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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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.

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