I read a great verse last week that said, “Walk in wisdom among outsiders, making best use of the time” (Col. 4:5). What stood out to me is the clause that seems to be a byproduct of wise living—“making best use of the time.” If I am seeking to be wise—which I tell myself I am—then a great test of that is how I am using my time. (Sadly, this means, many times, that I am terribly, terribly unwise, but there is time to grow—at least, if I can manage it properly!). So here are some helpful ways to make better use of the time, and hence have more time to live, love, and savor this blink of a life you’ve been given. So here we go . . .
1. Make a Plan
-Sunday nights are a good time to sit down and plan out your week, both inside and outside of work. It doesn’t have to be hyper-detailed, but it can chisel out what things you will focus on at work on Monday morning, for instance, and that will help let you know what to do Monday afternoon and so on. By planning in this way—and sticking to the plan—you can insure you don’t get swept up by the helter-skelter of the work week. Also, by planning your out-of-work time, you can avoid ‘surprises’—you know the type!—with your spouse, family, friends.
2. Plan for the Unexpected
-If your plan is rigid, you won’t be able to handle the unexpected phone call, a cancellation, a late appointment. So, as you make your plan, put buffers in between appointments, calls, commutes. If you plan the day to the minute, you are either going to fall way behind or be the type of person no one on earth wants to be around.
3. Handle Distractions (Lovingly)
-There are good distractions and bad distractions in life. For instance, checking my Facebook 17 times in a day is a bad distraction. Constantly checking the stats on a blogpost I wrote is a bad distraction. Sitting down after a break and realizing that I am thirsty is a bad distraction. A good distraction is if a person in need swings by unexpectedly. Obviously the “in need” part is a big distinction to make. And the fascinating thing is that when I eliminate the bad distractions through planning and discipline, the good distractions are no longer seen as distractions at all. I have more time and more confidence that I will complete tasks, and hence, I have more awareness for what is going on around me and more time for the truly important aspects of life—people.
4. Redeem the Throwaways
-We have so much time each day we throw away. In my life, man, there are too many to list, but here are a few: when I watch five segments on Sportscenter I absolutely do not care about just to get to the Top Ten Plays of the Week portion; when I jump from task to task instead of completely finishing one thing; when I drift. So the last one sounds a little vague, but what I am thinking of is the times I go and get a drink from the breakroom just to get a drink from the breakroom. As logical as that sounds, what if I redeemed the time in that trip by going to get a drink and having a conversation en route—looking for an opportunity to do good for someone? Or what if, instead of zoning out in a waiting room or reading one of the the nine copies of Healthy Living magazine that absolute befuddles me (I’m still not sure what gluten actually is), I decide instead to comb through emails, brainstorm a blogpost, catch up on my Bible reading for the day, try to memorize a verse, or any other number of BETTER things than idling? The fact of the matter is that often my “relaxation” is spent doing something I don’t care for when I could be doing something I enjoy much more and that is much better for me—which, I don’t know, sounds more like what “relaxation” was meant to be.
In my car the other day I ended up waiting to turn at a red light that is known for its quick trigger. Blink and you might miss the green altogether. And since I was about the 80th car in the queue waiting in anticipation for said green light, I knew I’d be there awhile. I was listening to sports radio ramble on about the NFL Draft, I think I care as much about as gluten. Then, I had an epiphany! I decided to turn down the radio, and I picked up the book in my passenger seat. I held the book high on the steering wheel so I could see when the car in front of me moved and the words on the page, so when the car would move, I’d lower the book and move along my twenty or thirty yards, and then I’d stop and resume reading. By the time I got to the light, I had read 7 pages that actually applied to my life—that spurred thought and growth far more than Johnny Manziel’s projected draft stock ever would. I had redeemed some time in my life, and, while this doesn’t mean being dangerous at the wheel, the more time I can redeem the more full my life will be.
5. Assess your Time
-I can’t get better with my time if I don’t know how I am using it. Before planning my schedule for the week, I need to consider how I did keeping my previous week’s schedule at work and at home. Was I a productive laborer? Did I spend enough quality time with my wife? Were there any large patches of barren wastefulness in my days? It is only through assessing and augmenting that our time management can be maximized.
6. Stick to the Plan
-If I prayerfully make a plan, I should stick to it. This doesn’t mean I can’t adapt and change it, and it doesn’t mean it is some binding legalistic thing that constrains me—I am not a slave to some schedule. But the beauty of it is that if I prayerfully make a plan for the week, and things come up that will affect and challenge that plan, it means—are you ready for it!—that I can say “NO!” That blessed word that so many of us avoid like the plague is now something I can—with good reason—offer someone. “No I’m sorry, I can’t help that day.” Like how good would that feel? Now if I’m saying no to people and opportunities out of selfishness, well, yeah, we have a problem. But if my schedule is made prayerfully with my spouse, with being an excellent husband, worker, friend, church member, and ambassador for Christ at its heart, then anything that challenges that is worth considering first, and if it is a threat to those selfless goals, worthy of saying “no” to (in love, of course). If the plan is a good, godly one then “no” becomes a thing I can say with a clear conscious.
When I implement any of these I am more productive both at home and at work. When I put them all into practice, I have mind-blowing weeks of awesomeness void of regret and mounting anxiety for “not getting enough” finished (or at least not getting the “right” things accomplished).
Time is limited, and along with it, impact too has limits. There is only so much we CAN do in a day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime. Time is the currency with which we deal—it is all we have, the very measure of our lives. We plan how we use our money—it is ludicrous just to throw it away willy-nilly. So why are we less scrupulous about something that is, perhaps, even more precious?
To be better with my time is to recognize my limits and the value of my life.
So how else can we be better with our time? How can we make best use of it and have the greatest impact in our quest for obedience?