Ten Time Management Choices

My husband has no idea how much he owes Sandra Felton.

I did not come to marriage very organized in either my time or my stuff. In college, I wasn’t lazy, but I was always running behind. Many of my grades suffered from late deductions. And I can’t tell you how many times I got frustrated over not being able to find an item or paper I needed.

Sometime during early marriage, I came across Sandra Felton’s book, The Messies Manual. Then I subscribed to her newsletter for years until I knew by heart what each one was going to say.

I put a lot of Sandra’s principles into practice. I can’t say I became a paragon of organizational virtue, but I definitely improved from where I was.

But I learned something else about organization on my own. We can’t make up a workable schedule and put everything in its rightful place and then be done organizing. We have to maintain our systems and adapt them to new demands on our time and new items in our home.

So I have decided organization is not a destination. It’s a journey. And, therefore, I continue to occasionally reads books or articles about organization.

When I saw that Sandra had coauthored a fairly new book with Marsha Sims, and it was on sale for the Kindle app, I got it. That book is titled Ten Time Management Choices that Can Change Your Life.

The authors state that “One of the goals of this book is to help you accomplish easily and quickly those necessary but uninspiring activities that comprise much of our daily lives so you can turn your attention to the significant things you want to do” (p. 9).

They point out how the advent of modern technology eased life in some ways but created a lot more things to do, some necessary and some distracting.

They say some authors “downplay organizing systems and indicate that if you have enough focus and self-control, you’ll be okay. Not so. You need good skills as well” (p 21.) So they point out overarching principles but also offer practical tips.

They remind us often that “time management is not the art of getting everything done. It is the art of getting the most important things done. To put it another way, it is priority management.” (p. 63).

The authors offer a variety of ways to determine priorities, make schedules, etc. I love that. Some time management books promote a very rigid system. I don’t usually like everything about other people’s systems, so I appreciate the variety of methods to experiment with to find one that works best.

They also tackle multitasking, interruptions, procrastinating, delegation, time wasters, schedules, developing good habits.

They apply principles to home and business.

Each chapter has several vignettes of people with organizing problems and the solutions they found.

The end of each chapter and the end of the book contain questions and activities to help implement the principles. The sessions at the end of the book could be done alone or with a group.

Here are a few more quotes that stood out to me:

Creative people have more ideas and interests than any one person can do in a lifetime, and we accumulate the paraphernalia to prove it. (p. 54.)

A word of explanation is necessary to those who fear setting up a schedule because it feels rigid and stifling. Scheduling is not an inflexible list that is written in stone. It is a statement of what regular tasks are important to accomplish each day and when you plan to do them during the day. As you become experienced in using and tweaking your schedule, you will find it meets your needs more and more successfully and will become your friend. (pp. 163-164).

When you create a schedule for routine tasks, you open a tap through which good time management can flow. A schedule is absolutely necessary because 1. It keeps you from forgetting what needs to be done. 2. It protects you from the unsuccessful “What do I feel like doing today?” approach (p. 164).

Although I would not classify this as a Christian book overall, the authors do employ some biblical principles.

There was only one place I strongly disagreed with the authors.

Organized people work dispassionately. That frees them from a lot of stress. Disorganized people wear themselves out by investing emotion in the things they have to do. They work while saying, “I hate making the bed every day” or “Unloading the dishwasher is such a drag.” The way to take the emotion out of doing what you need to do regularly is to make the activity into a habit (p. 196).

I can’t say that making activities into habits takes the emotion out of them. I still chafe at a lot of things that have to be done. However, making them a habit gets them over with rather than pushing them to the background. And I look forward to the satisfaction of getting them done.

I don’t think I learned much that was totally new to me from the book. But many of the principles I had formerly learned were applied in new ways, and all of the book was a much-needed reminder.

If you need to organize your time better or need to brush up on organizing principles, this book would benefit you.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

Here are some good reads that ministered to me this week.

How to Hold Fast to Jesus in a World That’s Spinning Out of Control. “I could easily spiral into hopelessness and despair. But like my daughters, I learned at an early age to hold fast to Someone. I don’t get it right all the time, and I’ve spent time wandering and lost. But that urge to hold fast keeps me close to the only Solution I know.”

