So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
Time is a gift. Every day you are given twenty-four hours. That’s one thousand, four hundred and forty minutes. What do you and I do with the time we are given? How do we manage our time?
I clearly remember back to a year when my girls were in elementary school, nearly fifteen years ago. It was a time when my days felt like they were spinning out of control; the to-do list exceeded the allotted twenty-four hours. Between the Christian school they attended, a neighborhood Bible study held in my home, a children’s program I oversaw at our church, a newly formed community Bible study I organized, plus managing our home, something had to give. And, give, it did.
My relationship with the Lord, that is.
You see, I was doing all these good things for God, but I was missing the most important part of my day – Time with Him. Oh, I would walk by the chair that once occupied my early morning moments and whisper to God, “I’ll be there when…”
Sometimes, we can allow the clutter in our life to overshadow the necessity. The necessity of living close to God. When you allow your heart, mind and soul to be captivated by your time with God, He will reveal the most important next step in your hour, day, month and task. Let His presence bring order to your thoughts as you set aside alone time with the One who holds your days. Allow His Peace to permeate a few moments of your day to bring wisdom, clarity and direction. The nearness of God is as close as you make it.
You make time for what is important, don’t you?
Many of us have bought into the cultural lie that a busy life is a productive life. And, as leaders we thrive on productivity, but it can not be at the expense of our alone time with God.
I am all for a balanced life and that is what we, 21st century women, try to achieve in so many areas of our life, but the one area that should be unbalanced is our time with God. This should be the one thing that tips the teeter-totter to the one side over all the others.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
By seeking Him first, He will guide your decision making while you learn to trust Him and adjust your days, attitudes and time.
As a leader, we often have our eyes set on the the next event, the next deadline and the next square on the calendar…This is not bad and yes, it is necessary for success, but not at the expense of your time with the Giver of all good gifts. (James 1:17)
Please, know I am one of the biggest planners you will meet. I love to organize, make lists, check them off and make more lists. Planning is not bad. We need to plan, but my biggest learning curve, over fifteen years ago, was the ability to adjust when God changed my plans.
In the end, His grace is sufficient for you only one day at a time.
Managing my time has been a learned process; not one that I have conquered, but I will share some practical ideas that may help you as you fill in your calendar this year.
Be a good steward of the time you have been given
A steward is a person whose responsibility is to take care of something. No one else can manage your time besides you. God gives you time and people to manage. Let’s take it seriously. In Ephesians 5:15-16, the apostle Paul wrote, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil.”
The word time, in the greek, Kairos, refers to a predetermined, specific amount of time. It is measured, allocated and fixed. Paul was saying, in essence, you have a designated amount of time here in this world. That is it. It is fixed. The clock is ticking. So make the most of it. Don’t just spend it. Invest it. Be a wise manager (steward) of the time the Lord has given you. If you do not manage your time, time will manage you.
Organize your week ahead of time
Actually, I like to organize my month ahead of time and then break down the weeks. I always have an erasable, four month-at-a-glance calendar mounted on my wall next to my desk. I have the months filled in with the important appointments, events and deadlines. I then blackout days prior to the important dates that are a must “office work day” on whatever is needed to accomplish the task. And, I stay loyal to that blackout time, which means I will need to say NO to things that may seem fun, necessary (to others) or beneficial. But, if it is not going to accomplish the end result, it needs to be put on the B-list. This can easily be accomplished on your laptop calendar as well…I just need to always see it in front of me.
Make a timeline
I love timelines. I live by my timelines. I have a timeline running for each task. I provide a timeline to those I work with, this way everyone knows what is needed and when it is due. I simply work backwards from the end date providing dates for each task needed. It’s a sure way for your team to know what is expected and when it is required by. (You may need to send a gentle reminder here and there, but in the end, it is beneficial to hand the timeline out at the first meeting.)
Even the best leaders dread certain tasks. You will need to tackle them head-on. Just start, even if you can’t accomplish it the day you begin it. There is always tomorrow. I know this is a tough one for you, especially if you like to check your tasks off the list. There is just something about making that checkmark next to your task that says, it is completed. I still like to do it the old fashioned way…a handwritten, rolling list I keep next to my laptop… And yes, I look at it every day.
A lot of times, delegation is something we learn the hard way. Sometimes, it is learned through burnout, but it doesn’t have to be that way. So, if I can help you from learning it on a field trip, Amen. As you build your team, consider the gifts each person brings to the table and use them accordingly. Know their strengths and abilities and place them over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens (Exodus 18:24-25). Be careful to place your leaders in roles they can handle. I am not suggesting you shouldn’t stretch those you manage, but be careful to help set them up for success. Once you delegate, don’t micro-manage their every step, but allow them the space to exercise the gifts God entrusted them with (Romans 12:6).
It marks a big step in a man’s development when he comes to realize that other men can be called in to help do a better job than he can do alone. ~Andrew Carnegie
It’s okay to look at your month-at-a-glance calendar and see some white space. White space is needed for your sanity and for those you work with. Life happens. Allow a few days a month for the unexpected and if it is not needed, you have a bonus work day in the office to catch up. When I started to do this, it gave God elbow room to fill my days with what He wanted to fill them with and not my mere little agenda. Leaving margin in your schedule allows for flexibility, availability and trust.
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
Please know, this is not an exhaustive list or a foolproof step-by-step plan to fully manage your time but I hope you are able to take some nuggets away that will help you plan your days better, prioritize the necessity and better steward the days you have been given.
May God bless your year ahead with fruitful days. And, may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful! (Psalm 90:17 NLT)
Journeying with Him,