This month we are focusing on effective strategies for time management. We know that everyone is different – no strategy works equally well for everybody. Our goal is to offer strategies and ways of thinking that have been helpful to us. Each of us (Jonathon, Nate, and myself) have children, full time ministry jobs, two of us are Ph.D students, and each of us have side ministries where we provide leadership in our various contexts. All that to say – we’re busy and have to think constantly about the best way to manage our time. So we wanted to spend this month on the blog offering to you all some of the things that have been helpful to us along the way.
As our first post on the subject, I’ll share the principle that has been most transformative for me in terms of time management and productivity:
Don’t prioritize your schedule; schedule your priorities!
Another way to put it is to say that the most important question to answer with respect to time management is not, “What do I need to get done today?” The most important question to ask first is, “What kind of person do I want to be?” Before we ever start making to-do lists or setting up a schedule, we first need to determine what things we should be doing for us to be the kind of person we want to be.
The way that I have done this is to divide my life into the different roles that I must fulfill and then ask, “What would it look like for me to do that role with biblical faithfulness?” My responsibilities fall into six roles: Christian, husband, father, pastor, student, and trainer of other pastors. I need to ask, “What things should I be doing to be a faithful _______ to the best of my ability?” After I answer that question, I need to make sure that I delegate time in my life to do those things.
Take one of those roles: my role as a Christian. What would it look like for me to be a faithful Christian? Your list may look different than mine, but after asking myself this question, I broke down faithfulness into these categories: devotional life (Bible study, prayer, pursuit of holiness), devotion to others (attendance at church, small group Bible study, evangelism, and hospitality), and health (exercise, personal growth mini-retreats, and rest). If I am faithful in these areas, I would consider that a healthy Christian life.
Each Sunday night, I review that list and ask myself, “How am I doing? What needs to get on my schedule this week to make sure I am being faithful in this area?” Then I make sure that my schedule matches my priorities.
When will I set aside time for Bible study? For prayer? Are there steps that I need to take to help me grow in holiness, whether it is to remove a particular avenue of temptation or confess to a brother a failing? Have I been faithful lately in my church attendance? Am I making time to gather in smaller groups of Christians? Am I regularly sharing the gospel? Is there someone that I need to talk to this week about the gospel that I’ve been putting off? When was the last time I had someone in my home that I didn’t know very well? Am I keeping up with exercise? Have I crowded out time to get away and examine my life and give intentional extra time to the Lord? Am I leaving room for rest?
The process is the same for the other roles that I fulfill as well. What does it look like for me to be a faithful husband? Father? Pastor? Student? Trainer of other pastors? How am I doing in those areas?
More important than getting things done is getting the right things done. This process is a way that I try to ensure that my life is heading in the direction towards faithfulness in all the areas where God has given me responsibility and influence.
What is it for you? What does a faithful life look like? Does your life reflect it?