No One Knows My Pain, HT to Challies. “Rather than inviting others into my pain and grief, I’ve often pushed them away. I’ve felt a vague sense of self-righteousness, confident that no one could speak into my life except God himself. I’ve dismissed others’ experiences, even the comfort of friends, because they couldn’t fully relate to my suffering.”

Mentoring Our Next Generation. “Looking back, I am amazed to think that none of these people were a part of the youth staff at my church. They did not have a position that would have prompted their involvement in my life. What they did have was a heart that was burdened for me and a big enough concern to pursue me and challenge me to walk with God. They mentored me!”

Keep It Simple, HT to Challies. “What do you feel when someone asks you to disciple them? I imagine you’re excited because a hungry, likely younger Christian, wants to grow. I imagine there’s probably also stress because you don’t know where to begin. A wealth of good resources is at your fingertips, but that can make things more complicated. So where do you start?”

“I’m so sorry”—“Thank You,” HT to Challies. “When I sat down to write those obligatory notes of thanks, I never expected to receive so much in return. What I thought would be a tedious, hand-aching process instead was cathartic and healing.”

The Virtue of Argument, HT to Story Warren. “As I sat down to write this, my daughter asked me what I was writing about. Adequately explaining virtue to a 9-year-old seemed like it might take more time than I wanted to devote at the moment, so I simply said, ‘I’m writing about how argument can be good.’ She instantly responded vehemently with, ‘No, it can’t!? Arguing is a bad thing?!'” We’d probably all react that way to the writer’s premise. But she’s calling for “an exchange of ideas” in a virtuous way rather than “winning at any cost.” Since we constantly come across people with different ideas than we have, it’s good to think about how to talk about our ideas while still respecting the other person’s.

6 Lessons for Tending Your Time. “You ever feel like that? Like you can’t win with your schedule? Like you’re swinging between laziness and frenetic activity? Maybe you’re looking, like I was, for a better relationship with time.”

This was a funny video about the difference between mothering toddlers and teens:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here’s another round of good reads:

Do Christians Still Have Evil Desires? HT to Challies. “So, is the ground of judgment the acting out of sins, beyond merely harboring the impulse within? Or is this very tendency in us, a diminished but still present earthly desire towards sin’s allure, also ground for eternal judgment? Or is putting to death sin the complete eradication of evil desires from in us? Or is it (by grace) tamping down those desires that will always be there, but not acting out consistently on those impulses? If so, how would that apply to not just the acted-out sins, but specifically to ‘evil desires’?” John Piper answers these in a very helpful way.

Are You an Addict? “Chemicals are one of the ways that people, even God’s people, unbiblically cope with life’s trials. Others might immerse themselves in gaming, sex, or fantasy entertainment. Others use exercise, current events, food, dieting, obsession with sports teams, and even sleeping to escape from life’s realities. Many of these are good things, but they are being used in the wrong way. I had to take a long look at myself, and I found some unpleasant things that I had not even considered a problem before. I had to ask myself some difficult questions.”

Is There an Easy and Transformational Way to Study the Bible? “My dad was a kind man, but he demanded respect and obedience. When he spoke, he didn’t mean, ‘Hear my words, but do whatever you want.’ He meant, ‘Hear my words, understand what I’m saying, and respond in proper obedience.’ Our kind heavenly Father calls us to the same, if not a greater, level of hearing.”

6 Wrong Ways to Approach Difficult Passages, HT to Knowable Word. “It doesn’t take long for a Christian who’s studying the Bible to come across challenging passages. When we do, we should always remember the basics of interpretation: looking for the author’s intended message, reading it in context and with the whole of Scripture in view, even considering how believers throughout history have interpreted it. But following those principles isn’t enough. There are still common mistakes we can make when we study—or seek to teach from—difficult texts in Scripture.”

The Mustard Seed Mum: Pressured to Be Perfect? HT to Challies. “It’s not a competition, even if it feels like it. So what if your child’s best friend’s mother bakes brownies better than you? You’re the best mama for your kids. God put you in a position to look after these precious children. You can trust Him to help you do it.”

