As a child, I stored my valuables in my very own safe. I kept things like my diary, specials notes, and who knows what other very important stuff under lock and key. After all, I had four pesky younger brothers. As an adult, what I value is demonstrated by my calendar and my checkbook because how I spend my time and money tells the truth about my priorities.
Money and time are similar; both are limited resources. In order to manage my money well I need a budget. And if I am successfully going to manage my time, I will need a time budget – a plan. If I struggle with money, I probably also struggle with managing my time.
Both money and time use the same muscles: the ability to plan, focus, and delay gratification. Having the ability to be creative – that doesn’t hurt either!
As a leader there are many things vying for my time. It is easy to overestimate what I can accomplish and underestimate the amount of time each task will take. I can easily overlook the need for margin – my time savings account for the unexpected. Without a plan, I will find myself either racing from one task to another, never getting to certain things, or frittering my time away.
How can you use your 24 hours wisely?
1. Get real about the 24 hours in your day
Do you actually know how much time you have each day to get things done? Just like when budgeting money, there are things you just can’t do without, like paying your rent or mortgage, utilities, and other fixed expenses. The same principle applies to your time. For example:
Every Day Fixed Items
Sleep: 8 hours
Exercise & Time with God: 1.5 hours
Getting ready: 1.5 hours
TOTAL: 13 hours
24 – 13 = 11 hours – 9 hours of work if you have a job = 2 free hours
Maybe you can get by with less sleep, or take more or less time to work out. If you are a man, your ability to get ready is probably significantly less. Your fixed items might be slightly different, but you get the idea – be very realistic about the time you actually have. Unsure of exactly what consumes your time? Keep track for a week and find out.
2. Eliminate commitments
As time goes on it is easy to gather responsibilities. Even small tasks can be time suckers. Make a list of all the things you are currently doing. Then evaluate which of those things you need to stop doing altogether and which things can be delegated. Be ruthless in this process. The goal is to whittle things down so that you are doing the things that only you can do. This will create margin – space for the unexpected or new things that will benefit you in greater ways.
3. Get in the habit of planning
The quick and easy way to get yourself into financial trouble is to spend without knowing where your money is going. The same is true when it comes to time. If you truly value your time, you will want to carefully plan out how you use hours.
Planning well hinges on how clear you are about your goals for the year, the month, the week, and the day. That means you need to set aside time at the beginning of each year to set goals for the year. At the start of each month, take time to evaluate your goals. Are you on track with your progress or do you need to consider adjusting them to better reflect where life is right now?
Planning doesn’t stop there. At the beginning of each week, take a moment to see what’s on your calendar and how you will order your week to accomplish your priorities. Finally, be sure to start each day by taking five to ten minutes to identify your priorities for the day. Write them down and check them off.
This may seem like a hefty investment of time if you are not in the habit of planning, but in the end it will save you time and allow you to keep tabs on the margin in your life.
4. Embrace Boundaries
Making the most of your time requires you to have boundaries. This applies to both tasks and relationships. Be sure you are not taking on what others should be doing and that you are not allowing people to pull you from your responsibilities. Remember, you do not have to be available all the time. In fact setting limits shows that you value your time. Communicate clearly when you are available. Set aside time to follow up and returning.
Setting deadlines is also a great way to create boundaries. If you struggle with deadlines, enlist the help of someone you trust to check in with you and see if you are staying on track.
Depending on your situation, you may also find things like routines, establishing certain days for certain tasks, or working in blocks of time to be helpful. One of the ways the works well for me is to set a timer for 30 minutes to an hour to accomplish a specific task such as writing, returning e-mails, etc. The gentle ticking of an old fashioned timer reminds me to stay on task.
5. It isn’t just about your agenda
The tricky thing about managing your money and your time is that sometimes God asks us to spend them in seemingly frivolous and crazy ways. He often asks us to give money to someone or something when it makes no sense. The same is true of our time. It requires staying in step with Him to know when an interruption is a special assignment from Him.
I have been confronted with opportunities to speak into someone’s life repeatedly when my schedule was crazy full and God was able to creatively work things out; everything still got done!
Don’t lose sight of God’s agenda when it comes to your time. Trust Him. He knows even better than you do what all needs to get done. Holding so tight to your schedule and being so rigid you miss divine moments only works against you in the long run.
How are you using your 24 hours? What changes do you need to make to invest your time more wisely?
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