In my last blog, I wrote about the universal challenge of making the most of our 24 hours each day. In that short expanse of time, we are often struggling to fit in family time, chores, work, school, spiritual practices, fitness, leisure, and rest, not necessarily in that order! How do we make the most of each day while remembering that we are human beings, not merely human “doings?” Here are some tips I’ve shared with my clients about maximizing the use of time:
- Be mindful that time is a gift from God. The next moment, let alone the next day, is not promised to us. We can only commit to doing the best we can with the time-limited parameters that we have. We cannot assume that contingencies will not alter our plans—we or family members may experience illness, natural disasters can occur, job crises happen, inspiration can be lost. But take heart—God measures time differently from us. Unlike our limited, chronological time of chronos, God’s time is called kairos, where on one hand time seems to stand still, and in an instant everything changes and much is accomplished. If you’ve ever had the experience of having an extremely productive period, you were likely in kairos, moving in God’s time.
- If you don’t already know your most productive time of the day, experiment with accomplishing your tasks at different times of the day until you find the time period that you are most in the groove. Perhaps you are a morning person that can best flow before the rest of the world (especially your household) wakes up. Or maybe you can tap into your highest and most focused energy after your home becomes quiet at night. One client shared with me that she shifts into high gear at 5 pm!
- Consider what if any inspiration you need to get or keep you going. Have you laid a solid spiritual foundation before getting started? Observing your devotional time or whispering a prayer of praise and petition for faithful progress on your task can align your spirit with God’s Spirit and help you to be a more grateful recipient of God’s grace in the midst of your task. Also reflect on whether you have a favorite set of affirmations, sermons, or motivational talks that can serve as a catalyst for your drive towards productivity.
- Make sure your physical conditions are conducive to making the most of your time. Does your lighting set the proper mood, with just the right amount of energy or tranquility? Is the temperature optimized for your greatest focus and comfort? (As I write this, I’m sitting in a chilly coffee shop with a heating pad on my lap!) Might a fragranced candle set the right atmosphere for concentrated work? Is music a help or a hindrance for the kind of work you are setting out to do? Do you need to bring your own music maximize your experience? If your work requires significant concentration, music with lots of lyrics may be distracting. Perhaps instrumental music in your favorite genre(s) would be more fitting.
- For some of us, it is effective to set about a task and remain in place until the task is done. But because many of us have to press toward our goals “between the cracks,” scheduling an important activity and preserving the time in the face of other possible distractions is of utmost importance. Even with the “cracks” of time that you have, create a plan for how you hope to use that period of time. Even better, write it down for some self-accountability. This practice will help you stay focused on your goal for that period of time.
- “Let us throw off everything that hinders” (Hebrews 12: 1b)—especially social media! If you have a penchant for checking your phone or social media every few minutes, you will want to be intentional about laying those distractions aside for a longer period of time than you are usually accustomed to. However, your social media experiences can serve as an intermittent reward to which you can treat yourself between significant chunks of work. The Pomodoro Technique (http://cirillocompany.de/pages/pomodoro-technique/)is one example of a way to structure your work to maximize your focus, minimize your distractions, and reward yourself with shorter breaks, followed by a longer break after a couple of hours of work.
- If you are working on a longer-term project, set aside a certain amount of time to devote to that project on a regular basis. If it’s not feasible to reserve a few minutes daily for your task, consider establishing at least 20-30 minutes several days a week. It may seem that your small window is inconsequential, but those little bits of time can accumulate into something beautiful!
- Engage one or more accountability partners to help keep you on track with your goals. In addition to sharing their goals with me, my clients are encouraged to identify friendly yet firm supports who can help ensure that they are putting in time on their goals. Of course, just putting in the time in and of itself does not guarantee results. But there is a blessing in moving forward, in season and out of season, under sunny or rainy conditions, to form the habits of success. Just as Moses continued to show up before Pharoah and be rejected over and over again, and just as Moses was commanded by God to move forward toward the raging Red Sea, we are called to display both consistency and obedience in the use of our time as well as our treasure, talents, and temples.
- If you regularly encounter challenges with maintaining focus or concentration on your tasks, you may have an attentional disorder. These challenges can greatly hamper the quantity and quality of your academic, job-related, or family responsibilities. Consider whether you may be a good candidate for a psychological evaluation to determine whether you meet criteria for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Receiving this diagnosis is not an indictment of your value as God’s creature. The diagnosis of ADHD can lead you to pharmacological treatments that can support understimulated portions of your brain. Whether or not you are enthused about medication, individual therapy can also assist you in developing organizational and time management skills. ADHD is also recognized by most educational institutions and some workplaces as a disability that allows for modifications to your work load or deadlines through accommodations such as extra time for assignments and examinations, separate seating to accomplish tasks, and assistance with recording lecture material. Having this assistance can make a significant difference in your quality of life.
In addition to recommending these tips to my clients, I challenge myself to incorporate these strategies daily. I’m curious to know whether there are other approaches to time management that work for you. Share your comments so we can all be enriched!
À votre santé (“To your health”),