Over the past two months, God has put the thought of time into my head and heart. I have thought about how time is a finite resource, how to prioritize the time He has given us, and how best to manage the time that we have.
Time is different from anything else in the world. It is more valuable than gold yet is oftentimes taken for granted. The millionaire or billionaire will pass away one day. When he passes, he cannot take his money to the grave or beyond. The terminally ill man who is dying at a young age would give away all his material possessions for the chance to have more time.
As I thought more about this, I reached out to several of my friends regarding how they view and manage their time. I also researched time management and prioritizing techniques. There were differing views, but some ideas were shared across the board. Here are some of the things that I practiced over the past two months:
1. PRIORITIZE – My worldview directs me to prioritize my life by spending time alone with God first, spending time with my family second, and work third. Admittedly, I have struggled living according to this priority system. In fact, many times I live in reverse order, with work being a clear number one priority. When priorities get significantly out of line, I think back to what a lawyer told me when I was 14 years old. When I asked him what it was like to be a lawyer, he said, “I love my work. But, always remember that the law is a jealous mistress. Practicing law can consume a man.” I had no idea what he meant at the time. I do today. That brief conversation, along with my faith, provide the reminder and strength to keep pushing myself to properly align my priorities. Based on my recent use of several life priority techniques, I have found the following to be the most effective:
a. Create an Online Calendar. For 20 years, I used a paper calendar. I carried it everywhere. Then, Bonnie Barker joined our firm. Her first task was to create a Google calendar for the firm. Of course, I resisted, complained, and came up with every reason why we should not do it. Eventually, I gave in. Today, I view the Google calendar as the easiest and most efficient way to plan and prioritize the firm’s activities as well as my own.
b. Make a Daily List. Each morning after reading Sarah Young’s message, I create a list of things that must be done today and things that can be done tomorrow or later. I keep the pad with me throughout the day so that I can add and subtract tasks. At the end of the day, I transfer the future tasks to the Google calendar.
2. TIME MANAGEMENT – It seems that people who live according to their priorities are also managing their time efficiently. While there are countless ways to do this, I have noticed the following to be very helpful:
a. What Time of the Day are You Most Productive? For me, it is between 10:00am – noon and 3:00 p.m. – 6:00p.m. I work on the most strenuous tasks for the period of time when I am the most productive. (I realize that many people cannot do this because of rigid work schedules. But, even minor adjustments help).
b. Check Email / Return Phone Calls at Least Twice a Day. Like many folks, I heavily rely on email and the cell phone. In the past, I would return messages throughout the day as time permitted. I still do this. But, I also reserve time to focus only on this task. I chose 12:00pm – 1:00pm because I can sit quietly, eat lunch, and return messages from the morning. The second time for returning phone calls is between 4:00pm – 5:00pm. For email, I chose 8:00pm – 9:30pm. These times provide the chance to return messages from the entire day. (** A wise friend once told me that quart jar will only hold a quart of water. While obvious on its face, the lesson is that we can only accomplish a certain number of tasks in 24 hours. If returning a message interferes with swimming in the pool with my boys, I need to return the message the next day).
c. Each Day Spend One to Three Hours of Time Outside with the Cell Phone Turned Off. If you must have your cell phone, put it on vibrate. Choose the time of day when you need a break. For me, it is the middle of the day. God created us to live outdoors. Early man sought shelter for limited purposes such as protection from the elements. Think about how you feel when you’re frustrated, walk outside for a few minutes, and get a breath of fresh air. For many people, the calming effect of just being outside the home or office can change an entire attitude.
3. EXERCISE AND SLEEP – Even though these may be the most important tools to assist us prioritizing and managing time, they are also the most ignored. But, my experience of getting 8 hours of sleep and exercising for 30 minutes four times a week (at a minimum) over the past two months has increased my motivation in managing time.
Now, this may look like a decent plan on paper. But, when the game starts on Monday morning and we get focused on immediate issues that seem to always emerge on Monday, it is easy to throw this plan away. I almost did this the first week. But, I realized, like a game plan in a football game, I must be flexible and adjust based on what life presents on a daily basis.
God may want us to experience something, help someone, or put the calendar down for a few hours so that we can build a fire with our children.
I view the calendar as a priority guide rather than a rigid agenda.
I will continue to move forward with properly aligning my priorities and better managing my time. I hope that one or more of these techniques can be useful in your life as well.