Time management is complicated.
There are so many distractions, things, people, events, opportunities, and responsibilities vying for our time. Wanting, needing, demanding your attention. There are your own goals and ambitions to consider. Not to mention hobbies and the need to rest. Add in the unpredictability of life (illnesses, injuries, emergencies, unplanned meetings or assignments) along with the fact that how we best manage and balance our time changes from season to season; and managing this priceless resource becomes much more difficult.
So today I want to share 3 hard-learned principles to help you be more successful with your time management.
Fast: Determine when your GO TIME is
Fluid: Try new routines until you discover what works best for your season
Flexible: Have a routine, BUT BE FLEXIBLE!
One of my favorite college professors had a saying: “Fast, Fluid, and Flexible.”
This 5’2” dynamo exuded energy and purpose even as she lived our this life philosophy. She knew things rarely go as planned. And when that happens (not if), you need to make adjustments if you want to succeed.
In my 3 1/2 years at River Falls, I heard “Fast, Fluid, and Flexible” more times than I can count. Little did I know, this principle would help save my sanity as I learned how to loosen my grip on my schedule and manage my time more effectively.
FAST: Determine when your GO TIME is.
I. AM. NOT. A. MORNING. PERSON! Even though I’m up between 5:30 and 6:00am I don’t function until I’ve poured at least a half a mug of coffee into my system.
I’m not a night person either. By 10:00 I’m done. Ready for bed. Lights out. I don’t do late nights well. In fact, too many late nights in a row makes for a crabby and often sick mama.
But between 7:00am and 9:00/9:30pm I’m great!
However, the time I’m the most “ON, ” when I’m firing on cylinders, is 11:00am-3:00/3:30pm. This is my GO TIME! This is the best time for me to write because I’m focused. My creative juices are flowing. And I feel alert and excited about what I’m doing.
What is that time for you? Do you know?
If you’re unsure,
- Intentionally look at your day over the course of at least two weeks.
- Look for patterns even when things like illnesses, allergies, and nasty headaches happen.
- Ask God to help you identify when your GO TIME is and ask yourself:
- When am I the most focused?
- When am I the most productive and efficient with my time?
- When am I the least distracted?
- When is my creativity at its peak?
- When do I best retain information?
I have several friends whose GO TIME is early in the morning or late at night into the wee hours. Crazy humans. 😉 That may be you too, and if it is…embrace it! I will be sleeping. 😉
Whenever your GO TIME is, GUARD IT! Protect it the best you can.
Things are going to come up that want to rob you of your GO TIME! Be wise about what you relinquish that time to because it’s easy to let it slip away unchecked. And once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. Trust me! I’ve made that mistake too many times and lived with the regret more than I care to admit.
An Idea For a Solution
I’ve learned to put my phone in another room so I’m not tempted with things like texting, social media, or Marco Polo. I do get texts and phone calls on my Fitbit, so if something important comes up I can stop what I’m doing, get my phone, and respond. Otherwise, I let it sit until I’m done.
Work everything else in around your GO TIME
- Quiet Time
- Family/friend time
- Making graphics
- Social Media
- Household chores
When you use your GO TIME wisely and efficiently
- Your stress reduces
- Tasks don’t mount up as much
- You can be present with the people you are with or in the situation you are in (class, meeting, small group, church service, etc.)
FLUID: Try new routines until you discover what works best for your season.
Once I identified my GO TIME, I knew how much time I had left, and when it was, to create my daily routine.
Not being a morning person, working out in the pre-dawn hours isn’t my thing. I did try it, however, because so many experts say that this practice revs up your metabolism for the entire day AND it increases your energy. Double bonus, right? Not for me! I found that even after a month of trying to do this, I was crashing at 1:00/1:30 in the afternoon—right in the middle of my GO TIME—and I felt sluggish the rest of the day. Definitely not sustainable.
The same was true for my quiet time. Many Bible teachers and people I respect and admire suggest doing your quiet time first thing in the morning because it sets the tone for your entire day. I do not disagree with this claim one bit! But I personally had a hard time breaking through the barriers of sleep to keep my eyes open and focus on what I was reading or praying about. And when I was more awake, I was consistently interrupted by my boys getting ready for school or the to-do list running through my head. Needless to say, my time was less than stellar.
