“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.
1. Seek to please God first! “To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness.” (2:26) Here, early in the book, Solomon gives us the most significant and important time management principle of all. Put God first in your life and everything else will fall into place. He concludes his book stating it even more succinctly: “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (12:13)
Thousands of years later Jesus reframed it this way. “Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything your need.” (Matthew 6:33 NLT)
2. “Sow your seed in the morning!” Solomon writes. (11:6) In other words do the most important things, the things that will bring the greatest benefit and return on investment, first! This ageless time management principle has been rephrased in many ways: “first things first,” “big rocks first,” “prioritize your day” etc. Countless books and articles have been written about it. We see this principle in practice throughout the Bible. Men and women of faith rose early in the morning to tackle the priorities of their day. They went to prayer, to war, to sacrifice, to the temple and to the tomb at the break of day without delay – and God blessed them for it.
3. Focus on one thing at a time! Solomon said it this way: “Whatever your hand finds to do – do it with all your might.” (9:10) Now typically you can only hold one thing in your hand at a time, unless it is very small. So give whatever you are holding your full time and attention. This is such an important key to the productive use of time – sustained focus and applied effort. Note: that would seem to rule out multi-tasking. Fiercely guard against interruptions and distractions and you will accomplish so much more.
4. “Don’t be idle in the evening!” (11:6) In other words don’t waste your time on frivolous or sinful pursuits. As the old saying goes – “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.” Make the most of the time God gives you for furthering His kingdom and bettering your life and relationships. Don’t waste time in front of the tube or computer screen, and don’t be a couch potato. Do something of value. Cross something off your “to-do” list. You’ll be glad you did and won’t feel like a slug the next morning.
5. Practice a Sabbath rest! “One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.” (4:6 NAS) If you are going to rest, then rest. (See point #3!) The rested worker will always be more productive than the worn out one. This principle has been true since creation. More can be accomplished in six days of labor with a day of rest than in seven days of labor with no rest. When God blessed the Sabbath, He also blessed the time in the remaining six days with greater productivity.
6. Take time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures! That is a frequent reminder throughout the book. Take time to smell the flowers! The frenzy and demands of life often rob us of these important joys and blessings God has given us. “It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work.” Solomon writes. (5:18) “Enjoy life with your wife whom you love” he encourages. (9:9) Don’t neglect to do the things you love and love the things you do!
7. Don’t forget: timing is everything! One of the most poignant and yet most powerful time management passages in the entire Bible is in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. This principle is simply stated: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:” (3:1) Every effective time and life manager recognizes the season they are in and finds a way to redeem the unique opportunities afforded in that season.
Therefore may I encourage you, make the most of the season you are in! Granted that may not be easy, especially if it is a season of hardship or loss. But the secret to doing that is to acknowledge that “He has made everything beautiful in its season.” (3:11) With that understanding He beckons us to look for the beauty hidden in the ashes.
Please share your observations or comments and add to this conversation about time management.
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