May 2011

7 time management principles from the wisest man who ever lived

“There is a time for everything.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

That is quite a statement. Why is it sometimes that does not appear to be true? Too often it seems like there are just not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we feel we should do. Solomon, considered to be the wisest man who ever lived, penned those words. As the most productive king in Israel’s history he obviously knew something about time management.

Time management experts tell us that time management at its core is really life management. That is an important distinction and makes sense when we consider that Solomon’s book of Ecclesiastes is essentially a book about life management. Wasted time produces wasted lives. And as the Solomon, continually reminds us, wasting time in meaningless pursuits produces meaningless lives. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (1:2)

Since this extremely wise and accomplished man knew both the profit and pitfalls of life management we would do well to glean as many nuggets of truth as we can from his writings. A careful study of his book reveals what I would consider to be seven of the greatest time management principles ever written. Here they are.

Pray it Before you Okay it!

“The men believed the evidence they were shown, but they did not ask the LORD about it.” Joshua 9:14 (God’s Word Translation)

Have you ever regretted not asking God’s guidance for an important decision that ended up going bad? Truth be told, most of us have had to face the stark reality that a bad decision might have been avoided if we had only taken time to first pray about it.

Those who have made prayerless decisions can totally identify with the glaring oversight Joshua and the Israelites committed in not inquiring of the Lord before they made a commitment of peace and protection for the Gibeonites. The story of the Gibeonite deception early in Israel’s campaign to conquer Canaan is a benchmark warning about the danger in making important decisions without first asking the Lord about it. (Joshua 9)

I learned a similar lesson early in my ministry as a youth pastor. I had this great idea to do a youth event with my group of about 50 students. An assistant and I planned a kite flying contest for an upcoming Saturday. We put quite a bit of work into designing various awards and into promoting the event. We advertised prizes for the highest flying kite, the biggest and smallest kites, and the grand prize was going to be for the best designed kite utilizing scripture.

Redeeming time while on the go!

“Redeem the time for the days are evil” Ephesians 5:16

Time is an enigma. It goes too quickly for those who are enjoying it, but too slowly for those who are suffering. It is good when you make the most of it but evil when you waste it. And mysteriously some people consistently have a way of wringing more out of a 24 hour day than others. How can that be?

Worst of all, no matter what you do, time relentlessly marches on. It is said that life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer your get to the end, the faster it goes. Anyone with graying hair can confirm that fact.

Thus throughout most of my life I have been a student of time management. I am always looking for ways to redeem my time. One of my inspirations has been John Wesley, the great preacher and founder of Methodism in the 1700s. Like so many accomplished men and women in history, he was also a time management expert. As an inveterate preacher of the gospel it is documented that he traveled 250,000 miles on horseback during his lifetime. We also know that he made the most of that travel time by reading voluminously and writing sermons and books all while in the saddle. But if that were not enough, he also made it a habit of reading while he walked.

I just learned this week that my friend and fellow pastor at Bridgewood Community Church, Mark Spencer also reads while he walks. In fact he reported that he can read more efficiently and retain more while walking than sitting. And I thought I was a time management freak. I am going to have to try that.

It is illustrative that everybody has their own unique time management tricks that enable them to be more effective and accomplish more. That is why it is always interesting to hear how accomplished people make the most of a typical day. Invariably you will always pick up some great tips for redeeming time in your day as well. What are some secrets you have discovered?

Why we cannot say “No.”

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” Proverbs 29:25

Why is it so hard sometimes to say “No”? I am referring to saying “No” to people’s requests, work’s demands, and the inner voice saying “you ought to.” There is nothing inherently noble in always saying “Yes.” As dwellers in the midst of 10,000 lakes we might want to write it off as Minnesota nice. But this problem is not unique to Minnesotans and dates back even to the time of Christ.

Jesus warned all human kind about making promises we can’t or don’t want to keep. “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37) Everyone knows the regret that comes after saying “Yes” to something when you really wanted to say “No”. You end up kicking yourself for making such a commitment and find that trying to get out of it is much more painful and anxiety ridden than if you had just said “No” in the first place.

There was a time in my life when forming the word and stuttering “N-o-o-o-o” was nigh unto impossible for me. Fortunately the Lord provided people in my life who began to take me to task for the unwanted and often injurious commitments that I was making through my chiming “Yes” to every request that came my way. They challenged me to learn to say “No” both for my sake and also for the sake of my family. Painfully, I realized saying “Yes” all the time was taking its toll not only on my own mental and emotional health but also on those closest to me.

What helped me the most was acknowledging that my inability to say “No” was rooted in fear. The verse in the Bible that opened my eyes to this was the “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” This is a great verse because it offers both the diagnosis and the cure. It reveals that the fear of man is the source of our dis-ease in saying “Yes” when you really want to say “No.” And it states that trust in the Lord is the prescription for saying “No” in the first place. That trust establishes a place of peace and freedom in our hearts from regret.

Keeping an ideal from becoming an ordeal

The joke is told of the young couple who entered into their marriage looking for the ideal, discovered it was an ordeal and ended up wanting a new deal. Unfortunately whether it is a relationship, a job, a home, a purchase or some project, all too often our pursuit of the ideal can end up just like this marriage – becoming an ordeal in search of a new deal. It is this common pattern of regression, from ideal to ordeal, that produces so many unfulfilled expectations in our lives.

Sadly, unfulfilled expectations are toxic to faith and idealism. They tempt us to give up on our ideals and to stop dreaming. In the process they discourage us from hope and perseverance, in making a better life for ourselves and for those we love.

Here are three ways to keep your pursuit of the ideal from becoming an ordeal. They are based on biblical principles from the teachings of Jesus.

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