More Aspects of Time Management
"I Just Don't Have Enough Time..."
We shall begin by stating the obvious, again. Everybody gets 24 hours per day. The Lord has decided that is the way it will be. All the hoping, wishing, and worrying in the world will neither add to nor detract from that total. The question that has to be put then is, "What are you and I doing with our 24 hours?" This is a question that deals with priorities in life. What types of priorities are we setting for ourselves, for our families?
I recently went to one of the local hospitals to visit a husband and wife who had just received their first child from the Lord. We had a most pleasant visit and I was particularly struck by the beauty of this healthy covenant child. The father and I left the room and went down to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee. While we were having our coffee, a mutual acquaintance came and joined us. After the usual social amenities I inquired about her children and husband. The children were fine, but her husband had just suffered from "the year-end rush" as she called it.
She began to recount how hard he had been working. He was also treasurer of the church, on a school board, had been helping a relative inside the house, etc., etc., until he became so tired that he was quite susceptible for a virulent flu-bug which led to dehydration, collapse, and two days in the hospital.
Fortunately, not every story has this type of ending. Yet, it is often in spite of us and not because we have set such good priorities in our lives that this type of thing fails to occur. "Burn out" is rapidly becoming one of the number one problems among Reformed Christians. Much of this "burn out" comes from failure to recognize personal stress levels and to act on those levels when they began to reach the danger level. Hanson's book can be most helpful in this regard.
To state the case more positively, let this statement be our guide: If my private world is in order, it will be because I have made a daily determination to see time as God's gift and worthy of careful investment. These words have been carefully selected in order to bring us back to the truth that our private world has to be ordered before we embark on our external activities. You would be surprised how little time, effort, and attention people give to the ordering and management of their God-given time. Christians are called upon to be stewards with each day given to them by the Lord.
One of the grave truths that face us today is that far too many have no concept of time management, and their lives — inwardly and outwardly — clearly show it! It is not entirely unusual that an elder in the church will be involved in two or more enterprises that, individually, would be a job in itself. It is precisely because we each receive 24 hours that realistic priorities must be placed.
The amount of sleep that each individual requires will vary. Most require somewhere between six and eight hours of sleep per day. There will always be exceptions to this. Most of us probably know people who can "get by" on much less. Each must make an honest evaluation of his or her needs. Having made this assessment, we must attempt regularly to get this amount of sleep. R.E.M (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is very important to all, regardless of how much sleep we require. Failure to get proper amounts of sleep will result in decreased ability to function properly and often manifests itself in terms of short-temperedness, irritability, and the like. The proper amounts of sleep and/ or short rests during the day should be scheduled. Obviously, to miss the required amount of sleep on occasion will not do despite to our health. Repeatedly missing the required amount will take its toll in the long run.
Most of us are not independently wealthy and have to work for our bread. The normal work day is eight hours plus travel time. For the sake of convenience, let's calculate half an hour each way to work, making the work day nine hours. If we add this to the average amount of sleep (seven), we conclude that just sleeping and working takes up 16 hours a day. This leaves us another eight-hour segment for other activities.
Many responsible Christians devote a portion of their time to work in the Kingdom. This entails everything from volunteer work of various types to serving as an office-bearer in a local congregation or serving on one or another board. If you are not presently devoting your time and effort in some capacity in church-related work, you should give serious consideration to doing so.
By giving serious consideration to this matter, you not only become actively involved in the Lord's work, but you also help to distribute the workload. If the church were a business, it would have gone bankrupt years ago! Why? Because in the church the situation exists that about 3 to 4% of the people do approximately 95% of the work. That is why it is imperative that more members of the congregation become active in the various activities ranging from Committee of Management to school boards, treasurers, trustees, etc. Within the body of Christ there are various gifts and talents which are to be used to the glorification of God's name and the edification of His people.
This is rapidly becoming the forgotten art and the forgotten joy. Reading is at a very low ebb in our time. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the advent of the TV. Why bother to read when you can be entertained in living color? Many spend up to nine hours a week watching sports on TV and yet complain that they have no time to read!
What happens when we watch TV? Among other things, the functioning of our fantasy drops to zero. We need not conjure up in our minds what a particular scene might be like, for it is before us. We simply have to watch. As a consequence, most stop keeping up with quality literature after their last English Lit. class either in high school or college or university, whichever comes first. Most of us recall being required to read certain books in school that we did not enjoy. That is no excuse, however, for having the choice and the availability and still not doing some reading.
This especially carries over into our reading of Christian literature. We do not take time to keep abreast of recent developments in Christianity; we fail to read biographies of great Christians; we sometimes fall into error because we are not abreast of what our own Reformed tradition has to say on certain issues, and the result of this is that we have recourse to worn-out, irrelevant, hackneyed phrases that resemble something from a curio shop but nothing that has to do with what is currently taking place around us.
There are no short-cuts here! Reading is a requirement. We must learn to reinstate reading into our time management in order that our lives might be enriched and that we, in turn, might enrich those around us. Most of the TV programs appeal to the lowest common denominator and are not all that enriching.
