Why Time Management Doesn’t Matter Until You Get One Thing Straight
Imagine you are a kid again and your parents tell you on Monday to clean the garage this Saturday, with the help of your siblings.
But during the course of the week, you forget what they asked of you, and instead, you decide to set up a lemonade stand at the corner of your block to make some extra money.
On Friday night, you’re determined to make a big profit, so you start planning out the day…
What is the optimal time to open for business?
How many batches of lemonade should I make in advance?
How can I make the process as efficient as possible?
What should the price be?
Who should I get to help?
How can I attract the whole neighborhood to the lemonade stand?
As you fall asleep that night, these questions swim through your mind.
Saturday morning comes, and you get right out of bed at 7:00 a.m. to start making lemonade. It’s going to get hot early, so you want to get a head start.
Everything goes as planned! You sell a lot of lemonade, the neighborhood seems like it has a skip in its step, and you go home fifty dollars richer. But when you come back to your house, your smile fades as you see your parents in the driveway and realize…
you forgot to clean the garage.
As punishment, your parents take away half of your earnings and tell you that you have to spend the rest of the night cleaning the garage. To top it off, while you’re working, the rest of your siblings get to go off and see a movie.
Everyone talks a lot about how to manage your time. There are countless books and resources about the subject from gurus who can really help you get a grasp on using your time well. But before we talk about good time management, you need to make sure that you’re actually doing the right things in the first place. The kid in the story made fifty bucks selling lemonade, but that’s not what his parents asked him to do. He can make all the money he wants, but he would still miss his original responsibility: cleaning the garage.
Time management is useless until you get your priorities straight. Efficiency in the wrong things is foolish. Just like the kid in the story, you can be extremely efficient in an endeavor, and even make a lot of money and experience happiness…but it doesn’t matter if you’re doing the wrong thing. What we need is not to be more efficient, but more effective. Efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right things.
How does this look in my own life? For a long time, I’ve wanted to go to seminary (my next post will explain why I still believe in seminary), but the timing wasn’t great until recently. I spent two years after college learning business marketing, sales, and copywriting. All the while, I kept asking myself, “Is this really the route I want to continue on? The one I was meant to invest my life in?” Slowly, over many frustrating nights, mornings, and work days, I discovered the answer:
No, it’s not.
Although I can play the game of business well, it’s not ultimately what I’m meant for. Nevertheless, I’m extremely grateful for the business skills I picked up along the way; I think they will prove invaluable in pastoral ministry, as I see many pastors not knowing much beyond pastoring (more on that later). So ultimately, this weight was impressed upon me that now is the time to go to seminary, and…surprise…where I felt led wasn’t necessarily the easiest path I could’ve chosen. I’m writing this post from Vancouver, British Columbia because I chose to go to a seminary out here called Regent College.
Moving internationally has definitely had its challenges, but I haven’t for one minute doubted that it was the right decision. Over time, I sensed that what I was involved wasn’t what I was ultimately passionate about. And so my wife and I slowly steered a heavy ship toward what was, for us, true north. We matched our life more closely to what was on our heart, which meant rubbing against the grain of what was natural, easy, and predictable in the eyes of the world.
The Path to Effectiveness
1. Take an inventory of your life. What are you involved in? Make a list of everything you’re committed to…work, family, relationships, church, boards, volunteer work, personal projects. Write it all down and see what’s there.
2. Take an inventory of your heart. What are you passionate about? Are you in the right job? Are you making the highest contribution with your gifting? Do you feel like your schedule doesn’t accurately reflect your desired life? See if your life inventory matches up with your heart inventory.
3. Make any necessary changes. After examining your life inventory and your heart inventory, what changes do you need to make? Start aligning the two and investing in the things that you’re called to instead of the things that the world is requesting of you. Get rid of the good so you can take up the best.
4. Pursue that which you love. After you have gotten rid of the things that are crowding your life, you’ll have the time to invest in the things that really matter. What are those few things for you? What is essential? Where can you make the highest contribution? Start taking steps toward those few things and apply all your energy to driving them forward.
5. Reject the stuffers. As you move forward with your new priorities, there will be people that want to stuff their own agenda back into your life, or make you doubt the decision you made to pare things down. Don’t listen to them! Don’t get clogged up again, involved in things for the sake of pleasing others. Reject requests that will distract you from the priorities you’ve set ahead of time. Once you start intentionally spending your time, it will be tempting to slip into the old way of doing things: submitting to the priorities of other people. Stay strong, hold the course, and pursue what you know to be the most important work.
Only now that you have the right priorities in place can you begin thinking about time management. Now, the books and resources on time management will actually help you instead of assisting you in doing the wrong things faster.
One question as you leave, which gets back to the opening story: Are you currently running a lemonade stand that should’ve been taken down a long time ago?