It’s 0-0 about midway through the first period. The Wild (Minnesota) have doubled the SOG (shots on goal) of the Bluejackets (Columbus). Yes, I’m writing this while I’m watching a hockey game. It’s also just a few days before this is scheduled to be posted.
No, I didn’t just find out about this; the deadline has been on my calendar for months. Now this falls in the category of “Tyranny of the Urgent.” It has get done today, now, before I get up from this seat . . . yes, I should probably stop watching the hockey game.
Since this a reflection on using time well, it would be nice to say that this procrastination was on purpose, that I watched slow slippage of days on purpose, to create a poignant illustration.
Time has an unexplainable, yet absolutely predictable, way of getting away from us.
A Few Verses about Time
Colossians 4:5 Behave wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of your time.
Proverbs 6:6-8 Consider the ant, you lazy bum. Watch its ways, and become wise. Although it has no overseer, officer, or ruler, in summertime it stores its food supply. At harvest time it gathers its food.
Proverbs 10:4 Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.
Matthew 6:33-34 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Of course, these are just a sampling. The wisdom of Scripture invites us to consider how we use our time in many places.
Right now, Proverbs 10 is liberally spreading guilt and causing reflection. Have I wasted time getting to this? How much? What have I been doing? Not really unique questions. I’m sure I’m not alone with these thoughts.
The truth is that I have probably “wasted” a fair bit of time since knowing that I needed to write this. But it doesn’t feel like it. Days are always busy. And with everything a good husband, father, friend, and employee, it feels like nearly every minute is spent doing something good (I was watching the game with my boys).
Times like this always make me wonder how I can use my time well. My wife laughs at how frequently I make a schedule for my days, planning out, to the minute, what I need to get done. Yes, an eye roll from you too is appropriate. Ideal schedules almost never work. Usually for one of two reasons: we think we can do more than we can (or that we don’t need “personal” time for things like relaxing) or we don’t plan cushion for the unexpected, which is short-sighted . . . to be gentle about it.
While I obviously still find myself up against a deadline sometimes, I have found a few practices to help me use my time wisely.
Two Questions to Help Use Time Well
How important is this? This question obviously requires a bit of examination and evaluation. First, we have to be aware of everything that is on our plate. What all do we have to do? How long is our current to do list? Of course, we can’t always immediately bring to mind everything that we need to accomplish but taking a few moments to reflect on the list will help us evaluate where the current activity falls in terms of its importance. Once we identify our tasks, we can see where (and if) our current time consuming activity falls in terms of its importance? Top of the list? Middle? Bottom? Maybe it’s not actually there at all. Answering this question isn’t the end of the exploration. Not everything at the top of the importance list gets attention first. We have to balance the priority list with the deadlines.
How urgent is this? This is a bit more straightforward. Here we simply ask ourselves when we have to accomplish this task. Is this the first “due date” on my list? The answer to this has a little more immediate significance than the importance question, but it doesn’t rule the day.
These aren’t my ideas. Perhaps you’ve seen the graph of these two questions. It’s called the Eisenhower Matrix. A simple grid with “important” and “unimportant” on the top/bottom and “urgent” and “not urgent” on a side. Take any task you have and place it in the grid. Is it important but not urgent? Take your time. Not important and not urgent? Let it slide. Important and urgent? That’s the category that gets the immediate focus. Important, but not urgent? Schedule it for the future. Urgent but not important? Maybe it’s a chore your kids can help with. Not important and not urgent? Consider letting it go.
Taking Time for Wisdom
But remember, there is more to life than tasks and to-do lists. We all have relationships to build and a God to serve. Sometimes those things, and yes sometimes time for ourselves need to rank as the urgent and important task. We were made for work and rest.
How we use our time doesn’t really fall into the category of right and wrong (assuming, of course, that we are not engaging in any immoral or unethical activity). It’s a wisdom issue, and that means asking questions and making good choices based on what we know. Taking some time in the moment to ask a few quick questions about our time can help us make the wise decisions that we all want to make.