Looking for Contentment? It’s Not What You Think. “The more I reflect upon Paul’s letters, the more the Lord continues to refine my incomplete notions of contentment. Paul is not carefree, unburdened, and surrounded by trouble-free relationships. In fact, considering the larger picture of Paul’s ministry gives me a fuller picture of what contentment is by gaining insight into what it is not.”

Is There Such Thing As Random? How God Orchestrates People In His Perfect Timing. HT to Challies. “We don’t choose our moments of suffering, or the times we are pressed into service; they usually come on suddenly and without warning.”

Touch This Tree and You’ll Want to Die, HT to Challies. An interesting and awful natural phenomenon and a good object lesson.

How to Turn a Clique Inside Out, HT to Challies. “Close friendships are a wonderful blessing. But who are they blessing? In a clique, the blessings of friendship stay locked inside a tight circle of friends. The friends themselves tend not to notice, because they are too busy enjoying their own close relationships with each other. But for the people looking in from the outside, the view is not as pretty. They see backs, not faces.”

A Time to Hustle and a Time to Stroll. We tend one way or the other, but there’s a time for each.

And to end with a smile, I had not seen this particular Geico commercial about living in a Victorian house until Karen Wittemeyer shared it.

Happy Saturday!

Do More Better

After several days of feeling like I was just spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere, I decided to pick up Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies. I’ve read his blog for years and saw this book on a Kindle sale a while back.

When we think productivity, we often think of life hacks. But before Tim gets to practical advice, he lays a biblical foundation with clarity about usefulness and purpose of productivity.

Productivity is not what will bring purpose to your life, but what will enable you to live out your existing purpose (p. 10).

We somehow assume that our value is connected to our busyness. But busyness cannot be confused with diligence. It cannot be confused with faithfulness or fruitfulness. . . .  Busyness may make you feel good about yourself and give the illusion of getting things done, but it probably just means that you are directing too little attention in too many directions, that you are prioritizing all the wrong things, and that your productivity is suffering (pp. 20-21).

No amount of organization and time management will compensate for a lack of Christian character, not when it comes to this great calling of glory through good—bringing glory to God by doing good to others . . .there is no great gain in being a productivity monster if the rest of your life is out of control (pp. 24-25).

After sifting through what productivity is and isn’t good for and what our purpose in life is as Christians, Tim shares this pithy definition: “Productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.” (p. 16).

He deals with enemies of productivity and the need to define our responsibilities and roles.

Then he discusses tools. Old-school equivalents would be a task-management tool, like a Daytimer or to-do list, a calendar, and a filing cabinet of vital information. But Tim brings us into the 21st century by sharing how to use apps that serve these purposes.

He shares his routines for managing his time and energy. We only have limited amounts of each, yet more opportunities to use them that we can handle, so we need to make decisions. “Motivation gets you started, but habit keeps you going. You need to use those times of high motivation to build habits and to embed those habits in a system. That way, when motivation wanes, the system will keep you going” (p. 79).

He reminds us that “Your primary pursuit in productivity is not doing more things, but doing more good” (p. 39). Sometimes that good is not a physical or practical thing one can check off a list. I had to learn this over and over while visiting with my mother-in-law when she was in assisted living. I “felt” like I was accomplishing more when there was something physical I could do, like tidy up her room. But she would get agitated if I puttered around, saying it made her feel like a bad housekeeper—even though she wasn’t supposed to be doing the housekeeping then. What she needed most was someone to sit down with her, look her in the eye, and talk and listen.

Interruptions are inevitable, and we need to view them from God’s sovereign hand.

Because your life is so prone to interruption and redirection, you have to hold to your plans loosely, trusting that God is both good and sovereign. At the same time, you cannot hold to your plans too loosely or you will be constantly sidetracked by less important matters. The solution is to approach each situation patiently and prayerfully and to trust that, in all things, God will be glorified so long as you flee from sin (p. 95).

Tim has some worksheets that tie into the material in the book on his site. One appendix shares a system for taming email; the second lists “20 Tips to Increase your Productivity.”

