When Elaine and I got married, we did not know how to manage money. We never had to before. While I was in college, I heard an awesome sermon on budgeting, so we decided to try that. But we didn’t know how much of our income to allocate for the various categories of expense. I had seen some people live in a dump, but have nice clothes and a luxury car, and I didn’t want to live that way. I wanted to have a more balanced life and so did my wife. So, I went to the library – there was no Google yet – and I learned that the average American spends half of their income on housing – and that would include rent, if you had to pay rent, or a mortgage payment, taxes, utilities and home maintenance. And I’ve forgotten now what clothing, food, and recreation, and transportation all costs – percentage-wise – but I knew at that time. So we used those percentages to set up a budget, and that allowed us to have all of those things, but in a balanced way. And it worked pretty well. Now, back then, we made so little that, had we committed to more than average in any one category, it would have caused a lot of hardship, I think. We were able to find out how to do that in a balanced way.
Another benefit from our budget came to us without our realizing it until later. We didn’t have any furniture when we got married. And we budgeted a little bit for that. I recall that my boss – once we got our apartment – took us downtown to his favorite furniture store and introduced us to his favorite sales person. And we bought a nice quality hide-a-bed couch, a nice quality end table, and a nice-looking lamp. We paid cash for it – that we had saved up – and got a really good price on it, too. I remember, too, that I went to Goodwill and bought a used ironing board. So we’d sit on the couch and eat off the ironing board at first. The couch was also our bed. Later, I bought a used wooden table and chairs, which we antiqued, along with, I think, a used washer and dryer. I remember somebody gave us a 19” black and white TV. So it went on like this until we had a whole house full of high quality furniture and appliances – none of which we financed, and all of which we got below retail. What’s the point? Well, here it comes. We knew a couple who came out of college a year before we did, and they bought an entire houseful of furniture and appliances, and put it on credit. Because the bill was so high, they skimped on the quality of the furniture that they bought. And we noticed that it all wore out before they got it paid off. And they paid the full price – and a high interest rate on top of that. And we realized that, while we had to wait for some of the things that we had, our efforts to spend our income in a balanced way produced more of what we wanted than if we’d spent our money in a more impetuous way.
So what’s the point to that? We’re talking about time, not money. Well, it works the same way with time as it does with money. Budgeting time works like budgeting money. If we are helter-skelter about the way we spend our time, we get a lot less done. Just as if we are helter-skelter with our money, we wind up with a lot less stuff. If we sit down and we think about the things that matter to us – our roles and our goals – we end up spending our time on things that really matter. This, in turn, helps us feel happier, more successful, assured and in control of self. And, if we approach time this way, we become aware of where our time is going and needs to go in a balanced way. It helps us become more solid, balanced people.
This helps us spiritually, as well. Did Jesus talk about this? You know, everything that we encounter or ignore in life carries spiritual implication – even the most mundane things. But let’s see what the Bible says. Here, in 1 Corinthians 3:10, Paul is talking to the Corinthian church, and he said:
1 Corinthians 3:10-13 – According to the grace of God given to me – not taken credit himself – like a skilled master builder, I laid a foundation and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care of how he builds upon it. So each person is responsible to build on a foundation. No one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. So we all have Christ as a foundation, but He expects us to do something with what we’ve been given. It takes time to do things, doesn’t it? So that’s how it figures in . Now, if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or straw, each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it – Day being capitalized and that is the day of Christ’s return – because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. You know, if you build your house out of wood or straw, it’s going to burn up. But if you build your house out of precious stones and gold and silver, then it won’t. Those things don’t burn. And then he continues in verse 14:
V-14-15 – If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. And if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. So he’s saying there’s an easy way and a hard way. If you get out ahead of it, and you work hard and build on the foundation of Jesus Christ spiritually, then it’s going to go easier for you than if you have to lose everything and go through a fiery trial to get the character you need to be a part of God’s Kingdom.
And then he says something very interesting.
V-16-17 – Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? See, the building that we’re building is the holy temple. We’re all to be a part of that. If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.
So we go as far as we can to build what we can on the foundation of Christ – we didn’t get that. It was given to us. And we all have a certain amount of time in life. We don’t know how much, so that makes it even more important to spend what time we have wisely. The Bible tells us that we are also to build up each other, to build up the church, and to build up our love in the Holy Spirit. So we’re supposed to be doing some building – to have some building projects.
