I gave a recent sermon at Christ the King Church regarding the Bible’s teaching that we should “redeem the time.” This means that every second of every day counts and should be dedicated to God. But how do we do this when time always seems so short?
After some reflection, I’ve compiled a list of several things that have helped me to make the most of my time.
- Repent of wasted time. I needed to change my orientation towards time and realize that there was just way too much wasted time in my life. Ask yourself: how many hours per week do I spend using Facebook, or mindlessly touring the internet? How many hours a week staring glassy eyed at a TV screen? How much time reading mindless novels or magazines? Video games? I’m convinced that much of what we commonly consider “entertainment” can easily be refiled under “waste of time.”
- Repent of unfruitful busyness. Just being busy doesn’t redeem time either. In fact, mere busyness can be a symptom of disorganization, which is a big time waster. Ask yourself: do you keep a schedule? Are you mastering your time or are you subject to the Tyranny of the Urgent (where the “urgent” supplants the truly “important”)?
- Determine your priorities. For me, my priorities are in this order: (1) Christian, (2) husband, (3) Father, and (4) Christian leader. These priorities will determine which activities will be permitted to crowd out other activities, and in what proportion. For example, my priorities as a husband and father will automatically rule out most evening activities, since we schedule the evenings as family time. However, on occasion, my responsibilities as Christian leader will cause me to allocate evening time for ministry. A great proportion of my time is dedicated to ministry, which is also a vocation. For me, this is the means by which I provide for my wife and children (priorities 2 and 3), which is my Christian responsibility (priority 1). Balancing these priorities is a learned skill which will take a lifetime of effort to master. I am grateful for C.J. Mahaney for this insight.
- Schedule it! There is no way a person can redeem his or her time without careful attention to a schedule. A schedule enables you to dictate where you will budget your time. You are controlling your time by scheduling, and then you obey your schedule. Schedules provide accountability. It also gives you a journal of your activities that you can look back on. For me, I do this on google calendar. This is the central digital hub, which syncs with iCal on my Mac and also on my iPhone. When I schedule something from my phone, it shows up on iCal. My wife also has access to this shared calendar and she can add stuff to it as well. This keeps our family’s time organized.
- Go to bed. It’s foolish to stay up half the night and sleep half the day away (Proverbs 26:14, Proverbs 6:9). Determine how much nightly sleep you need and guard it carefully. I get about 8 hours per night.
- Redeem your commute. There are countless fantastic podcasts available for free download. Instead of listening to music all the time, or talk radio, use this time for spiritual nourishment. I’m currently listening to a seminary course from Brian Chappell on Christ Centered Preaching for free. Many long commutes have become sanctuaries where God has met me in prayer, or through great preachers. I’ve even listened to most of the Bible in the car while commuting. If you drive 30 minutes per day, that’s 3 hours per week, which is roughly 150 hours per year. Most college level courses are only about 36 hours of total classroom instruction time per semester. You can accomplish a lot in the car.
- Redeem Time with Concentration and Focus. I’m a daydreamer. Since most of my time is spent writing on a computer, the momentary writer’s block can easily turn into an hour of daydreaming and time-wasting.
- Make a To-Don’t List. This has been a lifesaver for me. Just because someone is asking me to do something doesn’t mean I have to do it. When my list gets especially long, I make a list of things that I’m simply not going to do. This enables me to put time towards my passions and not towards other people’s passions.
- Redeem leisure time with enriching activities. There’s nothing wrong with watching sports or movies or playing on the internet. But it is helpful to expand the repertoire of leisurely activities to include things that challenge the mind and enrich the soul. Trade in some TV time for a walk outside to enjoy beauty and pray. Trade reading ESPN articles for reading a theology blog or journaling. Create some art (even if you suck at it!), get to know neighbors, etc. All of these activities can improve one’s use of time.
- Build in margins. Nothing can wreck your time like the unexpected accident, home repair, traffic congestion, illness and so on. Build in some margins by adding a little time to each scheduled activity so you’re not derailed by the unexpected.
Bonus suggestion… Always have a good book close by. I never leave home without a book. If I’m going to the doctor, or the mechanic, or an appointment, I can always sneak in a few pages by carrying a book and showing up early.
Some other very helpful reading on redeeming the time is Jonathan Edwards’ essay, The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It.
Ok, there’s my list. What other suggestions do you have for redeeming your time?