I read a lot of management books in early married years, but it was good to brush up on vital principles. Plus I don’t think any of them included some of the perspectives Tim shares here. I like that he repeats certain key principles.

This was a short book—128 pages—but it’s full of wisdom and good advice.

(Sharing with InstaEncouragements, Grace and Truth, Senior Salon,
Booknificent,Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Off the Clock

Laura Vanderkam’s subtitle for her book, Off the Clock, aptly sums up the book’s takeaway: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done.

The title comes from that euphoric feeling we get when we clock out from work.

Laura’s curiosity was piqued when she started a phone interview with a busy executive with the promise that she wouldn’t take much of her time. Her interviewee responded that she had all the time in the world. Most people aren’t so open-ended or relaxed about other people’s requests for their time.

Laura conducted a time-perception study, asking people to keep records of how they spend their time and then asking them questions about how they felt about the time in question. The book refers back to these studies, pulls from other time management experts, and shares examples from the lives of everyday people “with full lives who nonetheless see time as abundant” (p. 16). Laura has not filled the pages with excessive, minute, rigid rules for a particular system: she groups her findings under seven broad categories.

The first is “Tend your garden.” Here she does ask readers to keep track of their time for two weeks (which I confess I have not done yet…).

Being off the clock implies time freedom, yet time freedom stems from time discipline. You must know where the time goes in order to transcend the ceaseless ticking (p. 4).

Such a record opens our eyes up how we really use our time as opposed to how we think we do. Laura thought she worked 50 hours a week. Her records showed that her work week was closer to 40 hours most of the time. So she had to figure out what happened to that other ten hours. Some tasks, like loading the dishwasher, seemed to take great chunks of time but actually only took a few minutes, relieving her dread of that task. As the title of this chapter implies, once we’re aware of how we actually use our time, we can make decisions and weed out anything not useful.

A second principle is “Make life memorable.” The days that feel lost are those where we do the same routines over and over. Vacations or special days make time seem fuller. We can’t vacation every day, so Laura encourages small steps to make memorable moments in our days: taking a different route to work, visiting an anticipated exhibit, talking to a new coworker or neighbor, etc. One interesting fact here is that our “anticipating self” and “remembering self” focus on the memorable aspects of our plans. The “experiencing self” in the present is the one to see the obstacles and talk itself out of anything new: It’s raining; The kids are fighting; I’d rather go home and watch TV.

Conscious fun takes effort. This seeming paradox—Why should fun be work?—stops us in our tracks. So we overindulge in effortless fun (scrolling through Instagram . . .) It is the effortful fun that makes today different, and makes today land in memory. You don’t say “Where did the time go?” when you remember where the time went (p. 75).

Principle three is “Don’t fill time.” Allow for some white space. “With every activity ask this question: What is my purpose here?” (p. 96). See what you can eliminate or consolidate.

Strategizing boosts efficiency; planning your toughest work for the time when you have the most energy means a task might take one hour instead of two (p. 93).

Four: “Linger.” “Find ways to savor the savor of time where [you] currently are” (p. 119). “Consciously lingering in a pleasurable downtime reminds us that we have downtime. And that can make us feel like we have more time than when we let it slip through our hands” (p. 134).

Five: “Invest in your happiness,” time, resources, and when possible, finances. That may mean moving closer to work to avoid a commute you hate, hiring a lawn service (or neighbor boy) if you don’t like yard work, etc. Treat yourself—not extravagantly, but with a few set-side moments to read a book, savoring your favorite beverage while watching the sunrise, etc. Do what’s most important first.

Feeling harried and rushed is associated with feeling like you lack the time for the things you want to do. Doing what matters first opens up the time (p. 150).

I’ll just mention the last two: “Let it go”—when your schedule doesn’t work out like you want, just do the best with what you have (neat story about an artist here) and “People are a good use of time.” That last statement is what attracted me most to the book and made me want to read it.

Laura expands on and illustrates these principles from real life. Besides benefiting from the quotes and principles mentioned, I appreciated that Laura dealt in common-sense broad principles rather than a rigid system and that her examples came from home and family as well as work and career. This is a great book for learning how to “feel less busy while getting more done.” Highly recommended.

