By Benjamin C. Maxson, Director, General Conference Stewardship
Summary: God has created us with an almost limitless capacity to grow. If we spend just one hour a day growing in some way, we have over 300 hours a year for growth. The potential is enormous. This articles gives you 10 ways to improve your use of time.
The nature of time
Time flies! One person says. Another exclaims, Where has this year gone?
Time! We all have the same amount, and yet we each manage it differently. How we do so is a reflection of our relationship with God. Time is limited. It can neither shrink nor expand. And yet it is fluid. The tick of the clock does not change, but how we deal with time does. Some days we control our use of time, and other days we feel like time is controlling us.
Time is important in our spiritual life. The apostle John wrote of a time when there should be time no longer (Rv 10:6). Jesus declared that His time had come (Mt 26:18; Mk 1:15). Daniel speaks of a false power that would seek to change time (Dn 7:25). And on a couple of occasions, God actually changed time—when the sun stood still (Js 10:12-14) and when the shadow on the sundial moved back ten degrees (2 Kg 20:8-11).
How we use or manage our time is really a reflection of our values and priorities. In this manner, the way we deal with time is very similar to the way we deal with money. Each demonstrates what is important to us. This is one of the reasons God gave us the Sabbath and tithing—to serve as personal thermometers of spiritual growth. So let’s look at ways in which we can bring God into our management of time.
The Lord of time
The first tip is to recognize that as Creator, God is Lord of time. He must be at the center of our thinking about time. As in every other area of life, our challenge is to learn to put God first. In other words, the way we manage time tells us what place God has in our hearts. This is one of the reasons He gave us the Sabbath—as a way to help us bring Him into this critical area of life. We worship Him on Sabbath as we recognize Him as Creator (Ex 20:8-11), Redeemer (Dt 5:12-15), and Sanctifier (Ex 31:13). Worshiping Him on the Sabbath reminds us each week that He is Lord, not only of the Sabbath, but of each and every day for the Christian.
Putting God first in time begins with the Sabbath. It continues by taking time with God each day. Regardless of our preferences, we can begin each day with God. However, one’s focused devotional time may vary from person to person. Let me suggest that if you are a morning person, take time in the morning for your devotional experience. If you are a night person, you might prefer to have your most meaningful time with God in the evening. Either way, try giving Him a part of your most productive time. I find that my growth with God is directly proportionate to the quality of time I give Him for listening to Him and His Word.
A second tip in dealing with time is to have a clear sense of mission and to integrate that mission into our schedule. A God-given mission brings clarity and focus to our lives. Then we arrange our schedule around that mission. Otherwise, events will seize control of our time. We each have different gifts and functions. Yet ultimately, the mission of each and every Christian is to glorify God. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Cr 10:31). Part of this mission is to help others know the God we know.
Balance is another tip that guides us in our use of time. A compulsive focus on one area of life will control our use of time. God wants us to live in a balanced way that helps us grow in our relationship with Him and those around us. Proper balance results from a growing integration of God’s lordship in every area of life. Can we trust God to guide us in the daily details of life?
Personal growth and strategies
A personal growth plan is a fourth tip to help us in managing our time. God has created us with an almost limitless capacity to grow. If we spend just one hour a day growing in some way, we have over 300 hours a year for growth. The potential is enormous.
A fifth tip is to make a time log for one week about once a year. Record all activities on a 15-minute basis. Total the time you spend in differing categories for each day, and then for the week. Next analyze your use of time. Measure it against your priorities and values. Then determine any changes you want to make.
Tip number six is to have a strategy for using the small corners of time throughout the day. You can carry a book with you and take advantage of those extra two to five minutes to read a page or two. Or you can carry a notepad, index cards, or an electronic organizer and use those few minutes to make notes or develop a concept. You can also use fragments of time for special intercessory prayer. Work your way through the members of your family, your friends, or your prayer list, lifting each one to God in prayer.
The seventh tip is to plan your activities for each day. I find two effective ways of doing this planning. One is to do it the evening before, and the other is to do it first thing in the morning. Either way works well. Establishing goals to be accomplished during the day may be a helpful part of that planning.
Number eight is the tip to ?chunk? your time. Organize your activities into time blocks of about 20?40 minutes. This organization can be based on groups of similar activities, or segments of activities that require a larger block of time.
Take a break
Taking a break every 25?40 minutes is the ninth tip. This can be a break from what you are doing, or a break created by changing activities. You can accomplish this with a physical or mental change of pace. Most people find this type of rhythm helps keep the mind focused and fresh. It also helps maintain a higher energy level and prevents boredom.
The tenth tip is to take God with you into every activity. Practice His presence by opening your mind to the reality that He is always with you (Mt 28:20). You can do this by consciously asking Him to go with you throughout the various activities of your day. Another helpful tool is to think about having Jesus visibly beside you in each activity. Imagine what it would be like if you could see Jesus walking or sitting beside you in every part of your day.
Time is precious. That which is wasted can never be regained. We can only move forward, but we can do so intentionally. We can ask God to help us take control of our time by surrendering each moment to Him and by asking Him to transform all we do through His presence. Thus time becomes a lifestyle of worship as we offer ourselves completely to God (Rom 12:1-2).