Making good, godly use of our time is more than just tracking and scheduling tasks; it also involves reducing the time we waste or spend ineffectively because we are sluggish and exhausted. I close this impromptu series with some final lessons I’ve learned recently and over the years.

Seize Your Attention!

While my smart phone can be an extremely helpful tool, it can also be a huge distraction. I used to have a different tone for every possible alert – voice mail, email, text, FaceBook, tweet, etc. Whether I had time or not, if my phone made a peep, at minimum my thoughts were distracted, and many times, my attention was diverted as I felt compelled to see who/what it was.

Most of us are familiar with the rabbit trails we can follow with a single touch on our screens! After a week-long media fast a month or so ago, I recognized just how attentive I was to my phone and what a stronghold it was. At the close of that week, the only sound I left active was the ringer for the phone. I check all my favorite social media apps only when I have time.

For calls, I’ve given specific ring tones to family and others I know require my immediate attention. Everyone else is the old fashioned ring. This way, if I’m away from my phone and can’t see the caller ID, I know whether or not to stop what I’m doing to answer.

If I can’t be interrupted, I don’t answer. If I don’t recognize the number, I let it go to voice mail and check it later. It’s not that the calls aren’t important; it’s just that some can wait and need to if I’m doing something pressing for James, schooling a child, trying to get out the door for an appointment, etc.

Energy Killers and Productivity Counterfeits

Years ago, I read an article about energy killers: those people, projects, and things that deflate your energy and kill your resolve every time you see them. The people part is a topic for another day, so let’s talk about the projects and things. It might be a phone call you dread making, an errand you’re avoiding, a note you’ve been meaning to write, or a closet you need to clean out. Whatever it is, every time you think of it or see it, you slump your shoulders and think, “I really need to get that done.” Doing nothing, you walk away overwhelmed or defeated.

That’s an energy killer!

Put these on your spiral (see A Spiral for Your Thoughts?), and as much as you can, give them priority on your six most important things to do lists! As you get them knocked out, they actually GIVE you energy because you feel so good about their completion! It creates a sense of accomplishment, not failure, freeing you up to be more productive in everything else.

Be careful, though, that these don’t take precedence over higher priority responsibilities and become productivity counterfeits: things we do because they make us feel productive, but they’re really our way of avoiding what we really should be doing. Part of time management is learning what to put off when other things deserve our time more.

Catch Some Zzzz’s

This is an area of constant growth for me. I’m like Dolly Parton’s character, Truvy, in Steel Magnolias, with her shoe size: “In a good shoe, I wear a size six, but a seven feels so good, I buy a size eight.” Except it’s backwards for me when it comes to sleep: “On a good night, I’m great with 8 hours, but since 7 is good, I survive on 6.”

One of the habits I’m working on is setting my alarm no less than seven hours from when I go to bed. This forces me to be more conscientious and intentional about my bed time, which takes some maneuvering. I determine my earliest obligation the next morning – the time when I need to be ready to commit my attention to another person or activity. It might be the time I need to leave the house, school a child, exercise, or work in the office. From that time, I back out the hours I want with the Lord and to prepare for my day. Am I trying to exercise? Do I need to shower, wash and blow dry my hair, apply makeup and find something cute to wear, or is it a hair-in-a-pony-tail-just-worked-out kind of day? After I’ve factored in all considerations, I count back seven hours to set my bedtime. It’s fluid, but it’s been a good guideline for me.

Time is short. Using it wisely requires constant conversation with the Lord, seeking His desires, not mine, and asking for His help in discerning priorities and disciplining myself to make the choices that will make me most useful to Him.

Calling on Him is one call I always have time to make.

Lord, help us spend our time on the things You desire – nothing more, nothing less. We ask You for wisdom, believing Your word that You will give it to us liberally and without reproach (James 1:5). Make us aware of the things that steel our energy and time, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, help us to address them. Thank You, faithful Father, for Your mighty work in and around us!