Friday’s Essay – A Matter of Time

29May

Below is an essay I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can find other essays, sermons, devotions, services, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog.

For me, this has been an incredibly busy week. Along with the stuff I normally do, I’ve had two board meetings outside the church, one funeral a couple of day’s ago and another one tonight, a luncheon, and about four people who’ve come in just to talk. And since I’m also leading worship at Two Ridges on Sunday, I did two very different bulletins to prepare. I’ll tell you, as the week progressed, I felt as though I was chasing a speedy train and running as fast as I could just to keep up.

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Of course, if I stop and think about it, this may be more the rule than the exception. And based on what I see happening with other folks and families, I think my experience may be pretty typical. Let’s face it, an awful lot of us feel as though we’re in constant motion, and that feeling is only magnified when there are still kids at home. And for that reason, I thought I’d share a few ideas having to do with time management that y’all might apply to yourselves and that we all might consider as we help others deal with their whirlwinds. But before I go any farther, let me be clear, I’m not putting myself up as the poster boy for efficiency or organization. One look at my desk would contradict that notion. I’m not even suggesting that I always follow my own ideas. Sadly, with this, I seem to follow the words of George Bernard Shaw, “...those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Sill, these ideas generally help me keep my nose above the water, and they might be helpful for you.

You see, as you try to manage your time more effectively, you might want to consider doing the following:

  1. Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize – Separate the “must dos” from the “like tos”. In other words, I think it’s really important to identify those things that have to be done and to separate them from all those things that you might like to do. I’ve found, at least for me, if I don’t set priorities, everything becomes crucial, and I end up feeling as though I’m floundering.
  2. Make Lists – I’ll tell you, I’ve become a compulsive list-maker. I make them not just daily, but for the entire month. In fact, I’ve written them on an Excel spreadsheet, and I include all kinds of  things, including a bunch of specific tasks I do every day. For me, this prevents things from slipping through the cracks. And you know, it feels mighty good to check off those things that I’ve done. And, at the end of the day, I can see what I accomplished and what I need to do tomorrow.
  3. Keep Your Calendar Updated – I can’t tell you, how many times someone has made an appointment with me, often as they’re leaving the sanctuary after Sunday worship, and even though I’m 100% sure I’ll remember it, it’s gone by the time I get back to my study. When I assume that I can trust my memory, I prove that old saying about those who assume is right on the mark.
  4. Embrace Patterns – There are certain things I do every day. I’ve found that if I do them at the same time and in the same way, I get them done much faster. But it’s not just me. Yesterday I talked with a young man who cleans hotel rooms, and he told me about how following cleaning patterns speeds up his work.
  5. Delegate – On one hand, I can do some things really well, and I actually look forward to getting them done. Of course that’s great. On the other hand, there are plenty of things I don’t do well and/or really dislike doing. For example, if I’m asked to teach a class, to lead a worship service, or to write and record a devotion, I’m on it like “white on rice.” But if looking at making five phone calls, I’ll procrastinate for months. Although there are times when I need to force myself to do things I don’t enjoy doing, it also makes sense to ask others for help, especially if I ask someone who loves doing the very things I’d avoid if I could.
  6. Accept Reality – And this is reality: no matter what you do, you can’t please everybody. There are plenty of people who are not shy in sharing their priorities for you. Sadly, if you conducted a poll, those priorities aren’t always the same. I just remember when I was in a speech contest back in high school. I gave my speech to two judges, and when I read their evaluations, this is what they said. The first judge wrote that I showed energy and enthusiasm, and he gave me a superior rating. The second judge wrote that I far to energetic and active and rated me average. I think what Lincoln say about fooling also applies to pleasing.
  7. Take Responsibility – And this is really the bottom line. How we use our time is up to us. It’s grounded in the values we hold and the decisions we make. Although it may be really tempting for me to blame all the stuff I’ve done or left undone on God, people or fate, for good or for bad, I’m the one responsible. And because that’s the way it is, I can continue to do what I’ve done well and learn how I might become better at handling those things where I’ve come up short.


Now, these are just a few things we might want to do ourselves.

And if you want to help someone else make better use of their time, you might do the following:

  1. Avoid Cliches – For example, it drives me nuts when someone says to me, “Well, you just need to make the time.” Now, I’m not stupid; I understand that they don’t actually believe you can manufacture time; still it’s a comment that I don’t find very helpful. Of course, if God ever blesses me with something I could really use, he could offer me an eighth day to the week, but only for me. That would be sweet, but I’m not holding my breath that God’s going to make me some time either.
  2. Don’t Offer, Do – I know plenty of well-meaning people who offer to help. As a matter of fact, I’ve done it plenty of times myself. Now, when someone makes that offer to me or me to them, the response is nearly always the same: “Thank’s for the offer, but I’ll be fine.” I think there’s a gulf between offering to help and actually helping.
  3. Talk To, Not About – One of times I really don’t like my job is when I hear that “so-in-so” told “so-in-so” who told “so-in-so” that they think I should have done something two weeks ago that I didn’t do. Give me a break. One of the most valuable people in my whole congregation is a lady who shares with me expectations rather than complaints. 
  4. Decide to Trust – Finally, it’s really helpful if we all decide to trust that we’re all trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got. You see, trust is always a decision, and we will choose whether or not we’re going to trust that our brothers and sisters are sincerely trying to do what God has called them to do. Of course, you may disagree with my conclusions without questioning either my sincerity or faith.


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Now these are just a few ideas that you might find helpful. I have no doubt that you may have others, and if you do, please feel free to share them. And even though I may not always follow them to the letter, I can assure you, they’ve almost gotten me though this busy week and will do the same for the one that starts in a couple of days.

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