4 Ways to Take Your Time Management to the Next Level

Would you like to take your time management to the next level? Me too! Michele Morin is here to share a few of her tips! Not only is she full of wisdom for racking up extra minutes for your day, she’s a storehouse in many other areas. And she’s one of the kindest women I’ve hadn’t the privilege to meet in the online world. I hope you’ll check out her site when you’re done reading her tips!

The most common complaint about time management is lack of time. With most of our moments already spoken for by the work that pays the bills or the tasks that keep family life on the rails, the challenge is to make the most of our little minutes, the time on the fringes of our days.

For example, if you are an average reader (250 words per minute), 15 minutes per day will take your eyes through 3,910 pages in one year. That’s 20 books! If you struggle to set and keep fitness goals, consider the efficiency of a 20-minute walk.

A Matter of Focus

Like beads on a string, our minutes slide by. Poor, cynical Solomon bemoaned the futility of it all, dismissing his significant accomplishments as a chasing after the wind. Author Annie Dillard speaks a better and more hopeful wisdom:

How we live our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

If that’s the case, I want to steward my days with Leviticus-Level attention to detail, investing in my daily, mundane tasks the same purposefulness that transformed curtains of goats’ hair and rams’ skins into a house of worship.

Elisabeth Elliot, virtuoso of terse and gritty truth, maintained that “there is always time to do the will of God.” While that stings a bit, I recognize the mathematical reality that if I have more planned than I can accomplish in a day without sinning, then some of it is not God’s will for me. Several years ago, I started using a smaller planner. Smaller pages mean smaller calendar squares with fewer lines. When I run out of lines, it’s time to refuse, reprioritize, or bump something to another day.

Beware the Idol of Efficiency in Time Management

It’s true enough that my huge garden and my history of homeschooling four sons have given me plenty of opportunity to fine-tune the art and science of multitasking.  I’ve folded laundry and entertained a baby while listening to an eight-year-old practicing his piano lesson; I’ve canned green beans while quietly scribbling rhymed clues for a birthday scavenger hunt; I’ve made strawberry jam while preparing a lesson to teach at VBS the next morning.

However, like any good thing in our lives, efficiency stands ready and willing to become an idol. My prone-to-wander heart needs continual reminders that productivity is good, but little boys grow up overnight. Folding several mindless tasks into one discrete unit of time is a salutary thing, but people are not made to be folded. One regret from my days of parenting small children is my failure to stop my work and lock my eyes with theirs sooner and more often.

Advice from a Puritan Preacher

John Owen, 17th century English theologian, wrote about sin management and the Gospel, using Romans 8:13 as his launch pad. One of his most famous quotes warns believers to “be killing sin or it will be killing you.” To riff on his words, I have learned that if I fail to manage my time, before long it begins to manage me. Procrastination, lack of follow through, and over-scheduling sow seeds of chaos and impatience as I follow in the footsteps of the foolish woman in Proverbs, “tearing my house down” with sharp words and long days of hurry and worry.

Balancing the tyranny of tasks and the tenderness of meaningful relationships continues to be my walk on the razor’s edge. The prudent use of little minutes requires a few good practices that become habits over time:

The prudent use of little minutes requires a few good practices that become habits over time. @MicheleDMorin #timemanagement #thrivinginchrist Click to Tweet

The most common complaint about time management is lack of time. The challenge is to make the most of our little minutes. Here are four easy tips to take your time management to the next level.

4 Easy Time Management Tips

  • Write it down. I have one place–my planner–where I write reminders, appointments, kid-schedules, commitments, and needful tasks. If I’m reading my Bible and something comes to mind, I write it down to address later. Depending on memory is stressful, distracting, and unreliable.
  • Embrace your list. My athletic friend who coached her kids’ soccer teams had a posse of sons, but a very different list from me. Most women my age have an empty nest and are not wrangling tenth-grade geometry daily at the dining room table.  But I am. And this is God’s gift to me. Longing for a different list or evading my assignment because I wish it was different is a time management disaster.
  • Do it now. Folding towels as they come off the line, dealing with the mail immediately instead of leaving it in a pile to be dealt with “later,” making phone calls for work or church while stirring a pan or loading the dishwasher . . . we’ve all got our time-saving shortcuts. The key is to do the next thing without delay, without complaint.
  • Remember the Gospel. Whether married or single, whether childless or presiding over a lively crew, godly women have been tasked with the glad- hearted, life-giving work of pouring our lives into others. The cross is central to all we do. Gospel-based living comes from an understanding of what Christ has done and lends perspective to our own feverish planning and doing.

If all this sounds overwhelming . . . that’s perfect.  Come empty-handed and open-hearted to receive grace for doing the everyday, mundane work of faithfulness.  Time management is centered in following God, trusting the Spirit’s leading—and then making prudent use of those little minutes through a power that is not our own.