(Sharing with Booknificent, Grace and Truth, Global Blogging, Senior Salon,
Hearth and Home, Literary Musing Monday, Happy Now, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Laudable Linkage


Here are noteworthy reads discovered this last week:

Reaching for the Light. A mom’s struggle to spend time with the Lord and four kids.

Why I Took My Six-year-old Son on an Overnight Trip. Thoughts on Scripture’s instruction, “Son, give me your heart.”

The Hardest Part of Mothering.

Youth Group or Frat House? HT to Out of the Ordinary. Wisdom about youth group activities that humiliate.

In Defense of Preachy Children’s Books. HT to Story Warren. “Kids want to be entertained and delighted. The first thing you can do is erase the words moral, teach, message, and lesson out of your vocabulary…keep authoritative figures, like parents, teachers, or older siblings, in the background. Lastly, never let the adults in the story tell what the main character should do. Remember, it is a sin to preach in fiction.” The author counters this advice with examples from beloved children’s classics, and I agree with her. There was something in me that rose up to meet and welcome moral instruction in stories. It can be overdone, of course. And there are times to let readers realize what the story is about rather than telling them directly. But, “Rather than detracting or distracting from the story, were these passages giving me the names of the lovely ideals I sensed in the characters I admired? Were they revealing to me an eternal, universal world of Courage, Sacrifice, Hope, Joy, Love that, unlike the long-ago and fairytale story-lands I longed to enter, was near at hand for me to dwell in? Could this be why didacticism, properly woven into story, does not ruin but elevates it?”

100 Summer Crafts and Activities for Kids, HT to Story Warren.

And a thought for the day, HT to Jody Hedlund re writing, but applicable to many areas:

Laudable Linkage


I’ve rounded up some thought-provoking reading from the last couple of weeks:

Help Me to See Sin as You See It.

What Does It Mean to Find My Hope in Christ? HT to The Story Warren.

7 Mistakes We Make in Women’s Bible Study.

A Stranger’s Gift.

What I Learned About Marriage by Losing My Husband.

Three Steps to Better Doctrinal Disagreements, HT to Challies.

I Was a Disney Princess, I Had an Abortion, and It Almost Ruined My Life, HT to Challies.

Racial Reconciliation: What We (Mostly, Almost) All Agree On, and What We (Likely) Still Don’t Agree On, HT to Challies. Kevin DeYoung did a good job here of laying out the complexity of the issues. This is why one-sided, simplistic suggestions for solutions are not helpful.

Discernment muscles. This is so important to teach our children.

6 Graces…For When We Are Our Own Harshest Taskmasters.

4 Ways to Take Your Time Management to the Next Level. “Balancing the tyranny of tasks and the tenderness of meaningful relationships continues to be my walk on the razor’s edge. The prudent use of little minutes requires a few good practices that become habits over time.”

The Theology and True-Life Tragedy behind Hallmark’s Hit Show, “When Calls the Heart”, HT to Challies. I have not seen this show, but years ago I read the series on which they were based, written by Janette Oke. She began my love for Christian fiction. “If you give your life to Jesus, Oke believed, you can know how much he loves you, and his love can comfort when life is hard. This is the theology Oke put in her romance novels…It was Augustinianism in a bonnet, in a made-up prairie patois. It was evangelicalism for the everyday lives of women who knew how life could be. It was a story for all those who are weary and burdened, who just wanted to give the weight of their lives over to Jesus.”

How to Save Your Privacy From the Internet’s Clutches, HT to Challies. Scary! And I admit I don’t understand a great deal of what’s discussed here.

And lastly, most of us are able to identify with this, especially this year! (Seen on Facebook – don’t know the original source.)

Happy Saturday!

(Links do not imply 100% endorsement.)

Laudable Linkage

I found quite a bit of good reading the last couple of weeks. Hope something here piques your interest:

Grace Incognito. “What if the point isn’t sprinting across the finish line in record time, but knowing God in every halting, baby step along the way?”

Grace-paced Living in a Burnout Culture. The “Mrs. Grace” illustrations were probably the best I’ve seen showing what life lived with an overflow of God’s grace to us is looks like.

What Should Be One of My Chief Aims at Church?