Recreation and Fitness
With as much information as is available on this matter, it seems that we need not spend any time on it. Yet it remains a problem that both children and adults do not take enough time to "play." Let's begin with the children. Fitness is at a deplorable low. Most school-age children cannot even perform the minimum requirements for physical fitness. A combination of excessive sedentary hours in front of the TV plus a diet of cola, ice cream and junk food aids this chronic and acute problem in Canada.
While this problem exists among the children, it is of epidemic proportions among the adults. We have forgotten how to play, haven't we? And yet, doctors tell us that cholesterol alone is not the culprit. Hanson states the problem thus: "The problem of fitness does not relate merely to adults. North Americans tend to start degenerating as early as age six (!), when they begin "organized" school activities. They usually have no regular exercise ritual at school and develop a tendency towards sedentary leisure activities such as watching television and playing computer games. It behooves us to remember that fitness is an acquired lifestyle habit, and should start in childhood."1
Many adults feel that they no longer have the "time" — remember, everybody gets 24 hours a day — for recreation in the form of exercise. But we are to be stewards of our bodies, too. In light of what we currently know, it is foolish not to take and make time for recreational exercise. And I'm talking here about exercise just for the "fun" of it. Recently I walked into the men's locker room of the "Y" where we have a family membership. A member was ranting and raving, and since our lockers were in fairly close proximity and I knew him from my regular visits there, I asked him what the matter was. He had lost his squash game! When I inquired why he played he said, "To win, of course!" I have to admit that when I play, I play to win, but it would be a very sad day if the score meant that much to me in my play time.
The main point is this: with all the available fitness possibilities, it is almost irresponsible not to get some type of recreational exercise. I'll live longer, right? I really don't think that anyone has proved that those who exercise live longer, but they generally have more fun. And having fun is also part of life in the Kingdom. Living longer is not necessarily the point. The point is living as a responsible steward with the body God has given me. Fitness does decrease stress if done non-competitively. Fitness done with a friend or husband or wife or child can add greatly to the sheer enjoyment of it. Our time is so short on this earth. One has to wonder why we spend so much time on solely serious matters and so little time having fun, too.
Just a word about smoking before we proceed. In this day and age it is virtually inconceivable that people would continue to smoke in light of all that is known about the deleterious effects that it has on the body, not to mention the problems caused to others by "second-hand smoke." All too often we throw around words like "commitment" in any given area, all the while puffing away. What about commitment with regard to smoking? We talk about the epidemic of AIDS — which is contracted through illicit sexual activity — but what about the epidemic of smoking? I would really like to see some "commitment" in this area of the Christian life!
When I Relax I Feel Guilty
Sometimes we really do, don't we? We just cannot conceive of sitting and relaxing when there is so much to do. We feel guilty about reading the paper or just sitting or going for a long walk just for the sake of doing those things and for no other reason. We are often driven people. Relaxation is a strange word, if it occurs at all, in our vocabulary. We are quite often the polar opposite of relaxation.
The Christian is a called person, but more often than not he becomes driven. The Christian is not exempt from the many stressful situations of life and far too often gets caught up in the vicious circle of being lived and exchanges his birthright, which is a high calling for a mess of porridge that is a drivenness.
Time magazine reported the following: In the past 30 years, doctors and health officials have come to realize how heavy a toll stress is taking on the nation's wellbeing. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, two-thirds of office visits to family doctors are prompted by stress-related symptoms. At the same time, leaders of industry have become alarmed by the huge cost of such symptoms in absenteeism, company medical expenses and lost productivity.2
Gordon MacDonald in his very helpful book3 offers eight characteristics of a driven person. Read them and see how you measure up:
A driven person is most often gratified only by accomplishment.
A driven person is preoccupied with the symbols of accomplishment.
A driven person is usually caught in the uncontrolled pursuit of expansion.
Driven people tend to have a limited regard for integrity.
Driven people often possess limited or undeveloped people skills.
Driven people tend to be highly competitive.
Driven people often possess a volcanic force of anger which can erupt any time they sense opposition or disloyalty.
Driven people are usually abnormally busy.
How did you do? Do we recognize our calling, or are we closer to being driven people? We could add one more to that list: The driven person does not manage his or her time. Far too many of us are abnormally busy. We are "gone" almost every night of the week for an "important" engagement or meeting. When we are home, we are incommunicative or irritable or both. Isn't it time you started managing your time better? Start today. Standing in the church hall one Sunday after a service, one of the members was being asked if he had read the book on time management that had been given to him as a gift. "No," he replied, "I haven't been able to find the time to read it." We all had a good laugh.
But people who are stewards of their time often are able to be better balanced in their lives and still get their work done. We can help each other balance our lives by pitching in to do our share. There are certain people who, because of their commitment to the Lord, are willing to involve themselves in many activities for the Kingdom. Others are willing to sit back and watch this happen. Why don't you start helping a brother or sister manage their time by sharing the work with them? Let's not be afraid, either, of letting others do the work. We shall find that they will be able to get the job done just as well if not better than we.
Let's all work to get our private lives in order, for if my private world is in order, it will be because, having faced up to what drives me, I listen quietly for the call of Christ.