So how are we going to approach the task that we have been given in Christ? Helter-skelter? Or in a balanced, thoughtful way? Well, let’s talk about that.
Did you know that there’s a parable about time management in the Bible? Several, actually. Jesus, in Matthew 25, told of ten virgins who took their oil lamps out to meet the bridegroom at night. And half of them, apparently, didn’t fill their lamps, so they ran out as the night wore on. Because they were not prepared, they had to go back for more. And while they were gone, the bridegroom came, and they missed out. So let’s think about the time involved here. Half of them took the time to fill up their lamps and went out prepared, and the others just went out. They didn’t spend the little bit of time needed to fill their lamps, so they had to spend a lot more time going back and getting the oil, and then coming back, only to find that the bridegroom came while they were gone, and now they were going to miss out. The lesson there is to do as much stuff as you can ahead of time, so that you’re ready for every eventuality. And that really is the essence of good time management. You look ahead to see what’s needed and then you start chipping away at it early, so that you don’t have so much to do at the end.
I heard about a man who spent so much time on his golf game that his children commented that they didn’t know him – an example of time use out of balance. Should he quit golf? No, I think everybody needs to have something relaxing that they like to do. But he probably should have played less of it, especially while he had children. And he should have spent more time with his children. So, out-of-balance time usage.
You know, we all like to do our fun stuff and all that, but I come home three nights a week – or four – from my private practice, and I get home about 6:30 maybe, and I’m pretty well trashed by that time. So I try to watch something that I like to watch on TV. But what I learned was, I mean, 6:30 to 10 o’clock at night is lot of time. But, if I back that off to 9 o’clock, and then get up an hour earlier, I have a whole hour in the morning when I’m fresh, and I’m energized, and I can accomplish a lot more at that time. So, it makes sense for me, in managing my time, to go to bed early and get up early, because I have made myself a morning person. I didn’t use to be that way, but I am now.
Let’s talk a little bit about long-range planning and time management. I mentioned this recently, but it’s such a good example, I’m going to tell it again. I think it was the 80s, there was man named John Shad – I believe that was his name. He was the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission – federal manager. And he managed to catch and prosecute one of the biggest thieves of all time. His name was Ivan Bosky, who ran a savings and loan scam – stole billions and billions of dollars from us. And after all the news broke of what happened, ABC News did a little bit on John Shad. In his interview, he mentioned that he had planned out his life – one third for learning, one third for earning, and one third for serving. So his service was all about guarding of us financially. Now I’m sure John Shad was an extremely intelligent man. And I’m sure he was highly educated. And I’m sure he made a lot of money while he was working. And I’m sure he had a pretty good salary being the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, too. But he knew that he needed to do three things – earn, learn and serve. So he, at some point, sat down and thought out what he was going to do.
If you and I sit down with our roles and our goals, things are going to start coming clear to us. Do you have a retirement goal there? Do you have an educational goal or a training goal? Do you have career plans and goals? Do you have any goals that relate to service – in church or otherwise – society? Goals related to parenting or marriage or your career?
My daughter told me about a couple that she knows. They are both respiratory therapists at the hospital where she works. And she learned, in talking to them, that they live off one of their salaries and they invest the other. They have two houses – one they live in and one they rent out. And she said, “They really are living frugally on one salary.” His hobby – I thought this was interesting – his hobby was stock market investing. He has fun doing this. He’s decided that he wants to buy stocks that yield dividends on a regular basis. I think most of them pay off once a year, or once every six months – something like that. So he’s tried to buy stocks so that some of them are paying off every month of the year, so that when he retires, he’ll have income coming in all through the year. Pretty long-range thinking, isn’t it? We might liken him to one of the wise virgins that had plenty of oil for every eventuality. He’s getting his oil ready for a long and watchful night.
So what do you do to take care of yourself on a daily basis? What do you do to relax yourself? What do you do to take care of your diet and your health. We have to provide for our own maintenance, if we want to go for the long haul. We’re told in Ecclesiastes that we don’t need to feel guilty about recreation or self-care, because there’s a time for everything. We know that Jesus – we mentioned this last time – took time out to renew Himself. So we might think of that, even, as a role with a goal attached to it – to monitor our own health, our stress levels, our rest, etcetera.
I had a client who worked for the fire department. He was a manager. And he said his county fire department is always under stress – not because of fires – they know how to handle fires – but because of stress in the workplace caused by political correctness and all the “me, too” things that are going on right now, and politicians inserted themselves into the fire department policy, and stuff like that. He asked me a question: How can I help people in my department deal with all the stress that they face? At least he’s thinking about it and acknowledging it.