Michele Morin
Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, gardener and mother of four rowdy boys who has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years. She loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks, and days at the ocean with the whole family. Michele blogs at Living Our Days where she writes about the books she is reading and the grace she is receiving.

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  1. Great encouragement here, Michele. I always learn something practical and useful from you!

  2. These are wonderful tips, Michele! I’m a big fan of a planner. I write everything in mine as well. I also love your thought to do it now. That’s something I really need work on. It takes me more time to write things over and over again in my planner (like making a call I’m avoiding) than it would to just do it!

    1. Smiling, because we list makers have a very special way of procrastinating, don’t we?
      We just keep carrying it forward, and the anxiety gets carried forward as well. Better just to take a deep breath and get it done!

    2. kellyrbaker says:

      Hi Candace! I’ve been utilizing Michele’s tip to do it now and enjoying less stress and extra minutes. Have a great day!

  3. Wonderful points here! I appreciate that you point out that feeling overwhelmed is OK. It just reminds us to come before Jesus knowing we don’t have anything to offer Him except our hearts!

    1. kellyrbaker says:

      Yes, I love that too, Emily! Great to see you here!

    2. Emily, it’s so good for our hearts to remember that whatever good we do is going to happen in the power of Christ. We surrender that feeling of being overwhelmed along with everything else.
      I get into the biggest messes on the days when I think I’m in the driver’s seat!

  4. Such a pleasant surprise to find you here, Michele. I love your post as it offers much wisdom for us all. As an empty-nester myself, I have found that managing my time and days now is much different. May we be flexible as the years pass, and follow God’s lead, so as to best manage our days for His glory. Grateful for you!

    1. Hmmm. . . yes, I’ve been noticing some things about my use of time in this first week of having my newly licensed youngest son drive himself to band, work, etc. And I’m enjoying the irony of experiencing this struggle in the week that I’m sharing a post on time management– but then, we know that God has a sense of humor and says, “let her who think she stands take heed lest she fall!”

  5. Thank you Michele. I am a procrastinator, this was very encouraging to me. I tend to not write things down and rely on my mind. It DOES cause me stress as my mind is so unreliable. I appreciate your writing, thank you.

    1. I’m in the slippery brain club, too, and so often–even with the best of intentions–I fail to do something simply because it didn’t make it into print. It may not be true for everyone, but I find a fair measure of accountability in the fact that something is written down and waiting for a check mark.
      It’s so kind of you to read and take the time to share your insights.
      Blessings to you!

  6. I love your emphasis, Michele, on this being from a power that is not our own. We can’t do a lick of anything on our to-do list without the Lord being Lord of it all! Thanks for this powerful post and thanks to Kelly for sharing your wise words with us today!

    1. When I begin to think that I can function outside the parameters of “when I am weak then I am strong,” and “His strength is made perfect in my weakness,” I’m on dangerous ground. The only way we can remain glad-hearted and self-giving in our offering up of our lives in service to God and our family is to stay focused on the truth of the gospel: e.g. my value is tied up in Christ; people are more important than things; God is in charge of justice.
      It’s so helpful to have a community of like-minded believers to help in holding these truths before our eyes.

    2. kellyrbaker says:

      So glad you joined us here, friend!

  7. Writing it all down is super overwhelming for me, but I have recently started doing just that – writing down everything…big and snail. Then I ask God to prioritize and work from there. Love this 💕

    1. It’s wonderful that you bring your list before God for the prioritizing. This is one sure way to keep it from becoming “the boss.”

  8. Oh, yes, Michele! Wonderful tips about managing our time. Love this Elisabeth Elliott quote, “there is always time to do the will of God.” Wow! That’s our focus as a believer. And it goes with your last tip about remembering the gospel and pouring our lives into others. So well said!

    1. I have a 20+ year old flip calendar on my cook book shelf in the kitchen, and it’s something I look at every day. Sometimes I’m not very attentive when I read it, but over the years, the tone of voice she used and the gritty, no-nonsense belief that God is sovereign and I am not . . . well, it’s beginning to sink in finally.

  9. GREAT tips, Michele. Thanks for the reminder not to wish I had someone else’s list. What a horrible way to live, and to sow seeds of discontentment into my own heart.

    I am trying to be intentional about giving my boys my full attention when they are home. I have be reminded often to do this. My years left with them are few. And honestly, they are a higher priority than those things on my task-list.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

    1. Yes, those final years of high school fly by. I can remember when my oldest left the nest at 18, it dawned on me that I had only had all four sons at home together for ten years. It just didn’t seem long enough, and I don’t want to miss one minute of this slippery-slope-out-the-door my last two unmarried boys are on. So . . .this week while son #3 is home on spring break, he’s working full-time at a ship yard. So . . .I get up at 4:45 so I can pack his lunch and have breakfast with him. I really wouldn’t have it any other way, because we get to talk while he eats and tries to wake up.

