If I had a dollar for every time management tool or system I’ve tried… I could probably buy a new planner. (Unless it were one of those pretty moleskin or spiral ones with a bunch of page spreads and stickers. Why are nice things so expensive?) Anyway, based on the numerous YouTube videos I’ve watched and blogs I’ve read, I know I’m not alone in my quest for the “perfect” time management tool. I’m amazed by the pros who make time management look easy.
I’ve tried an assortment of task trackers, scheduling systems, and of course, good old-fashioned planners. I’ve tried combining tools and even explored all these methods multiple times through both physical (pen and paper) and digital (apps) means, hoping desperately with each attempt that I’ll find the one empowering routine that helps me get all the things done.
Each time I try a new system I’m always motivated with excitement. I get a lot done the first days. I don’t procrastinate and it’s easy to stay focused. But after a while, I lose that initial drive. Scheduling my next day is no longer fun; it’s a chore. I start procrastinating on tasks again and become easily distracted when I do work.
This only puts me in a vicious cycle where I fall behind, so I focus on urgent tasks, putting off non-essentials until they become essential and I have to put off other tasks, all the while feeling overwhelmed by everything I have to do and thinking I don’t have enough time to do it all.
I’m currently at a point where I’m so discouraged and fed up with trying and failing that I’m not using any time management system. I’m going day by day, keeping my to-do list in my head, roughly planning my tasks the morning of but changing plans as I go depending on my mood. I’m extremely uncommitted, unmotivated, and distractable. It’s not the first time I’ve worked like this, but it’s the first in a long time.
I’ve come to realize that my struggles are, of course, rooted in sin, like laziness and selfishness, and no one routine is fool-proof against those temptations. Time management tools like calendar blocking, or planners like the Monk Manual, are just that—tools. Not cures. They’re valuable, but the only One Who can help me overcome my broken human nature to better manage my time is God.
As of writing this blog, I haven’t been to Confession or received Communion in about two months, so I know that’s part of the reason I’m struggling as badly as I am. Time feels easier to manage the more unified I am with God Who is the true time management expert. Once I go to Confession and begin receiving Communion again, I know I’ll be better equipped to use the tools at my disposal, but I’ll still be tempted to waste time instead of making the most of it.
And that’s the battle, isn’t it? “We’re all living on borrowed time” and we don’t want to waste a second. We want to avoid what we dislike and want to do a million things we enjoy, but we all have to do some things we’d rather not, and we only have 24 hours a day.
So how do we get all the things done? And how do we get them done with joy? Clearly I’m still trying to figure this out, but going forward I’d like to invite God into my time management routine more. I’m not even 100% clear on what that looks like exactly, but I have a few areas I’d like to focus on.
Following God’s Way of Working
God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.”Genesis 1:31
God didn’t complete all of creation in a single day, so it would follow that I probably shouldn’t try to jam pack my schedule to do all the things in one day either. I don’t have to touch base in every priority of my life every day and my routine work doesn’t have to be the same each day.
Emphasizing Service Over Self
Writing this blog, I had the epiphany that my concern with time management has always been self-oriented. How can I spend my time wisely? I want to excel at time management so I can feel accomplished and good about myself. So that I’m not stressed out. So I can live joyfully. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s kind of shallow.
But what if instead I shift my mindset to think, “how can I spend my time wisely so…”
- I can have free time to spend with my loved ones
- Those I live or work with have peace, knowing they can rely on me
- I can welcome unexpected promptings of service with a joyful heart
The focus, then, is more on making the most of my time so others can enjoy their borrowed time, too.
For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.”Galatians 5:13
Planning According to Priorities (and Non-Priorities)
It’s so funny I made a list of priorities and non-priorities when I was mapping out the new year and it was at the front of my mind for about two months. Then I forgot about it until my friend showed me her list of priorities recently and I thought, “Oh yeah, I had one of those…”
But it did work while it was fresh in my mind, and it’s something I want to get back to.
I stayed away from vices of mindless distraction, spending that time instead on learning more about my faith or enjoying fulfilling hobbies. Having my priorities in check helped me say no to or let go of things that would have wasted my time or were unfulfilling. It freed my heart and mind to focus wholeheartedly on what mattered: God, loved ones, and living my vocation.
And that gave me a lot of peace because I was confident that I was spending time as God willed.
“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”Luke 12:34
Where I spend my time is where my heart is.
Having God as My Accountability Partner
My sisters and I have tried to be each other’s accountability partners before, but we’re all in the same boat that is lack of discipline. And honestly no matter who I ask to hold me accountable, the responsibility of managing my time still falls on me. If I choose to be irresponsible with my time, my accountability partners (not people I work with) won’t do much more than shake their heads and shrug their shoulders.
God responds differently.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”2 Corinthians 5:10
I don’t want to lose eternity with God because I didn’t manage my time properly. I don’t want to meet Jesus when I die and see sorrow in His eyes as He recounts all the time I wasted choosing to sleep in every day instead of waking up on time to get started on my responsibilities, among other ways I used the time He gave me poorly.
Surrendering to God’s Will
I won’t get all the things done all the time. Tasks may take longer than I anticipated and unexpected situations may occur (both good and bad) and things will fall through the cracks. That’s okay.
I’m not going to let my mood or self-worth depend on how many tasks I check off for the day. While I’m sure He doesn’t want me to just go through my days without a plan, I know God doesn’t want me to become a slave to my to-do list either.
What I get done while doing my best is enough. God will give me the time to accomplish all I’m called to when the time is right.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.”Proverbs 3:5-6
Getting Back on the Saddle
Regardless of what time management tool I try next (or again), I feel more confident that my battle with time management won’t be as stressful as before. I may not become a time management pro overnight, but I’ll continue improving because I’m not alone.
“Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”Isaiah 41:10
“Be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9