So after MUCH trial-and-error, I developed a new routine that works GREAT for me!
- Thad or I set up the coffee for the next morning
- I write the next day’s to-do and chore list in my planner
The next day:
- 5:30-6:00 wake up
- Turn on the coffee and take the dogs out
- Pour cup #1
- Review the day’s schedule and to-do list
- Start my daily household chores as I push my boys to keep moving and get out the door
- Eat breakfast
- Put on my workout gear
- 8:20 Andrew gets on the bus
- 8:30 Workout
- Quiet Time
- 11:00-3:30 Get busy writing
- 3:30-10:00 Greet boys, email, social media, dinner, sports, etc.
I discovered I am much more relaxed and focused on what God is teaching me once I’ve finished my workout. The runners high is still strong but coming down; my brain is fully awake, cleared out, and ready. And since I’ve completed most of my daily household chores, my to-do list isn’t nagging at me either.
FLEXIBLE: Have a routine, BUT BE FLEXIBLE!
To be totally transparent, this is the part I struggle with the most because it means giving up control over my schedule. And I like to have control.
And as life adjusts, so must we. When I have my schedule chiseled in stone and something unexpected came up—as it regularly does—I get stressed out BIG TIME! Which stresses out everyone around me, which causes tension and irritability, which leads to a vicious downward spiral that’s not only unhealthy but hard to pull up from.
So this year, I’ve chosen to change my mindset.
I realized keeping an unrelenting grip on my schedule was selfish and prideful. I was inadvertently telling my friends and family my plans, schedule, and to-do list are more important than you. And I was telling God my plans were greater than His plans. My thoughts were greater than His thoughts. (Which, by the way, is NOT how that this verse goes.) As a result, I missed out on opportunities for God to use me to bless others. To expand my ministry. To grow closer to Him. I had to face the fact that I was doing it all backward. I had to choose to change my ways. (I’m still working on it.)
A recent example
I’m a #matmom—a wrestling mom of three, yes, three wrestlers. It’s not unusual to find me in a gym cheering at the top of my lungs multiple nights a week and most weekends during the wrestling season. Yes, I am THAT mom.
And with wrestlers, you get skin-funk.
And for your wrestler to be able to participate in practices and compete at the high school level, they have to be checked out by the doctor to verify they aren’t contagious and to get an official form signed, clearing them.
So far this season I’ve been to the doctor at least 4-5 times with my two high schoolers. The appointments are quick, which is a blessing. But they still take time…a lot of time. I know I’ll lose at least 1-1 1/2 hours of my day between the time we leave the house until I get back home. That’s a lot! Especially when I’m already on a tight schedule.
Last year, these appointments stressed me out significantly. I hated being thrown off on my schedule because I had a hard time getting back on track and finding my rhythm. I would get behind and my goals fell short, if they launched at all. It took me a while to discover my irritation stemmed from a fear of failure and that God was trying to teach me He’s got it all covered.
So this year, I’m determined not to fall in that trap again. I’ve chosen to change my mindset and plan better.
When I have to go to the doc, I usually know the day/evening before, so now I’m proactive with my time management.
- When I make my to-do list for the next day I’m careful to include
- All the essential things that need to be done
- Things DIRECTLY related to my goals
- Things that are necessary for my family for that day
- All the essential things that need to be done
- Then I draw a line
- I list things I would LIKE to get done
- These can either
- Wait for the next day or so
- Be delegated to someone else in the family
- Be eliminated all together
- If I have a lot of kid activity driving to do in the evening
- I seek out carpooling options
- I use that time to work and finish my day’s goals and projects
- I list things I would LIKE to get done
My point: Be flexible. Make adjustments. Keep moving. Life happens, but God is bigger than our detours, roadblock, and situations.
“Fast, Fluid, and Flexible” has saved me a lot of headaches. When the unexpected happens, whisper these three words under your breath and keep moving. Ask God if there was a reason for the interruption and to show you what it is and how He would like to use you in that moment.
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