Time Management — A Biblical Perspective and Practical Points

| February 9, 2014

time-managementFor all the talk about time management, time is not something we can manage. Time moves on, without regard to our use or misuse of it. Only the God of Creation can really manage time – as He did in Joshua 10, making the sun stand still in the sky, until Israel had won its battle. For Christians, “time management” really means self-management within the confines of our time. Christians are instructed to “number our days” (understand the limits of our time) and to “redeem the time” (to use it well). Psalm 90:12; Ephesians 5: 16.

We live in a world of almost constant distraction. This is not new. In Jesus day, “there were many coming and going and [the disciples] did not even have time to eat.” (Mark 6: 31). When Paul got to Athens, he found a city where people “spent their time in nothing but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” (Acts 17: 21). McDonald’s Restaurants and Twitter are just technology catching up with the constant busyness of life.

Christians in business and ministry know the intense time pressures that can be impose by the new wave of technology. These technologies have created an artificial urgency – the email has to be answered, the telephone call has to be taken, the news item has to be read – or else you might be hopelessly out of touch. As a first matter, a Christian should declare himself or herself free from such artificial urgencies: they are both unspiritual and extreme time wasters. There is a big difference between being busy and being productive. There is a big difference between an artificial urgency created by somebody else, and the prioritizing of tasks that you establish for yourself. We should be like the men of Issachar “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” (1 Chronicles 12: 32).

With this in mind, we offer the following principles for Christian time management.

1. Make sure that you set time aside for the Lord. This was such an important principle, that God made the Sabbath the sign of the covenant that He made with Israel under the Law of Moses. The Sabbath rest was the rest of freedom – work being finished, bonds being loosed. It was a time to consider the Lord, consider His salvation and goodness (Hebrews 4: 4 – 10). Not everyone will do this the same way, and its manifestation will be as diverse as are our spiritual gifts. One person will spend time in Bible study, and another in prayer; one in solitude and another in a group. But by any means, make sure that you prioritize your time with the Lord.

2. Likewise, prioritize time for your spouse and your family. Business or ministry can expand to take over everything if you let it. Make sure you preserve time to honor and secure the relationships God has hallowed.

3. Determine the most important business tasks you need to accomplish each day, and then let nothing interfere with getting those tasks done. Most people are not productive because they jump from task to task, constantly checking email, Twitter, Facebook, stock quotes, “the latest” news release, and whatever else “demands” your attention. Rather, before the day starts (and ideally the last job of the day before) consciously determine the top five things you need to get done, and then prioritize them as P1 to P5. Start with P1 – and get it done and finished. Move to P2 and onward. At the end of the day, you will look back to find tasks accomplished and the time very productive.

4. Understand both what is your most productive time and least productive time of the day, and organize your work around them. Some people are extremely productive very early in the morning; while others are night owls and work well at night. Some are “brain dead” around four o’clock; while others are getting a second wind. Schedule your most important project for your most productive time of the day. Schedule your “mindless tasks” (often answering your email) for your least productive times. Multi-task only on the mindless tasks – do not let multi-tasking take your concentration away from your most important projects at your most productive time of the day.

5. Have an inclination toward action. Certainly consider your decisions carefully, but always be moving through your action plan. Plans without action are like faith without works (James 2: 18) – you may say that they exist but without action there is nothing to prove it. So keep moving forward – keep asking, seeking, knocking. Don’t let your action steps get delayed in a sea of planning.

6. Don’t Plan Long Term. Many organizations try to look off years into the future. That might be fine for the most general goals (you should have a long term investment plan for retirement), but it is impossible to plan out the productive use of time that way. The Bible is full of such instructions. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Proverbs 27: 1. James tells us not to say that we will go a particular city, stay there a year, buy and sell and get gain (James 4: 13). Jesus taught that we should give no worry for tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). Rather, have the discipline to plan short term (often very short term) and then execute that plan in as short a horizon as possible.

7. Know when to shut down. Don’t work to exhaustion. As with athletes, “rest before you are tired, drink before you are thirsty, down-shift before you have to.” Build in time for wind down and for rest. Your worst decisions are made when you are tired. Sin is much easier when you are tired.

As Christians, we should demonstrate our faith in our use of time, counting the days, redeeming the time, and offering up the fruits to the Lord.

Category: Lifestyle