  10. Really enjoyed this, Michele! I can multitask like it was an Olympic sport, but I’m usually tense and irritable. Thanks for the encouragement to enjoy my littles instead of seeing how much I can accomplish in a day!

    1. Oh, that’s so true–and so sad! I’m the same way! I don’t get tired and need a nap like my good husband does. I just get more impatient and sharp-tongued. Oh, how we need a Savior and a Guide to keep us focused on what’s really important at the end of the day!

  11. I LOVED the tip to “do it now” without procrastinating. I’m good at this with most things except with making phone calls and writing the emails I should. Because of that, I’ve been dealing with a fair bit of pain in my hip because I really needed a massage like a month ago. Now I finally called but I have to wait for my appointment. You’d think I’d learn. But I guess I didn’t realize until now that I had been doing that. Thanks for this wakeup call. I will definitely be working on this.

    1. Thanks for bringing an open and teachable heart into this conversation, Rosanna. My husband asks me sometimes, “Now, if that appointment were for me or one of the kids, wouldn’t you have already made it?”
      So true.
      And I love your name because it’s the name my son and his wife gave to my first tiny granddaughter!

  12. I like your tips, Michele, but especially focused on your section of efficiency as an idol. I would not have thought of it that way. Thanks for cluing me in as I re-examine my efficiency methods.
    I also like your idea of a smaller planner which would give a more manageable To Do list. That’s a great idea!

    1. John Piper refers to our hearts as “idol factories,” and that phrase sticks in my mind because I’m so good at taking a good thing (like my time) and turning it into an ultimate thing. I’m right beside you, Cindy, examining my own heart in reference to that idol of efficiency and productivity!

  13. I so appreciate your balance here, Michele. I’ve come across many blog posts something along the lines of “not being productive is not a sin – Jesus commended Mary for sitting and listening, not Martha for getting things done – we just need God’s grace in our mess.” While there are seeds of truth in those statements, sitting at Jesus’s feet and listening and needing grace for where we fall short every day doesn’t negate the need to be wise in our use of time – not to make an idol of efficiency, as you so wisely said, but to be the best stewards possible.

    My poor dear husband was so patient with me in our early married lives when I had so much to learn. I had all kinds of bad housekeeping and time management (or lack of time management) problems. One thing I learned is that prevention takes less time that fixing a mess. I used to lay my clothes across a trunk we had in our bedroom when I took them off. Then at the end of the week I had a pile of wrinkled clothes. I learned the few seconds that it takes to go ahead and hang the clothes up or put the mail away, etc., saves so much time later.

    So much comes back to balance – we can get obsessive about our systems, but as we seek God every day, he gives us grace to steward our time and energy and meet the needs of the ones He has given us to minister to as well.

    1. Argh! The clothing pile! Thanks for bringing that up! It’s so much more efficient (and effective!) to handle things only once. Off the body and into a hamper or onto a hanger. Done.And I love that, but I love my husband more, so when I find his pants draped over the arm of a chair . . .
      This is where we get to practice the laying down of my beautiful system and the acceptance of the grace God offers to lay down my need to be right all the time.
      Thanks for bringing up balance. We’re so prone to fall off the horse on one side or the other.
      Always so good to hear your insights.

  14. So much encouragement here that I needed to read today. Thank you!

  15. Michele, This one line spoke to me: “Folding several mindless tasks into one discrete unit of time is a salutary thing, but people are not made to be folded.” So true. There is a time to be efficient and a multi-tasker, and a time to connect with those around us.

    Also embrace your list, was a good point. When we are to busy focusing on our to-do list, we don’t envy the to-do list of our friends.

    Your point about reading 15 minutes a day equals 20 books a year is mind blowing, but something I learned from experience when homeschooling my son. At the beginning of the year there would be piles of books we were supposed to read, and with 15-20 minutes a day, we got through them all. Now you have me thinking about what I am going to set about to accomplish with just 15 minutes a day.

    1. Yes, Theresa, I remember feeling the same way about my pile of books at the beginning of a school year. It’s amazing how much we can accomplish if we persevere and take the long view.

      Joining you in the commitment to avoid “folding” our dear ones.

  16. Kelly & Michele –

    This is such a timely post and packed full of great information. I am a list maker sometimes, but not always, and yet, I know if I do it helps me stay on track better. I guess there needs to be improvement in this area for me. Oh, and the Do it now tip – ugh – guilty. I now it helps if I do it now, but then I never do fold them right away and they mound up until they are spilling over the side of the baskets. Thanks for such practical tips. and Kelly, Thanks for sharing your space with Michele. I hope to see you both at my linkup on Thursday!

