The phone rang. Lucia picked it up but did not answer the caller. She handed it to me because she knew two things: It was probably about work, and my profession was more important than her and the children.
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That was the night it dawned on me that we had a problem in our marriage. I had centered my priorities around what I did with work rather than what I was supposed to be doing with those the Lord had entrusted to my care.
I had a twisted understanding of the teaching in Matthew 6:33. Rather than seeking the kingdom of God first, which is exemplified by loving God and others more than my job, I had become a Gentile practitioner.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33
I was seeking the things of the world first while expecting the good Lord to provide me with happy relationships. My plan was falling around my ankles, and the Lord used a phone call to get my attention. We needed a new game plan.
Though my desire has always been to love on and care for people, I did not perceive how my good desire was leading me off track. It was time for a reorientation of my priorities.
Perhaps your time management needs a tweak as mine did. Maybe you are a bit more frenetic in your pace of life than you need to be. Maybe people have more control of your calendar than you do.
If so, here are nine tips for you to consider regarding time management. The ninth tip is broken out into some practical ideas that you can implement immediately into your life.
Tip #1 – Time
We all have the same amount of time. There are twenty-four hours in a day and one hundred sixty-eight hours in a week. There are no exceptions to this rule. The issue should never be about too little time, but about whether we are going to take control of our lives by stewarding our time well.
One of the ironies of busyness is that some of the busiest people in the world have more time to accomplish more things than those who do less. One of the earmarks of time managers is they know how to manage their lives.
When people talk about not having enough margin—a modern buzzword—it is more of a reflection of their poor time management than not having enough time to do the things they want to accomplish.
Tip #2 – Finite
It is critical that you acknowledge your finitude. God did not call you to do everything or to be everybody’s solution provider. You are supposed to work within parameters, and if you do not guard your limitations, you will unravel.
There is wisdom in saying “no” to the things that people ask you. If you are not willing to implement this mono-syllabic means of grace into your life, there will be no brakes to keep you out of the ditches of exhaustion and bitterness.
You will know if you are pushing past your finitude if you are regularly missing the more important things in life like time with the Lord and your closest relationships. While there can be seasons of frenetic-ness, the general tone of your life should be well-paced and well-ordered.
Tip #3 – Priorities
You should make it a requirement to establish God-centered priorities. Your priorities will give you the tips you need when things and people are demanding your time. We decided to set up our priorities in concentric circles with the most important things closer to the center while working out from most significant to least critical.
- Church, friends, and family
My employment must not dominate these “inner priorities.” Work is a vehicle to serve our more essential things in life, which are summed up with the two greatest commandments: loving God and others (Matthew 22:26-40).
Tip #4 – Cooperate
Because I am married, we have to work on our priorities together. We are one flesh, not two independent entities. We are “Christ and the church,” one corporate unit, as Paul taught us (Ephesians 5:25).
Talking about our calendar is an almost daily occurrence in our marriage. We both have strengths and weaknesses, and because we are one flesh, it would be easy to pull in opposite directions.
This frenetic truth makes synchronization of priorities, goals, and objectives a core to our communication. Cooperativeness also removes competition. We are working for the same cause while pulling in the same direction.
Tip #5 – Flex
Because there are seasons in life, there is a need to have spontaneity within your structure. When our business was a startup, there was a lot more time devoted to the task of work. It was a long season that had a termination point.
I also completed my MA during another season of our lives, the early years of our marriage. When Lucia was pregnant with our three children, we had to adjust to accommodate each of those twelve month seasons–nine months of pregnancy and three months of adapting to the new addition.
And our children represent an extended season where there are elevated priorities regarding their character development. We focus on their characters, hoping this intentional time will impact how they live as adults in God’s world.
Tip #6 – Accessibility
All people are not created equal when it comes to time management. The only person who gives equal access to all of us is God, and I am not Him. Being omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient are perks when it comes to interacting with every person equally.
One of the questions I have to ask myself about people is, “Do you want my attention or do you want my care?” I can give a lot of people my care, but I can only give a few people my attention. Jesus worked liked this when He lived among us.
He helped a lot of people by focusing on a few people. The multitudes did not have equal access to Him, but they could be assisted by Him, as they received His care through those He trained (Mark 6:30-44).
