Stop trying to get everything done
By Rick Warren
“We’ve always got enough time to do what God wants us to do.”
In some jobs you can fold up your lunchbox at the end of the day, go home, and know that your work is complete; it’s over. But that’s not how we operate. In ministry, you’ve always got 50 more mountains to climb. Our work is never done.
That makes it even more important that we be good stewards of the time God has given us. Time matters to God. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 8:6, “For there is a time and a way for everything.” We’ve always got enough time to do what God wants us to do.
But that means we need to be a good steward of the time He has given us. So how do we take control of our to-do list before it takes control of us? Here is a good place to start.
Analyze your lifestyle: You will never get control of your time until you seriously look at how you’re spending it. Aristotle said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The Bible says “Teach us to number our days.” That means we’ve got to stop and look at how we spend time. Often, we’re moving so fast we’re not looking. We’re apathetic and ignorant. The bottom line is that no matter where we serve and how big the church, we all have the exact same amount of time every week. We all get 168 hours a week. So, if you’re trying to put 180 hours of work in 168 hours a week, it isn’t going to happen.
Put similar tasks together: Rather than trying to stuff meetings, study time, counseling, planning, and all of your other tasks into one day, do them all in separate days. Schedule whole days for study, meetings, or counseling. I find this particularly important with meetings. Don’t break up your day with meetings if you can help it. It can ruin your concentration.
Control technology: Whether it’s your cell phone, computer, e-mail, social networking, or any other tool you use, you’ve got to make sure it’s your servant — not the other way around. I get more e-mails than I could ever possibly answer. My inbox is always overloaded. One of the marks of leadership is to realize that you’ll always disappoint somebody. I disappoint people because I can’t respond right away to their e-mail. As a leader, I’ve got to deal with that. But I will not allow my inbox to rule my ministry.
Write it down: Success is the management of ideas. Everybody – and I mean everybody — gets good ideas. The difference between successful and unsuccessful people is what they do with those ideas. We all need a system for how we acquire, retain, and categorize the ideas we get. It doesn’t matter whether you use your Day Timer, your phone or PDA, or your laptop, you need a place where you can store this system.
Use your ‘loose change’ wisely: We all have little pockets of time that come up every now and then. Maybe it’s during a commute or as you’re waiting in line. Using that time effectively can make a huge difference. If you have a long commute, take a tape recorder along. Record what you’re thinking. Work through your sermon. Get some ideas out. Listen to a book on tape, a helpful podcast — or spend the time in prayer. But don’t waste it. Every minute counts.
Put relationships at the top of your to-do list: I wrote this in The Purpose Driven Life and I still believe it: “The greatest use of time is love and the greatest expression of love is time and the greatest time to love is now.” When you choose relationships — particularly with your family — over tasks, your teaching this lesson better than any sermon ever could. The bottom line is this — years from now, people won’t remember your sermon. They’ll remember that you put others first.
In the end, time management isn’t about getting more done. It’s about getting God’s agenda done. Stop trying to get everything on your to-do list done. Don’t sweat it. It’s more important that you get the one most important thing done. Truthfully, a lot of stress in our schedules is self-imposed.
You have exactly enough time to do God’s will for your life — and not a minute more.