We all need to get rest. We all need to have good food. We need to exercise. So what are you doing about that? Are you making provision for it? Or, is it haphazard?
Now, as we start thinking about this, we think about retirement, we think about our career, our family, taking care of ourselves, recreation. It’s almost too much to think about, isn’t it? There’s always more to do than we have time for, it seems. But that really isn’t true. How do we handle that? Well, here’s where I stop talking about the problem and start talking about what to do.
Every week, we sit down for a few minutes with our notebook that has our roles and our goals and our projects in it – and a week’s calendar. Then we pick out the things that we must do. And we put them on our calendar sometime before we must do them. And we make a list of all the things that we could do, but don’t have to do immediately. And we select the ones that the most urgent. That changes every week. As you get closer to deadlines, some things come to the fore more than others, so it needs to be an ongoing process that we take a few minutes to do. Which items, if we do them now, will save us a lot of time later? That’s the issue with the oil, right? “If I’d of just filled up my lamp before I left, I wouldn’t have to go halfway across town to get it now.”
I’ll give you an example of something I did recently that’s really paid off for me. I use my computer to take notes for my clients and schedule all sorts of tasks. And that involves moving a lot of files around. It’s tedious. So I found out about a little app for my Mac called Hazel. The icon for Hazel is a broom. And I also bought a fast scanner. And Hazel is like a little housekeeper for my files. I scan all my files – project notes, receipts, miscellaneous notes, computer manuals that come in on disc or with a product I don’t have to scan. I’ll put all these things that are scanned, or come in from email or whatever, in a folder on my desktop called Inbox. And Hazel watches my inbox. And when I put a file in it that she recognizes, she puts away for me right where I told her to put it. And that only happens because I name all my files, that I want put in certain places, a certain way. So she knows to look for those things. Now, it was a tedious pain to learn how to use the app and the scanner, but I scheduled the time and I did the work, and now it’s all coming back to me many times over. Do you have anything like that that you have to do over and over again? Is there a way to get help with it? You know, I’m not just talking about computers now. But the things that we have to do over and over again…sometimes there are ways that we can find to take shortcuts to help us get that stuff done quicker, so we can get on to the things that we want to do. Is there a way to invest time on the front end, as you look at your roles and your goals and the tasks that you have to do, and the things that are upcoming is – is there a way to jump out in front so that you can save time later?
When I take notes for clients I have to write a lot of the same things over and over again. If I’m going to evaluate somebody for PTSD, I have to put into my notes a tool that I use – a survey that I take. And I used to have to go get that, block it, copy it, and then stick it in my notes. So I do that with almost every client I have – not every time, but with every client. So I bought another little thing for my computer called Text Expander. I type the repetitive text into Text Expander, give it a name and a code, and when I type the code in my notes, all that stuff is expanded right there for my use. Text Expander even sends me an email every month, showing me how much time I have saved. One month I saved six hours – three quarters of an entire working day saved in a month! Imagine that.
I also find, when I sit down with my roles and my goals, not only do I live a more balanced, happier life, but I seem to run into fewer crises, because I’m always looking ahead and not letting things get into crisis mode. I’m not boasting about this. I’m not the world’s best at it. But I think any effort this way makes life easier for us. I still have lots of problems that come up unexpectedly, and sometimes there isn’t any way to see them coming, but a lot of times, there is, if we just look at it. So, I’ve also noticed that, since I’m making time for every important area, much more often I feel good, rested, not stressed and in control of my life.
Now, there’s this thing we hear about with God: we tell Him our plans, and He laughs. Still – and you know, that’s true, I think…I mean, we can make all the plans we want, but we’re running on His timetable, not Him on ours. So sometimes, our plans go by the wayside. Still, I think, if we try – if we make an effort – to manage our time wisely, head problems off in advance, to live a balanced life by spending our time – allocating time in a balanced way – that He rewards the effort. Now sometimes God’s rewards feel like trials. And that’s because He knows better about what we need than we do. If that’s ever the case – if the reward is a trial – then that’s going to make us stronger. So we win either way – whether we’re having fun or not.
Now let’s talk about another aspect of time management – flexibility. Some people become slaves to their calendar, or they try to make others slaves to it. What we want to do is to get all the important stuff done. And if there’s a crisis, that means it’s important and that needs attention right now. So we have to move things around on the calendar, or put things off. That’s why we should all write in pencil on our calendars, because God laughs at our plans. So we need to be flexible and realize that things change in life.