3 Ways Understanding Jesus’s Cultural Context Helps Me.

Here’s How I’m Fighting the Lies of Self-pity.

19 Spurgeon Quotes for Coping With Stress and Anxiety.

When the Doctor Says to Terminate.

Children and Sleep-overs: What Parents Need to Know.

Master Your Time: 5 Daily Scheduling Methods to Bring More Focus to Your Day, HT to Challies.

The Things All Women Do That You Don’t Know About, HT to Lisa. Sad, but true. (Warning: a bit of bad language).

Here’s What Goodwill Actually Does With Your Donated Clothing.

5 Reasons You Need Fiction, HT to Lisa.

Did you know they were making a new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast? With Dan Stevens (Matthew on Downton Abbey) as the Beast? Here are some photos from it, HT to Carrie. This is one of my favorite fairy tales and the Disney film one of my favorite Disney movies. I hope they do this well and don’t toss in anything objectionable. Looks good so far.

And finally, my oldest son posted this video called “Unsatisfying,” and right at first I thought it was frustrating, but before long I was laughing. Some of the little touches, like the squeaky windmill, are great and the soundtrack, though I love the piece (Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings), is perfect.

Happy Saturday!

31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: Thy List Be Done

Elisabeth Elliot2

This is another of Elisabeth’s quotes that comes back to me often, especially the last line, especially when my careful plans get disrupted:

I am a list-maker. Every day I make a list of what I must do. I have an engagement calendar and an engagement book. I have a grocery list on the wall beside the refrigerator, last year’s Christmas list in this year’s engagement book (so I won’t duplicate gifts), a master list for packing my suitcase (so I won’t forget anything), a prayer list (a daily one and a special one for each day of the week), and several others.

Recently a wholly unexpected minor operation badly interrupted my list of things to be done that week. But because God is my sovereign Lord, I was not worried. He manages perfectly, day and night, year in and year out, the movements of the stars, the wheeling of the planets, the staggering coordination of events that goes on on the molecular level in order to hold things together. There is no doubt that he can manage the timing of my days and weeks. So I can pray in confidence, Thy list, not mine, be done.

From A Lamp For My Feet

To see all the posts in this series, see the bottom of this post.

Time Management


Susan and I are thinking along the same track this week. She wrote about time management and I was thinking on the same subject this morning. I’m going to copy borrow her idea and share a bit of what I have learned along the way.

1. A process, not perfection. With both time management and household organization, it helps to think of it as a process of growth. If I have as my goal to be perfectly organized and scheduled all the time, I’m setting myself up for disappointment. When I fail or find flaws in my system, instead of beating myself up over it, I can use it as an opportunity to try another approach.

2. Adaptability. No one system works all the time for everyone. We all have different personalities, families, responsibilities — and before we can get fully settled, life changes: we move, the kids become teenagers, etc. Our own system needs to be adaptable through the seasons of life – and sometimes through any given day.

3. Gleaning. Some people find a particular book, person, or system and follow it exactly. I tend to be more of a gleaner: I pull different ideas from different sources. Either way is fine: just use whatever approach works for you and your family.

4. Priorities. It helps to sit down and establish your priorities and then come back and revisit them from time to time. For instance, time with God is a must: if I don’t make that a priority, then I can get caught up in other things and neglect it. For me that means spending time in the Bible and prayer as one of the first things of the day. Also, my husband is the head of the family and I’m a help for him, so when he asks me to do something that crowds out what I had planned for the week, I need to remember that those hours when everyone is at work or school are not my own to do as I please. That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it and work something out if there is a genuine conflict, but it does mean I should not be selfish with my time or schedule things without regard to the rest of the family.

We see Jesus exercising priorities throughout His earthly life, but one clear place that shows this is Mark 1. After a busy day of healing and casting out demons, “in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (verse 35), and then when the disciples found Him and told Him people were looking for Him, instead of going back into town to heal more, He said, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth” (verse 38). Healing was one part of His ministry, but the higher priority was preaching the gospel. And spending time with His Father was the first priority of the day.

