The concept of time has intrigued me for years. When I was younger, I remember my parents and grandparents telling me that time was “flying” and “it was only yesterday…” But to me, it seemed like it always passed at a snail’s pace. There were so many things that felt like they would never happen: the arrival of summer break, getting my driver’s license, going to my first prom, graduating from high school, going to college, turning 21, getting married…day in and day out… TIME MOVED SO SLOW.
But the older I’ve gotten (cause that clock does keep a’tickin), there has been a drastic increase in my perception of the speed of time around me. All of a sudden, summer takes on a whole new meaning (because there is no more break), that driver’s license has been renewed multiple times, prom seems like forever ago (because it was), high school reunions have come and gone, 21 was way too many birthdays ago, and that marriage has moved beyond the 10year mark with a preschooler and a toddler to tag along. Think about it… Even January 2016 is halfway over… and I thought we just celebrated the New Year! 🙂
The reality of how quickly time truly does move is mind-blowing, and depending on how this time has been spent, we can either look back with reflective nostalgia or uncomfortable regret. And typically, how we feel when we look back on the time behind us will either accentuate or depreciate our excitement about what is to come. That is why this second sector on our use of time is so very important, and a definite struggle for most of us this day in age (ain’t nobody got time for that LOL).
In this section, Gordon describes that how we use our time and what we choose to fill it with (work, school, friends, family, church, Facebook, Netflix, exercise, blogging, etc.) is what really matters when it comes to having an ordered private world. Much like assessing our motives for whether we are operating as being driven versus being called, he gives us an understanding of what it looks like to either appropriately USE or inadvertently LOSE the precious time that we have.
Use It or Lose It
For my husband’s job, we (I say we because “his” leave is really “our” leave LOL) still earn so many hours of annual and sick leave per paycheck per year (I know this has changed for a lot of companies/organizations) that we can either use or carry-over into the following year. However, there is a cap on carry-over, so if you do not use a certain amount of leave within the allotted time frame, you cannot keep it. Essentially, you LOSE it and the company gets free work from you 😦 Nobody really wants that, so each year we sit down around Easter and begin accounting for all the leave we want to use in an effort not to “lose” any in the carry-over process.
This is exactly how Gordon encourages us to view our time: If we have it available to us, then we should be fully using it! But let us make an important distinction here: just because it is being filled does not mean it is properly being used. According to Gordon, even full time can be lost, and this is where we need to start being intentional about how we are either using or losing our time.
Specifically, if you are using your time, you are filling it with the things that matter most to you and your calling (going back to being driven or called). You are being wise, making the most of each moment and opportunity, and there is an intentionality to your way of life (Ephesians 5:16) and how you live out each day. While life still happens and things pop up (especially when you add things like work, spouses, kids, and ministry to the mix), your “normal” consists of organized, regular times that are focused and productive. You fiercely guard these times, because they provide the foundation for order that breathes life into the other, discretionary moments. You feel empowered because you start having an influence on your life and you can see things starting to happen around you.
In contrast, if you are losing your time, it may be full of things to do, but when you take stock… the fillings are not really that important. Gordon calls this being disorganized; meaning that your time is all over the place, and you feel out of control. You may feel overwhelmed as you think about each new day, new week, new month… even the next moment because you have no clue what it will hold and how you will make it through because of the million other things that need to be accomplished. Life is happening to you, and at times, you feel like you are unwillingly along for the ride and you are powerless to stop the madness.
He adds many other descriptors beyond those above, so see the chart below for a summary of how to know if you are truly using or losing your time:
How does this apply to me?
If we go back to that whole honesty thing, this sector (and really most of them as you will see), has always been a struggle for me. Since I already struggle with those lovely driven tendencies we looked at last time, I have always tried to pack in as much as I possibly can into each moment without actually discerning whether or not those moments were being actually useful to who I am and what I am about. There have been numerous occasions where I have taken on responsibilities that I was not excited about because I felt obligated or it would promote my career or I just did not want to say no and then realized I was in over my head and struggling just to complete things (not do them well or the way I would have liked). I would end up overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed… and have very little to show for it. I knew that “being busy” has been my way of life for a very long time, even though it was not always fruitful.
When I had my first baby, I was so relieved for the “vacation” of indefinite maternity leave. I knew I would eventually return to the working world (since I have the option to work from home), but it was according to my terms and how I wanted to do it. All of a sudden, I had full freedom to do whatever I wanted all day (within reason given the demands of my toddler and the fact that he did not always operate according to my plans; but that is another post). And if I really stretch here with the honesty, my initial response was to hide in the non-busyness/new-busyness of it all. To take the time off under the guise of motherhood (which do not get me wrong, has been completely amazing and I am not trying to invalidate that experience at all) was just like when I was super busy with not a moment to spare because I was filling my time with meaningless things and not being very fruitful… as a mom or as a me. 🙂 I knew I was being called to something else while enjoying all that motherhood has to offer and I chose a lot of times to push it aside because I had “things” to do. I went from one extreme to the other, and neither was really using my time wisely.