So remember this: part of being a good time manager is the ability to flex when needed. When a crisis came up, become somewhat chaotic. No, we don’t need to that. Just hang in there with the calendar, move stuff around, do the best you can with it, and keep going. If there isn’t time, and it can’t be put off, that’s possibly a learning experience. Could I have seen any of this coming? If I had taken the time to think about it, could I have changed my schedule to accommodate it? If you’re like me, the answer is usually, “Yes.”
Since November of 2004, God has allowed Elaine and I to produce a presentation for LifeResource Ministries every two weeks. And I’ve been thinking back, and I think we might have missed one in all that time. We now have hundreds of presentations archived and available on our Website. And that did not happen by accident. We had the foundation given to us, but we had to build on it. And one of the ways we worked to make it happen is by getting way out ahead of it. Right now I have presentations ready to go – in the can, so to speak – for four months out. So, if a crisis – or maybe not a crisis, but some opportunity – you know, I always wanted to go to Jerusalem – if something comes up, I don’t have to produce a single presentation for four months, and I can still be on time. So I have flexibility, because I worked harder early on.
Now another thing that has to happen to do all the things that we did, besides getting ahead, was I needed to see myself as a presenter. That’s a role. Every two weeks is the goal. Presenters need to get rest, stay healthy, read a lot to keep new ideas coming in. So there has to be a commitment of time and style that had to occur for me to do this job.
What areas of your life are like that? You know, having a family is a huge one, isn’t it? The golfer, who failed to adjust to his new role as a father and continued to play golf at the same rate he played before…. He either became, or remained, inflexible when it came to his schedule and his roles. He didn’t prioritize things enough. We talked about that last time. He didn’t prioritize his family, so he didn’t know what was really important.
Okay, we talked about flexibility. Let’s cover something else here. Hard on the heels of flexibility comes review. We mentioned we need to flex because things change. We don’t like change. One of my clients told me about one of his life principles. “The only thing we hate doing more than what we’re doing right now is change,” he said. So one of the best ways to deal with change and the dread that comes with it is to keep reviewing our calendars and adjust for changes. That’s flexibility.
I’m a presenter now. I used to be a church pastor. So I had to change roles and goals. I had to give up some things I liked doing as a pastor in order to become a presenter. All that happened because I was constantly reviewing what was going on in my life.
Every week, when we schedule, we should also review the whole thing – everything – and look at it. And what will happen, if you do that, is, you’re going to find that some of the things that you thought were important early on, aren’t important now. So projects can be scrapped or set aside.
I had to give up some things as a pastor in order to become a presenter. I don’t get to work directly with young people any longer, which is something I really enjoyed doing. Of course, I get some of that in my counseling practice, but it’s a different kind of time spent – not nearly as much fun as I had when I was a church pastor, working with the teens in my congregation.
I have a category in each of my roles for projects that I call Someday/Maybe. It’s amazing how many of those things change. I probably weed out ten or twenty projects that I’ve thought about doing every year that I haven’t gotten around to, and, as time passes, they become unimportant. It’s really good, if you really want to have the most time to do the most stuff that you like doing, or that’s important, to review your plans, and to look and see, “Do I still need to do this?” or “Do I still need to do this this way?” Because, as we get into things, sometimes it’s not like we thought it was going to be. So it’s always good to just sit down and review what you’re doing, what you’ve done, what needs to be done next, and keep the big picture in mind.
Reviewing keeps us current with the changes that always come to us in life – God’s plans, in other words. So that can save us huge plots of time and help us be productive servants.
I’m tempted to want to go into more detail, but as certain as I do that, it won’t fit your situation – the general principle of review. Everybody needs to do it their own way, but we all need to do it. Flexibility – we all need to flex, but each of us has our own unique needs there and our own unique ways of doing that. So it’s the principle that’s important.
Okay, that’s it for a rather general message on managing time. Seek balance, be flexible, and review. Next time, as promised, I’m going to show you how to beat the crush of the constant incoming mass of stuff that we all have to deal with every day. I’m trying to think about how I can put up David Allen’s work flow on the Website, so you can download it ahead of time, and look at what I’m talking about as we talk about it.
So don’t forget to comment on the Website, if you can, as you read these. And until next time, this is Bill Jacobs for LifeResource Ministries, serving children, families and the Church of God.