5. Scheduling. Some years ago I came across a few women online who didn’t believe in scheduling their day: they felt they needed to be open to the leading of the Lord and let Him arrange their time. But being open to the Lord’s leading doesn’t negate planning. James 4:13-17 says, “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” That doesn’t say don’t plan anything: it says keep the Lord’s will in mind when you plan.

I don’t know about you, but if I don’t have some kind of plan for the day, I’ll just float along and not accomplish much of anything. Ephesians 5:15-16 says: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Proverbs 13:4 says, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” While not talking specifically about time, obviously a diligent person is busy. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” Have you ever had to act in haste because you didn’t plan ahead, and then were impoverished in some way because you forgot something or lost your temper and acted impatiently with your family?

When I was in college, I didn’t know how to plan my time well and ended up rushed, with lower grades because I kept turning things in late. In high school I had stayed up til 1 or 2 a.m. doing homework: that wasn’t an option in a Christian college which required lights out in the dorms at 11 p.m. (and that was probably good for me.) I think it was my junior year that I had a course in time management, and I felt that should have been a freshman course! One exercise the teacher had us do was to try different ways of scheduling. One was a minute-by-minutes schedule: that is probably too tedious for most people, although keeping a journal of how you use all your minutes for a few days will help you see where most of your time is going and help you know what areas you need to improve on. That kind of schedule might be helpful in isolated times, like preparing Thanksgiving dinner, when you need to plan what’s going to be in the oven when and try to have everything ready and hot at the same time, or a program, or a wedding, etc. The next was an hour by hour schedule, and that worked well for college when most of my time obligations were parceled out by the hour. I don’t remember the name for the last one, but it involved broader time frames: morning, afternoon, an evening. That worked well as my children were growing up. My schedule is a bit “looser” in my present season of life.

6. Lists. I couldn’t schedule much of anything beyond the everyday routines without a list of some kind. Lists can be frustrating to some people, but it helps to remember it’s not binding, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you can’t check everything off at the end of the day. It’s a guideline. It helps me prioritize which things have to be done and which I can leave for another day. If I just do things off the top of my head, I may spend quite a bit of time something good but forget something critical.

One of the requirements for each of the schedules I mentioned above was that we keep a list of “5 minute tasks” that we could do if we found a few minutes free here or there, like clipping nails, sorting mail, etc. I’ve expanded that to keep a list of tasks that aren’t urgent but still need to be gotten to some time, and that helps me when I am in a slump and would otherwise gravitate to the computer.

7. Interruptions. Once I started learning the value of scheduling, I would get highly frustrated if something interrupted my day or threw me off course. That’s when I needed to remember the “if the Lord wills…” part of James 4:127, along with, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:8). What helped me the most with this was the realization that Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood right in the middle of going to see Jairus’s daughter. Jairus and Jesus were on their way to Jairus’s home when a woman touched the hem of Jesus’s garment, and Jesus stopped and asked who it was. He was calm and unruffled. Nothing is mentioned about Jairus’s state of mind, but it’s not hard to imagine that he might have been distressed, perhaps even impatient. And then he heard that his daughter died, and he could well have blamed her death on the delay. But Jesus said, “Be not afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36). And then He brought her back to life, an even greater miracle than healing. Sometimes God has greater things in mind and will get greater glory by what He has planned rather than what we had planned.

8. Don’t compare. My biggest discouragements about my own housewifery came about when I compared myself to others. “How come she gets so much done and I can’t?” “How come she is so much more organized than I am?” I had a friend in early married days with the same number of young children I had, yet she worked part time, sewed her own clothes and her daughter’s, made her own curtains, her house was always (when I saw it) not only clean but also nicely decorated, and she was active in several ministries at church, while I felt like I could barely keep my head above water between dishes and meals and laundry. She was one I most often compared myself unfavorably to. One time she invited our family to dinner, and I realized for the first time that she rarely sat still for long. She was constantly up and down, getting something, doing something, going, going, going. It was hard as a guest to relax because she didn’t seem relaxed. It dawned on me that it was ok that I had a different style and temperament. My energy level, metabolism, priorities, and best time of day to do certain things will vary from others. I could learn from her and from others, and probably should have asked her for some tips, but I didn’t have to try to be just like her or lament that I wasn’t.

