-Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring
Bilbo’s statement could be an apt description of my life when I’m not managing my time and commitments well. There is always more to do. One more ministry activity, one more person to meet with, one more place to be, one more _____; while running on 5–6 hours of sleep each night. If not careful, I am left drained and irritable, without anything left to give toward that which matters most. Additionally, my spiritual life can grow dry; leading me to cry out to God, "I can’t keep up this pace, this can’t be the way You want me to serve You." I believe many of us must slow down to evaluate and prayerfully consider a better way to order our days, a more intentional way.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. -Ephesians 5:15–16
Making the best use of our time does not mean frantically running 24/7 with our hair on fire “in Jesus’ Name”! It means living a balanced life with margin. This is the example Jesus Christ set during his ministry:
- Of the masses around Him, Jesus chose 12 disciples to spend the most time. Of those 12, three were in the “inner circle” whom He invested the most time and energy.
- While the request for miracles and healing seemed non-stop at times, Jesus set limits and maintained His priority of time with His Father, often getting away alone to pray.
- Jesus stated that Mary chose the better option by prioritizing time at His feet learning, while Martha was constantly frazzled, busy, and serving (Luke 10:38–42).
Over-comitting makes us less effective. We become diluted in our responsibilities and instead of doing a few things well, we give half-hearted effort to many things resulting in mediocre outcomes. Beyond addressing our over-commitments, diligent effort needs to be made to identify and root out “clutter” in our lives (e.g. checking email 30 times a day, constant distractions from our iPhones, constant checking of Facebook, or overwhelming amount of information at our fingertips).
It is my goal to focus on the vital few focus areas in my life, rather than the trivial many; walking in wisdom and making the best use of the time. Specifically,
- Concentrate on growing in the spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer, and journaling.
- Become more purposeful in my reading, strategically choosing fewer books to read more slowly for increased comprehension, reflection, and action.
- Evaluate my commitments and eliminate when necessary to focus on a few specific areas.
- Focus on deeper relationships with my family, close friends, and in ministry.
- Manage my screen time and electronic distractions better for greater focus and purpose.
- Blog more often as a creative outlet and hobby.
- Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. For the Christian, this is a primer on the basics of our lives, including disciplines such as Bible reading, prayer, fasting, journaling, and stewardship.
- What’s Best Next by Matt Perman. A deeply biblical book on identifying personal callings, core values, and purpose statements; and then arranging our lives and schedules around them.
- Simple Life by Thom and Art Rainer. Breaking life down into four key sections (Time, Relationships, God, Money), the authors show how four key goals (Clarity, Movement, Alignment, Focus) can begin to foster a life that is more spiritual and less busy, a life rich in experiences with family and friends.
- The Next Story: Faith, Family, Friends, and the Digital World by Tim Challies. An insightful and practical book on living well in our digital age.