Making the Most of your Time

Posted: June 26, 2017 in Making the Most of your Life

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All right, it’s time to get off YouTube and write this thing. I’ve been watching videos for the last hour. Not a great start for this topic, I know. It’s because my lesson for you is to demonstrate what not to do. So, uh, don’t do that.

If you’re married and raising kids, take everything written here with a grain of salt. This really isn’t meant for you because I’m not qualified to teach you about this topic. If you’ve got a family, the nature of time management is wholly different than for those of us who are single. I’m the last guy you should take advice from because, if I’m to be real with you, I have no idea. If anything, I should be taking advice from you.

Anyway, single folks, without further ado, let’s eat this thing and see what comes out the other end.

Why do we care about making the most of our time? Well, if you’re anything like me, you often wish there was more of it. Like right now. It’s Monday night, and I have to go to bed early in order to perform well at work tomorrow. You see, this phenomenon occurs because time is a precious commodity. If you don’t know how to make the most of it, you’ll go to sleep every night feeling robbed.

Life’s short, people. Sometimes it’s easy to forget, especially if you’re young. But forgetting doesn’t change the reality of that – the fact that time is a finite resource that has to be managed.

The Active Ingredients of Time Management

You may want to manage your time well, but without disciplining yourself to make it a habit, the effort is wasted. It’s hard to spend your time wisely if you are the one in control of it (as opposed to when you’re at work and your boss is in control). So, in order to make headway, you’ll have to discipline yourself to develop good time-management habits.

To do this, it’s imperative that you maintain a healthy and active mind. Do what you need to keep it sharp and maintained. A couple notes about how to do that:

Alcohol is fine, but only in moderation. Getting drunk will cloud your mind for days. And I know for a lot of people drinking is their favorite hobby. I’m not here to rain on your parade – what you do isn’t my business – but I’m telling you: Spending multiple days in a row with a clouded mind isn’t just a waste of your time, it’s also a waste of your quality of life.

But I digress. If keeping a sharp mind means taking supplements like fish oil or some weird vitamin, knock yourself out. Personally, supplements aren’t my thing. For me, having a quick brain usually just means spending time with the Lord every day and not playing video games for too long in one sitting. Something about that ruins my focus.

But the number one thing you must do to keep a sharp, healthy mind is to get enough sleep. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stayed up too late and then performed like garbage the next day at work. It’s like walking in a haze. Sleep deprivation will make you miserable and stupid, and even worse, it’ll put you in a foul mood. Being in a foul mood isn’t fun for you or those around you, and if you’re not careful, it’ll damage your reputation – all because you stayed up too late. I don’t fancy myself a genius, you know, but in my humble opinion, not sleeping enough is a dumb reason to ruin your life. In my novel, I wrote a chapter where the main character actually got fired for that.

So, in a nutshell: Time management requires discipline. Discipline requires an active mind, and an active mind requires, at minimum, the right amount of sleep. Those are the active ingredients you’ll need to make the most of your time.

How much time do you have?

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Bob threw his alarm clock out the window and decided he’d rather be unemployed. Don’t be like Bob. Finish this article and use your time wisely.

Since time is a finite resource, allocating it properly means you must recognize how much of it you have. Some people have more of it than others, obviously, so how you make the most of it will be unique to you specifically.

If you think about it, budgeting time is a lot like budgeting money. People who are wise with their money always know how much of their paycheck to put where. Some of it goes to utilities, some to savings, some to groceries, and so on. And if they’re fortunate, some of it goes to things they enjoy but don’t necessarily need.

Time is the same way. Measuring it out will give you the perspective you need to budget it effectively.

By the way, here’s another similarity time shares with money. If, when you measure out and budget your time, you find that you have little or none of it to yourself, consider setting goals that’ll allow it to happen in the future. Lots of people set financial goals so they can buy things they want. I think time works in a similar way. Granted, you can’t “save” time to spend later – sure – but you can aim your life-goals in a way that will eventually allow you to spend more of it on yourself.

Deciding what you want from your Time

I think one of the coolest things people don’t realize is that they can make time work for them instead of the other way around. If time wears the pants in your relationship with it, that’s a problem you should deal with.

I realize some of you don’t have time to spare (understandably), and I encourage you to focus on the previous section of this essay until that changes. This section doesn’t apply to you yet. Aim your life goals toward gaining free time. Then, once you have it, come back!

If you do have discretionary time, however, then your primary goal ought to be mastering it. To do that, you’ll have to decide what you want from your time. What activities do you aspire to accomplish in a typical week? Are there certain books you want to read? Perhaps a workout regimen? Maybe even a video game. It all varies, and you may not be able to do everything you want if there isn’t enough time for it. If that’s the case then, again, I urge you to set goals for yourself that’ll one day allow it.

For me, outside of work there are six primary things I like to accomplish during the week. They are: working out, fiction reading, non-fiction reading, blog-writing, fiction-writing, and spending time with my parents. On top of that, I like a certain amount of time to enjoy not being productive (because this is about what I want from my time). I’ve created a schedule that allows me to do all those things in reasonable quantities each week. It’s all divvied up in a healthy and enjoyable, yet productive way.

I force time to give me what I want. That means Monday through Thursday, I’m regimented and productive. I mostly derive satisfaction from what I do, so it doesn’t burn me out.

Friday evenings are a totally different story, though. After I get home from work, I’m disgusting. I am a pig. And most importantly, I am relaxed and having fun. All I do is watch Netflix and play video games and eat take-out Chinese food. Sometimes I feel sociable enough to stop being a reclusive loser and go out with friends. On Fridays, I don’t even go to the gym because, well, I don’t want to.

