Monday, May 17, 2010

Be Intentional With How You Use Your Time

I was sharing with a friend this week that I didn't have any classes this semester, which meant a bonus 12 or so hours per week for other things. What had I been doing with this for the last 3 weeks? Umm.... has it been three weeks? I don't really know. It's so easy for time to slip through our fingers. We don't consciously choose to waste time, but if we're not intentional with how we use it, we will waste it or let someone else decide how we use it.

Similarly, I asked a number of people what was preventing them from doing the things they feel are important? The answer, for 90%, was "time!" A rare few were more candid in their answers - "selfishness", "poor time management" or "my priorities don't align with my values." They're all the same issue, viewed from a different angle. We tend to waste a lot of time doing things that are not-important or simply not the top priorities compared to what we say we value.

To be more intentional about the use of your time is a great goal. How do we do this? I'm not always the best at this, but here are some thoughts...
  1. We have to know what is most important to us if our use of time is to reflect our values
  2. Stuff happens, other people need things of us. We must create margin in our lives, not merely for the sake of rest (which is good!) but to make sure that important things don't get squeezed out when pressure increases.
  3. Schedule the things that are important to you. Whether that is time with friends, reading the Bible, or enough sleep, if we don't make time for things that don't scream for our attention, they will be neglected.
  4. Look more to multi-purpose than multi-task. To multi-task is to spread your focus over two or more tasks at nearly the same time, delaying how long it takes to finish each one and possibly reducing the quality. To multi-purpose is to be intentional about doings things that are important to you at the same time you are doing something you must do. Finding it hard to find time to build relationships and serve in ministry? Do ministry alongside other people and build relationships as you serve. Tough to find time to disciple others and read the Bible? Talk about what you're both learning from your quiet times when you meet instead of adding a second curriculum. No time to serve in the community and spend time with family? Do community projects that involve the family, and do it together.
  5. Consider how you are spending your time. If you've ever made up a budget, you were probably shocked to see where your money was really going. Do a budget with your time, and see how you're spending the 168 hours in your week. How does that stack up with the half-dozen life priorities you say you have?
  6. Outsource what you don't do well. At home, on the job, at church... don't do something that someone else can do nearly as well. Sometimes you just have to say no
  7. Do not - no matter what you do - neglect rest and time to relax. Even God the Father and Son observed time to rest and enjoy creation one day a week. Seriously, is your work more important than theirs?! 
There's no way any of us will ever have more than 24 hours in a day, but each of us can be more intentional about doing the things that are most important to us - ideally right alongside the very things we feel we have to do.

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