    1. Well, Debbie, I must say you seem to accomplish plenty with or without a list.
      And I struggle to stay ahead of the laundry pile as well. I’ve been known to say to my husband that I either need to put away our sweaters and pants–or commit to dusting them.
      See you Thursday!

    2. kellyrbaker says:

      Such a pleasure to have you visit, Debbie, and glad to be back to your linkup today!

  17. Great to read your perspective on time management, Michele. When things are going as I planned, perhaps it is time to take stock of what God had planned for me for the day. I know things go better for me when I take time with him each morning and I feel a huge void when I have not read something from his word. I never thought about efficiency becoming an idol but I do see how that can happen. I’m going to pick up my grandsons this afternoon from school and I’ll be locking eyes with them as much as they’ll let me!

    1. Yes, it’s hard to lock eyes with someone who is perpetually in motion! That seems to be the way of grandsons.

      You’ve shared some good pointers here, Molly. Our days belong to God, and we are wise if we spend some time just acknowledging that by taking in His thoughts and making them our own.

  18. Kelly, thanks for hosting! I’m so glad to find Michele here today! Michele, this may be one of my favorite pieces of yours yet. Such wisdom packed in here. Especially standing out to me today- the idol of efficiency and that people aren’t meant to be folded. Those concepts are going to stick with me as I seek God’s shaping of this new (wanting for better time management!) season. Thank you!!

    1. Kelly gets all the credit for suggesting that I write on this topic. It had never occurred to me, really, to write about how I use my time because it’s such a struggle to stay in right relationship with it.
      And, of course, we know that our best writing and thinking usually come from the edge of our growth process.
      I’ve got so much to learn, particularly on those points you mentioned, so it’s a blessing to have had this opportunity to soak in right thinking about it and to have these great conversations that reinforce the truth.

    2. kellyrbaker says:

      Thank you for joining us here, Bethany! I’m thrilled that Michele took me up on my request. We appreciate her wonderful wisdom!

  19. Michele,
    I find that, even as an empty- nester, I still need a planner or I will quickly veer off track. I do better having a schedule rather than winging it and I think that multi-tasking (doing several things well at the same time) is truly impossible or a myth – at least for me. Thank you for making me pause to think about what I’m doing….is it God’s will or my will for my life in this moment. Great thought to ponder!!
    Bev xx

    1. Hi, Bev! So good to get your thoughts here, because I think we all need to take that pause to consider whether what we’re doing is God’s plan or simply the thing we’ve been doing so long we forget how NOT to do it.
      Thanks for your heart for God and your acts of service for those who are in need.

  20. I relate to the statement about having more to accomplish than I can do without sinning. Such a good reminder of what is really important. It is too easy to get overfocused on getting things done and being productive. In doing so we forget to listen to that still small voice. Thank you!

    1. That’s such an important distinction for us as believers, isn’t it, Cheryl. Of course, I can load my day down with multiple tasks and feel really productive by the end of the day . . . all the while leaving a wake of wounded people I’ve snapped at or ignored, and a Bible closed and gathering dust somewhere in the house.
      Thanks for the reminder to be listening always for that still, small voice.

  21. Love the idea of a smaller planner, Michele, to serve as a reminder not to overfill the days. I just finished “Hiding Place” and was struck by Corrie’s words that each moment was too precious to spend it on doing two things at once (paraphrased). So contrary to our current efficiencies and a needed reminder of the value of our moments.

    1. I miss all that lovely white space for writing lists, and just all the pretty features of a bigger planner, but I just can never reign myself in with the list making. As long as there are lines, I will keep writing down tasks, so this forces me to be more realistic.
      I love that Corrie Ten Boom quote, particularly in thinking about our dear people who need our undivided attention at times!

  22. You give very good advice here, Michele. You know I wrestle with this too: “However, like any good thing in our lives, efficiency stands ready and willing to become an idol.” I too often have idolized efficiency at too high a cost. My list in this season is very different than it was 6 months ago and I need to let go of efficiency!

    1. Those grandbabies do throw us off the horse of efficiency, don’t they? All of a sudden it’s okay to take forever reading stories and just marveling at the tininess of a little person who looks and acts sort of familiar and yet not. We are so blessed!

  23. Michele, these are fabulous tips. Ones I need to remind myself of from time to time.

    1. Good that we can remind one another of all the things we aspire to become and to do in this following life.
      It’s always good to hear your voice, Debbie.

  24. Very timely and practical for me. Thanks for sharing Michele’s words with us, Kelly. And thanks for sharing your wisdom, Michele.

    1. Donna, it’s always good to hear from you anywhere, and it’s an honor to think that I could have shared something that you have found practical.
      Blessings to you and your good husband as you minister truth together!

    2. kellyrbaker says:

      It’s been a pleasure to host her, Donna. So glad you joined us here!

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