Maybe you can relate to either or both of my situations above, with your own unique twist. Maybe you are a working mom trying to juggle home and career but still feel a spark of something more and yet there does not seem to be enough hours in the day.
Maybe you are a stay-at-home mom that is tired of using nap time for mindlessly surfing Facebook and Pinterest (although there is noting wrong with either and I use both of them in moderation 🙂 ) and feel the call to something more but are unsure of where to start.
Maybe you have been in ministry for years and feel incredibly burned out because no matter how much you do and how busy you are, it is just never enough.
Maybe you are using your time wisely and love the balance of your current season but see others all around you struggling with the many distractions our world has to offer and you are trying to figure out how to help, how to pray, how to guide.
Wherever you are, Gordon gives us an example of someone who I could envision would have the most weighing on Him, yet utilized his time to the fullest: Jesus. And while some of you may tune out because the church answer was just given, if you could stay with me just a little bit longer, I hope you will see that there is amazing potential for life application here. Jesus, knowing his time on this earth was limited, could have been on a race to the finish to go go go his entire ministry. And yet, throughout the accounts of his life and interactions with people, there is no sense of rush or urgency but always a peace, a calm, and slow and steady pace that exudes from Him. I LOVE IT! He knew who He was, He knew what his mission was, and He ordered His time to ensure He had time alone, time with God, time for his family/disciples, and time for his work/ministry. This is truly what I want for my heart, for my family, for my ministry, and for those around me. I am guessing you might want that too.
OK. So what do I do now?
As Gordon would tell us based on his own experiences and studying how Jesus lived, the remedy for using it instead of losing it, is to recapture our time with an intentional, proactive budgeting approach. This involves three main characteristics:
- Figuring out your rhythms of maximum effectiveness (or when you do your best at what times). For me, I know I have to exercise first thing in the morning or it will not happen; while I know others who can only exercise after work or in the evening. When it comes to my writing or working, I am at my best in the morning or afternoon when I have no distractions (which means nap time or someone else is watching the littles). In the late evening, although sometimes I have to use this time, I am most ineffective, and what would take me 10 minutes to do in the morning will surely take me two to three times longer.
- Figuring out and writing out criteria for how to use your time (or having a filter for what you do and do not do). As Gordon explains, there are fixed parts of our time budgets: like time with God, time for self, time for spouse, time for family, work, ministry, etc. And then there are discretionary parts: hey, this event looks interesting or so and so asked us out to dinner, want to go? For me, my days are full with the kids and work during naps, so I really end up budgeting the evenings and weekends. I have developed an understanding that Mondays are discretionary, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays are for ministry and people; Thursdays and Saturdays are for my work (when my husband can have special time with the kids), and Fridays are usually for family. While of course things happen and even our best plans sometimes fall threw, this structure gives everyone in our house an understanding of a regular schedule, and allows us to properly place things that ask for attention without losing the things that are most important.
- Figuring out how to apply above rhythms and criteria IN ADVANCE (or taking that proactive approach and planning ahead). In this lovely digital age where you can have a calendar on your phone, your computer, hard copy, and now, I even have it on my watch, scheduling in advance should really not be too difficult. Gordon said he plans eight weeks out, but that is too much for me. I usually go a month (so about 4 weeks) at a time, but specifically focus on planning a week at a time. With the normal routine noted above, it is easy to look at the next week and have a good idea of what is already in place. The nice part about doing this is that when things come up, I can often schedule them around the things that are most important because I already know what they are. The biggest challenge here: just actually doing it.
This week, I challenge you to take time (LOL) to ponder your own sense of time. Look through the chart above to assess if you are using it or losing it, and act on one of the three characteristics. I recently had to do this at the start of the year, taking stock of my criteria and what my schedule could realistically hold in embarking on this writing adventure. This meant having to say NO and turning down an extra teaching gig this quarter so that I would have time to invest in writing this blog and budgeting my limited exercise time for first thing in the mornings (which sometimes means with the kiddos… another post there too I’m sure).
What will it mean for you? What needs to change so that you can recapture your time? Is there something you need to say NO to so that you can say YES to what really matters? My hope and prayer is that we will all challenge ourselves in this year and beyond to take the time we have been given and truly USE it, not lose it. ♥