If you remember way back at the beginning of this series, we talked about the breakdown of systems and the breakout of choices. Those are two things that make time management necessary today. The strategies we shared in Part 5 of this series are all systems we can use to help us succeed. Now we need to address the issue of choices.
Choices are still going to be a problem because, as we said in Part 1, choices attack systems and choices require more time.
So how can we handle choices that threaten our systems? Here are three basic strategies:
1. Make your choices ahead of time.
That’s what time management is all about. It’s making choices ahead of time instead of deciding as you go. Every time you write something down in your planner, you are choosing ahead of time what you’re going to do at that time on that day. When you write down a concert date, you are choosing to go to that concert on that day at that time. So when the day rolls around, you don’t have to waste time wondering, “Well, what am I going to do tonight?” You’ve already decided.
Maybe after Part 4 of this series you made a choice ahead of time about reading the Bible and praying. Maybe while you were still sitting in front of your computer you decided you were going to get up half an hour early the next morning and spend time with God. So you wrote that down in your planner to confirm the decision you had made. Maybe you’ll decide that again today. So when the alarm goes off tomorrow morning, you already know what the first thing on your schedule is.
2. Make your choices once.
Now, some people have trouble sticking with the choices they’ve made, so they’re constantly re-choosing. “I know I said I was going to go to the concert, but now I think I’m going to Michigan that weekend.” This can cause a lot of stress—on yourself and in your relationships—and it takes more time than just sticking with your first choice.
If you’ve chosen to do devotions in the morning, this is what often happens: The alarm goes off tomorrow morning, and you remember the choice you made, but you start thinking, “Maybe evening devotions would be better. Or maybe 15 minutes is enough—I don’t need to do a half-hour.” But you don’t need that stress! Make your choice just once.
This doesn’t mean you can’t modify your plans. But again, if you’re going to make a different choice, do it ahead of time, not when the alarm goes off.
3. Anticipate the walls you will face.
A wall is anything that stands between you and your time with God. And walls can appear at any time. Don’t let walls surprise you. Assume they will be there. Here are some common walls—have you run into any of these yourself?
- Procrastination—do you wait until the last minute, and then run out of time?
- Lack of visible results—do you wonder if reading the Bible and praying really make any difference?
- Interruptions—do you have children or parents at home who constantly need your attention?
- Choices—are you overwhelmed with the different kinds of Bibles available and not sure how to start?
- Forgetfulness—are you not used to doing devotions, and it’s hard to get into the habit?
- Boredom—are you so familiar with the Bible that you don’t think you can learn anything new?
[Notice I didn’t list “busy-ness” as a wall. Everyone is busy, but we manage to find time for what’s important to us. If you are too busy to spend time with God, that means other things are more important to you right now.]
Everyone’s walls are different. Your walls are different from my walls. I’m not a procrastinator, so I can’t relate to that wall, but some people are. That’s a wall they have to anticipate.
One of my walls is a perceived lack of visible results. I’m a very practical person, and I like to see a return on whatever time I’m investing in something. Reading the Bible every day doesn’t seem to have an obvious, immediate, dramatic impact, so I find it easy to let it slide. I’m not proud of this, but it is a wall I face.
The good news is, for every wall there is a ladder. And that will be the subject of next week’s blog.
In preparation for that, I’d love to hear about the walls you face. Whether you recognize any from the list above or you have a different wall to share, will you put it in a comment below? I’d like to compile a list of people’s answers to the question: What keeps me from reading the Bible? [And remember, “Too busy” is not a specific enough answer!]