Tip #7 – Misunderstood
Because some people feel entitled, they will expect you to drop what you are doing to serve them. When you give them other options besides your undivided attention, they may respond with anger at you.
God must mortify any fear of man issues you may have when it comes to not accommodating everyone according to how they want you to provide for them (Proverbs 29:25). There is a need for “thick skin” when you interact with an entitled world.
This perspective does not mean you should be rude or uncaring. But it does say you must have a God-centered system (or way) of helping people. If you do not, you may be tempted to sin when people’s expectations of how you should run your life runs all over you.
Tip #8 – Onus
One of the most useful things you can do for others is to put the work on them rather than on you. Many times during my week a person will want to “pick my brain” about a topic. Usually, they will ask to meet via social media or for coffee.
These meetings can be up to three hours of my time by the time I set aside what I need to do, drive to the meeting, have the meeting, return from the meeting, and re-sync with my daily tasks.
The person is unwittingly asking me to give them 180 minutes of my time when they could take a few minutes of their time to find the answers they are looking for without me being in front of them. It is easier to ask me than it is for them to do the work through the means that I provide for them. Here are two ways that you can help yourself:
Tip #9 – Practical
This dilemma is why we have set up a way for thousands of people to find the answers they are looking for from us. Though it is impossible to spread me so thin that I cannot serve my main priorities, there is a way to help others, while not becoming frustrated or depleted physically or spiritually.
The rest of this article are a few practical steps from a more extensive list of ideas that Lucia and I use to serve others. If we did not take these concrete steps to limit our accessibility from others, it would irreparably harm our marriage.
Meetings – I call every event on my calendar a meeting and never feel obligated to tell people what kind of meeting that I am having. For example, for years when my children were younger, I had a meeting with them individually.
I took one of them out for lunch. If someone were to ask to meet me on Tuesday at noon, I would say, “I have a meeting” and they would have to find another time to meet with me.
The Boss – Lucia runs my calendar; I do not. It is rare for me to put anything on my schedule. There are too many moving parts. If someone were to ask to meet with me, I would have them call Lucia. This response accomplishes several things:
If they genuinely wanted to meet with me, they will have to do the work. I get a lot of requests for meetings, many of which do not happen because people do not follow through with their initial request.
Because Lucia has so many requests floating in cyberspace, if I put something on the calendar, it might interfere with what she has promised someone.
It keeps us working off one calendar, and I can do what she tells me to do. I rarely look at my schedule before midnight of the night before because it changes virtually every thirty minutes. There is no need for me to view two days in advance because what may have been on the calendar changes or Lucia deletes it.
Blocks – We create blocks in our calendar to accomplish things that fit within our priorities. Here are a few sample blocks.
- I will ask Lucia for an admin week. An admin week is where I do nothing but administration. We have several administrators working for us, but it is not enough. Most of our business is administration.
- She will block out week-long vacations or day trips with the family. We call them meetings. If I am at the beach with my family, we are in a meeting— a critical one, I might add.
- She will block out dates for herself or times for me to be with our children.
- She will block out the doctor, financial, or other important meetings.
- She blocks out my physical fitness schedule.
Email – There used to be a time where I got this little note from AOL that said, “You have mail.” I liked that. It made me feel special. I no longer have that feeling.
I love helping people. I cannot imagine any other way to live. But there must be a way to do this without feeling like a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s, The Birds. One of the things I’ve had to do is not respond to all of my email. Supporting folks through email is part of the responsibility of our admin team.
Common Requests – Because there are no new things under the sun, it is rare for a person to ask a question that someone has not asked previously. This redundancy is the beauty of the Word of God. The Lord gave us His Word, which answers all things about life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). He is never answering anything new. We have followed His lead by codifying some of the most often asked questions.
- If it is about a meeting or someone needing direction, we have developed a file full of answers that lead people to where they are searching.
- If people are looking for life answers, we can direct them to our website. I have spent thousands of hours writing about life situations.
- For those who want more of our time, we have provided a Membership Site so they can have greater access to our resources and our team. Though it is not a counseling site where a person can receive ongoing counseling, they can receive coaching on any number of questions.
These are just some of the ways the Lord has enabled us to help others. We never turn anyone away, by the grace of God. Everyone receives help, but there is a way for that to happen that does not encroach on our main priorities of marriage and family. Now, when the phone rings, the person can receive help, and our marriage is not interrupted.
Also published on Medium.