementation phase. There are three components to the planning phase: meditation, selectivity, and delegation.
The first is meditation. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not talking about the eastern mystical, new-age type of meditation. I’m talking about Bible meditation, the ability of the human brain to build imagery in the mind. “To mentally image,” that’s what meditate means.
The purpose of meditation is to give God time to impart to you the ability to functionally arrange the events of your day. The psalmist said, “I have more understanding (organizational ability) than all my teachers. Why? For thy testimonies are my meditation” (Ps. 119:99).
So as you plan, incorporate God’s testimonies, the principles and concepts of His Word into the arrangement of your activities. Mentally build a picture of your day based on the goals and objectives God has for your life. When you do this, you will redeem, or buy back, time that would have otherwise been lost to evil.
The second major contributor to successful planning is something I call “selectivity.” It’s a fact of life that there will never be enough hours in the day to do every good and needful thing that presents itself. So you’re going to have to become selective.
If you recall, Martha discovered that although serving Jesus was a good thing, it wasn’t the best thing she could have done with her time at that particular moment (Luke 10:38–42). Her decision to serve cost her an opportunity to spend time at the master’s feet.
The end result was that Martha began to lose her peace and joy. Her life started to get complicated. Had she employed the principle of selectivity, she would have made a good choice like Mary did. She would have been seated at the feet of Jesus enjoying the presence of God.
It has been said, “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” When planning your day, week, or month, it’s important that you keep God’s priorities at the forefront of your mind. When you do, your plan will focus on the activities necessary to accomplish what God has for your life.
The third essential element to a successful planning stage is “delegation.” To delegate means “to appoint or assign responsibility to another individual on your behalf.” The best time manager will be the individual who can best delegate time-consuming tasks to other individuals.
In so doing, you are accomplishing two things. First, you are training others to grow and accept more responsibility. Second, you are freeing up your time to address issues of higher priority. The worst thing you can do is try to do everything yourself. Your life will get very complicated, very fast.
Remember what Jethro told Moses when he found out Moses was spending all his time judging over the people? “This thing that you do is not good” (Ex. 18:17). His instruction to Moses was for him to delegate to others those matters of lower priority and reserve himself for issues of greater importance. I’ll say it again: the best managers are the best delegators.
So, the three essential elements to successful planning in time management are 1) meditation for building a clear, accurate picture of your day; 2) selectivity prioritizing your schedule based on God’s plan for your life; and 3) delegation learning to assign lower-priority tasks to others.