“I am just so busy!” is a sentiment we all likely hear daily. Whether it’s coming from our own mouth or someone around us, there’s no denying we live fast-paced. Working hard and sucking the marrow out of life is honorable. Yet a life of rushed interactions, frenzied hello’s, late nights, missed family gatherings, and living with little to no margin is a serious flaw.
When we live our lives fast-paced with no margin, we miss the opportunities in front of us. We miss the opportunity to invite an unexpected visitor in. We miss the opportunity to engage in conversation with our cashier. We miss the opportunity to read books. We miss the opportunity to listen to our children’s long-winded stories. We miss the opportunity to exercise. We miss the opportunity to pet our dog when we come home. We miss the opportunity to make a meal which actually takes more than 10 minutes. We miss the opportunity to serve in our church. We miss the opportunity to make a last-minute meal for a loved one. We miss these opportunities because we are too busy responding to emails, texts, working late, scrolling our phones, getting the last bit of laundry done...etc. Simply put, we miss these opportunities because we are too focused on our own lives, and efficiency. We are obsessed with being busy. We claim “this is the way it has to be” or it is “just a season,” or “there’s nothing we can do about it.”
I am writing this as much for me as for anyone else. I am constantly running late and can struggle with prioritizing what to get done in a day. In fact, I even shared my word for the week (“time") with my fitness accountability group. I desire to use time well and become optimized, yet free to love and engage with those around me. As I continue to grow in my time management skills, these eight tips help me most.
1) Timers, Timers, Timers.
Choose a set amount of time to complete a task and set a timer. Don’t pick up your phone or do anything during the allotted time than what you committed to doing! Timers also help with mental breaks. It is ok to play a game, talk to a friend, surf social media, read a book…etc. For example, just set a 10-minute timer and once the timer is done, stop and get back to work.
2) Time Blocking
Look ahead at your schedule (for sure look at least one week ahead). If you need to look as far ahead as a whole month, do it! After you analyze what needs to get done, select the priorities for the week and write all of the week priorities down on a to-do list. Allot the to-do’s based on deadlines to a certain day of the week. Write down an hour-by-hour (maybe even minute by minute) rundown of your day. Place the most mentally tacking items at the times when your mind is most fresh.
Example Time Block:
7:00am — Alarm goes off
7:10am — Get out of bed
7:10am-7:40am — Get dressed, brush teeth, do hair/makeup, make the bed, make coffee
7:40am-8:10am — Read Bible, gratitude journaling, and pray.
8:10am-8:25am — Eat breakfast & feed Lake
8:25am-8:40am — Tidy up the house from the night before
8:40am-9:00am — Miscellaneous Margin
9:00am — Start work.
9:00am-9:15am — Check in with my fitness accountability group
9:15am-10:00am — Contine to work on #wftuesdaytips
10:00am-10:30am — Instagram work
10:30-11:00am — Follow-up with client leads
11:00am-12:00pm — Workout
12:00-12:40pm — Shower, Eat, Get Ready
12:40-1:00pm — Take Lake for a Walk
1:00pm-2:00pm — Film a workout & post
2:00-2:40pm — Client Session
2:40pm-2:50pm — Mental Break/Miscellaneous Margin
2:50pm-3:10pm — Personal Development
33:10-4:00pm — Work on #wftuesdaytips, catch up on emails
4:00-4:30pm — Create content.
4:30pm-5:10pm — Make dinner
At the end of the day, create your following day's to-do time block and bring over anything that didn't get done.
3) Create an Overflow List
Our to-do list is NOT a wish list. Far too often we struggle because we put too much on our to-do list and it overwhelms us. Be realistic with your to-do list, and then create an “overflow list.” Your overflow list will be the tasks you can do if you get things done faster than you expected.
4) Leave Margin
You will notice break times (“Miscellaneous Margin”) in my time-blocking example. This is important because we cannot predict our day. Life happens and things come up. Make sure you leave room for bathroom breaks, heavy traffic, and for the unexpected. Also, be sure to time block your lunch, breaks, and transition time. If we plan ahead, we will likely be much less stressed when the unexpected happens. Why? Because we left margin for the unexpected.
5) Ask for Accountability
Discuss your goals with loved ones! Ask them to support you, and hold you accountable for what you set out to do. Maybe ask them to send you a text at a certain time to check in with you.
6) Dominate your Morning
Review your plan for the day, and get to it! An intentional morning sets your day up for success. If we can just get started, things will flow from there. Often times for individuals who struggle with procrastination, starting is the hardest part. Try implementing the five-second rule in the morning (count to 5, and DO THE THING before your brain thinks of excuses or reasons why not to).
7) Analyze your Commitments
It can be hard to know what to say ‘yes’ to in our day-to-day lives. This is especially true in leadership roles. Learn to delegate to those around you, and ask yourself if what you say 'yes' to will fit into your day-to-day life. When you choose to say 'yes' to something, oftentimes you will be saying ‘no’ to something else. Are you okay with what your ‘yes’ will force you to say ‘no’ to?
For example, if you choose to serve on your children’s school board, you may be saying no to putting your kids to bed one night biweekly. Are you okay with the sacrifice? What other sacrifices might your saying ‘yes’ involve?
8) Pray for Discipline + Wisdom + Be Encouraged by Scripture
Pray for wisdom in making decisions and how to use your time. Pray the Lord would use you to be a vessel for His work each day & thank Him for providing your daily bread to get the tasks done. Pray for discipline to choose to stay concentrated and diligent in your work. Prayer is powerful. Additionally, encourage yourself with Scripture. The following verses encourage me, as they remind me of the purpose of work, the need to plan ahead, but also to not hold too tightly to my plan because tomorrow is not promised. Our days are numbered, but the Lord will provide for His people. Let’s use our days the best we can, trusting in the Lord’s provision!
“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for He grants sleep to those He loves” (Psalm 127:2).
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
“Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that'” (James 4:13-15).
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8).
“Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 10:4).
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
When we choose to eliminate hurry, the joy and beauty of life explode. Remember the mindset of progress over perfection and remember the Lord provides His people with their daily bread.
“Serve God by doing common actions in a heavenly spirit, and then, if your daily calling only leaves you cracks and crevices of time, fill them up with holy service.” - Charles Spurgeon