Similarly, another friend who was known to be highly organized said one time that she had one type of soup and sandwich for lunch Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and another type Tuesday and Thursday. That saved time planning for lunch each day, but it sounded totally boring to me. If it takes me a little longer to look into the open refrigerator to decide what to have for lunch, that’s ok with me. She also was on a committee involved with doing projects for missionaries the church supported, and she wanted to do the same exact thing for each missionary family: that way she only had to plan once instead of planning something different each month a different missionary was focused. That would be good except that each missionary didn’t have the same type of ministry: some had children’s programs, some were involved in translation work, some ministered to college students. Sending children’s stories would work for the first one but not the others. That’s when I learned that sometimes there are higher priorities than efficiency.

(This is not to talk down about either of these ladies: it’s just to say it’s okay if we each do things differently.)

9. Know your strengths and limitations. If your sleeping habits are regular, you probably have regular parts of the day when you have more energy, and parts of the day when you don’t. Plan accordingly: don’t plan something that’s going to take a lot of mental or physical energy in the afternoon if you experience a bit of a slump then. Likewise, if having people over on Saturdays leaves you too tired for church on Sundays, see if there is some way to rectify that: maybe have guests another night, or meet earlier in the day, or plan simple meals, or do as much cleaning and cooking as you can ahead of time. Hospitality is important, but some people can handle it more often that others. Some people like to constantly have things going on; some of us like time to regroup at home with only occasional outings or activities.

A part of this is learning when to say “No” to certain activities, even good ones, even ministries. Some people say no too easily, some don’t say it often enough. I used to think that anything anyone at church asked me to do was the Lord’s will. Well, one can quickly get snowed under that way. Over the years as I learned more of what my inclinations, gifts, and aptitudes were, I had more of an idea of which ministries to participate in. Sometimes I said “Yes” to something I didn’t really have a desire for, yet I just didn’t feel the liberty from the Lord to say “No,” and I saw Him stretch me out of my comfort zone and enable me in marvelous ways as I learned to depend on Him. Other times I’ve felt no qualm at all about saying no except for feeling bad for the person who asked me, and then saw God bring someone else along who did a wonderful job, much better than I could have: I would not only have robbed the person of the opportunity but the results would have been poorer if I had done it. Part of that discernment comes with time, but part of it is just walking with the Lord and asking His guidance for what He wants you to do.

10. Prevent problems as much as possible. Prevention is probably my biggest watchword in housekeeping: I’d much rather prevent a mess than clean one up. I used to lay my clothes on a trunk in our bedroom when I changed at night, but then they’d be all wrinkled the next day: if I took a few seconds to hang them up immediately, I could maybe wear them again, or if they needed to go  in the hamper, they were taken care of instead of having to sort through them later. Putting something back where it belongs when done with it avoids clutter and avoids losing it. When my family puts dishes in the sink, I ask them to run a little water in them: that makes them easier to rinse when I load the dishwasher later than than if food or drink has dried. If someone pours coffee down the sink, I ask them to rinse the excess off rather than have a coffee stain I’ll have to scrub out later. If I hang up or fold clothes right away after they’ve been dried, I have very, very little ironing to do, plus I am not overwhelmed by a mountain of laundry needing folding. Tossing junk mail away when I first bring the mail in saves having to sort through it all later. Preventing piles of papers by putting them where they need to go immediately is easier than sorting, filing, or discarding them later. Etc., etc. Someone once shared with me the OHIO principle: Only Handle It Once. When it is possible to do that, it prevents much of the need for decluttering.

One thing to remember with all of these is not to get so fanatical about any of them that you drive your family crazy. You have to work not only with your own personality and temperament, but with everyone else’s as well. Gentle requests or reminders are better than nagging, and some things you might have to just let go of or only do yourself rather than insisting on them for everyone. Explaining why you want something done a certain way during a calm moment, not in the heat of a disagreement, might help.

I’ve gone on much longer than I intended to, but I hope some of these things I’ve learned along the way will be helpful for you, too.

What has helped you manage your time?

This post will be also linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find an abundance of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays, as well as  Women Living Well.