Manage your life and you'll manage your time!
We hear a lot about life balance. You know, trying to balance your time and energy between all the areas of life: God, family, work, service, health, leisure, etc. Most of us think in terms of priorities, and know they ought to stack up like this:
The problem is most of us must spend much more time at work than we can with family. In our hearts we try to put God and family first but when it comes to dedicated hours and minutes it's just impossible. What to do?
The solution is to see time management as life management. Instead of a list of competing priorities, visualize life as a wagon wheel, with Christ in the center, as the hub. I use Colossians 1:27 where Paul stresses that "Christ in you" is the hope of glory. So, the center of our lives is Christ.
Then visualize every area of your life as a spoke running out from the hub to the outer wheel. The wheel is your life, and every area - every spoke - provides an avenue for the centrality of Christ to be manifest. What this does is make each area of life - church, family, work, leisure - equally important as a vehicle of witness to the centrality of Christ in us.
Of course, there is no substitute for time, especially when it comes to relationships. So, here are a few life management tips I have found useful in making sure my days are managed so as to give quality time to my family.
1. Do your work as unto the Lord, and not merely to please men: This is Paul's exhortation, found in Colossians 3:22-24:
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Remember, your job is just a spoke that allows you to show the watching world that Jesus Christ is the center of your life.
2. Be a person who gets more done in less time: This will mean getting better and better at doing the tasks your job has assigned to you. Be diligent at improving your reading, writing, planing, and execution skill set.
3. Plan to work hard: When I was in the corporate world I noticed some folks came in early, took off their suit coats, hung them behind the door, and headed for the break room. They would grab a cup of coffee, stand around gabbing, and then take a casual tour of the office saying hello to everyone and hearing about their weekend or previous day. Their common excuse: I know I'm going to be here until 8pm tonight anyway!
Here's the deal: Be ready to work hard when you get to the office. Spend the last 15 minutes of each office day preparing the list of tasks for the next morning, and when you arrive, get after it. Set a goal to get certain things done by 10:00am if possible.
Remember, you are going to be the person who gets more done in less time.
4. Do the hardest things when you are at your best: Over the years I have found my best hours to be 6:00am - 1:00 pm. I'm a morning person, and my engine runs best early. So I force myself to do the hardest tasks when my mind and energy level are at their peak. During these times I am very focused. I find this focus helps me do my best work, but also is a negative when it comes to relational tasks. So, I assign those tasks, like writing letters, counseling, or having meetings, to the afternoon when my engine is running a bit slower, and I can better appreciate others, and their contributions.
5. Say "No" to little breaks: Like you, I often find myself wanting a break in the middle of a serious task that has taken lots of mental energy. The temptation to hit Facebook, check emails, return texts, or go to the break room for coffee is powerful.
Don't do it! You're in the groove, focused and in the middle of important work. Stopping will mean not only stepping away for some time, but also using up valuable minutes in the "re-entry" process. Stay focused. Stay on task. Don't start chasing the squirrels of comfort running across your path.
6. Manage your "returns": These days phone calls, emails, texts, tweets, and instant messages all conspire together to make us think we are obligated to get back to folks right away. I remember when all we had was snail mail. If you received a letter it was understood you had at least a week to reply!
Not so today. Folks who send us a text think we're in a conversation and find it rude if we don't reply right away. Let them! Since when do we have to honor interruptions?
Take charge of your life and be intentional about managing your returns. Set a time for it. (I find the 15 minutes before lunch, and then again before going home to be best). Reply to whatever needs a reply at that time. By so doing you will manage both your own time, and those who think they have the right to interrupt your life. If you don't let other people spend your money, you shouldn't let them spend your time.
7. Set a "going home" time as your reward: Never start a day without setting a "going home" time. Then use it as your reward for working hard, minimizing distractions, staying focused, and doing your job as though you were working for Jesus himself.
8. Wherever you are, be all there: When I am done for the day, I walk out of my office, get in my car, and head for home. Along the way I pass a park with its lush grass, dogs running with their masters, and kids playing on the swings. When I get there, I mentally "off load" my work day troubles and challenges. This allows me to enter my home life in the proper frame of mind.
Yes, you're right. It doesn't always work. Some of the things I carry just can't be jettisoned so simply. But I make the effort to get home with the intention to be fully at home, without part of me still back in my office.
To get more done is less time you have to be all there, wherever you are. At your work place, be all there. At home, be all there. Wherever you are, be all there. Because "there" is where God has put you, and "there" is his appointed time and place for you to witness to his sovereignty in your life. You are "there" and, through your life, so are his truth and love. Make the most of it.