One look at the woman in Proverbs 31:10-31, and on top of all her other gifts and talents, clearly she must have been an excellent time manager. Do you know women like that? They are trustworthy, industrious, organized, productive and fit. They are creative cooks, wise money and resource managers, crafty with their hands, and stylish yet smart dressers. They care for their families and others, sleep just enough but not too much, and wisely use every minute of their day pursuing the things the Lord has made a priority in their lives.
We can look at the Proverbs 31 passage and those we know who are like her and get discouraged, thinking it could never be us, or we can see them as a model to which to aspire. It’s not really an issue of personality, disposition or DNA. It’s a matter of being entirely His with everything, starting with our heart and manifesting in the use of our time.
A commodity of great value, time is something we must steward well. We can ask God to “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” and then learn to make the best use of our time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).
Fortunately, the skill of time management can be learned. I am thankful the Lord has blessed me with strong administrative and organizational skills, and I thought I’d dedicate a few blogs to sharing some of the tools I use to juggle the responsibilities that go along with the hats I wear: child of God, wife, mother of four, homeschooler, employer, office worker, writing teacher, blogger, speaker, author, exerciser, cook, house manager, shuttle driver, grocery shopper, co-op and service club mom, and community volunteer planner and participant.
My heavy hitter is a simple spiral.
This is my brain on paper.
It’s about 6-by-8 inches so it fits in my purse and goes everywhere I go. Just ask my kids the panic that sets in if I lose it. Not good!
I start with a clean page and divide it into sections based on my different responsibilities or projects.
These are my headings:
“PCH” for our home building business;
“Writing” for my blog, speaking or other writing projects;
“Errands” for efficient use of my time and gas whenever I travel the 20 minutes or so to the nearest retail/business area;
“Pending” for completed actions that require tracking;
“Other” for uncategorized tasks; and sometimes
“Special” for birthdays and community service projects that deserve their own heading.
As you think of tasks you need to complete, write each one under the appropriate heading. Once they’re written down, you don’t have to worry about remembering them. They are right there to remind you!
Once my working list is set, here’s what I do on a daily basis.
- I consult my spiral every morning and sometimes the evening before to see what needs my attention that or the next day.
- I consider my day and the amount of discretionary time I have to get things done
- I evaluate the items on my list according to:
What’s a priority by deadline?
What’s a priority by who’s expecting it? For example, anything I know James needs or I know lets him know I’ve got his back gets highest priority.
What’s a priority by obligation? Things that involve accountability to others get priority over things that are just for my own pleasure.
What’s a priority because it stresses me out every time I think about doing it or see that it’s still not done?
Each day, use a highlighter or sticky note for the “if-nothing-else-gets-done-today-these-must” items on your list for that day.
Do the one you dread most first. This gets it out of the way, and taking care of the rest of the list is a breeze. Be realistic, though. This goes back to number two. Don’t set yourself up for failure by listing more than any person on earth could do in the discretionary time you have to achieve it. I learned this the hard way.
When my to do page gets full and I can’t squeeze another task onto the page, I start a clean sheet and transfer uncompleted tasks to the new page. If there’s anything on my list that I can quickly knock out and therefore spare the transfer, I will get ‘er done as we say in Texas for the pure satisfaction of having a smaller list when I start my new page. It’s a mind game, but it works!
The rest of your spiral becomes a working notebook where you can keep notes about anything and everything. You might have a page that contains your menu for the week and another page for your grocery list. If you gather information on something, jot your notes in your spiral so you have them with you should you need to refer back to them.
While I rely most heavily on my spiral to stay sane and on top of my game, Thursday I’ll share a few other tricks for making sure nothing falls through the cracks.
Lord, we want to be wholly Yours with our time. Help us put what’s most important to You at the top of our lists today.