And all of that feels great because my week up to that point has been a productive one. There’s no guilt or shame in not getting anything done on Fridays because I planned it that way, and I did it for no other reason than I want to and because I can.

The bottom line is this: I make time work for me. If all goes according to plan – and it mostly does – my week has a healthy measure of both productivity and relaxation. Doing this creates a critical balance to making the most of my life. Don’t forget that Ecclesiastes elaborates on this extensively, so it’s well-worth doing.

If and when the day comes that I get a girlfriend, I’m sure this whole schedule-thing will be beautifully wrecked.

Forget I said that.

Let’s talk about being Regimented.

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“Hey, Tim, my man-nipples are bleeding.”

It’s my belief that if you’re going to start being productive, you might as well be good at it. The most effective way to do that is to be regimented based on your priorities and necessities. Don’t try to cram too many things into a too small amount of time, though, or you’ll get burned out. If you can, stagger tasks across multiple days. Build a schedule that allows you to do what you like without having to feel rushed. For me, I set aside plenty of time to get each task done. My day goes smoother and is more satisfying that way.

I start each morning with the Lord and a cup of coffee, and then I get ready for work.

Once I get home, I relax for an hour before dinner, usually by watching Netflix or playing a video game. That helps transition my mind from work to evening tasks so I can better focus on them. You might not be someone who plays video games or likes Netflix – and that’s okay – but I recommend doing something you enjoy before starting everything else.

After dinner, my focus is fully directed toward fitness and reading and writing.

I also plan out my day on a notepad and put a check box next to each task. I don’t know how well that would work for you, but it usually does a pretty good job keeping me on target. It stops me from forgetting things, and my notepad stays in front of me on my desk so I always see it. Of course, you should use whatever system works best for you. It might be something totally different than what I do, and that’s fine as long as it helps.

Let’s talk about why you should sometimes not be regimented.

Being regimented is great for staying on task and maximizing productivity, but it’s also mentally tiring. I would argue that keeping up with it indefinitely is bad for your mind, and it’ll prevent you from fully relaxing when it’s time to do so. Even if you have a regimented schedule that says, “I will relax from such-and-such a time until whatever o’clock,” you’ll still be thinking about that schedule and, in my case, marking off that check box.

Take a break from it a couple days a week. For me, that’s the weekend. Even on Saturdays when there are things I want to get done, I don’t make a list. There’s no schedule I follow. I just sort of do it, and if things don’t happen perfectly the way I’d like, my attitude is such that it’s not a big deal.

When it’s time to relax, do it right.

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When a macro lens is used on an awkward pants-fold.

Earlier, I touched on how I like to relax. As you saw, when I relax, I relax hard. I only have one goal in mind, and that’s to forget everything else. It’s a mental break.

Sometimes it’s impossible, of course, but if you discipline your brain to focus on things that aren’t related to work or your regimented time, you’ll be able to relax in a more complete, fulfilling way. Do whatever you can to forget about things that stress you out. Focus your energy on the things you enjoy instead, and do it in a care-free way. Don’t bother measuring out your time when you want to take things easy.

And finally, be adaptable with your schedule because life is unpredictable.

Stuff happens. Sometimes (a lot of times), you’ll have a plan, a regimented schedule, and someone will come along and mess the whole thing up. They’ll spring plans on you, and you’ll decide whether to tell them yes or no. You’ll have to weigh the value of their request. Time is something you can never get back, so is what they’re asking worth it? A lot of times it will be, and a lot of times it won’t.

The other day, my mom and sister asked if I’d get dinner with them. It was a weeknight, so if I went, it’d throw off my entire list, and I’d have to cut something out of my schedule. So, I picked out which item on my list mattered to me the least (which was video games), and decided to not play them that day. It turned out that not playing video games didn’t free up enough time. I had to cut something else out too. It ended up being the gym.

Guys, spending time with my mom and sister instead of doing what I wanted was the correct choice. A word of advice: When it comes to deciding what’s worth sacrificing your time and what isn’t, family usually is. Outside your relationship with the Lord, family should always be the next most important thing. Life’s so short it’s scary. I’d rather have mine spent with those I love than doing nothing but the things on my list. Productive tasks won’t carry into eternity, and I’m sure the Lord will give me plenty of time for them later.

People aren’t the only things that will cause sudden changes in your schedule (obviously). Sometimes there will be emergencies, or you’ll catch the flu, or whatever. The point is to make sure you can adapt. Plan how you’ll do it, which items on your list are the most valuable, and try not to get frustrated when it happens. As great as good time management is, don’t take it too seriously.

I once heard a joke. I’ve heard lots of jokes, and I’m known for making awful, stupid ones, but this joke is awesome because it holds one of life’s most important truths. You’ve probably already heard some version of it, but I’ve modified it to better apply here.

One day after work, a funny-looking IT-guy (that’s me) got alone to pray. There was a lot he wanted to get done and only a certain amount of time to do it. He had a regimented schedule all written out, and he even brought the list with him to take before the Lord.

He told God all about his plans. One item after the next, he asked God to make sure things happened just the way he wanted. Surely, he thought, the best way God could possibly bless him would be to make his plans become reality.

But God’s response was simple. He let out a chuckle of endearment and said, “What – you mean to tell me you have plans?!”

When a wrench is thrown in your schedule, be on the lookout for what God’s doing. Whatever it is, it’s for the best, so you might as well relax and let Him do His thing. There’ll be plenty of opportunities for your own time-management later. I guarantee it.

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This clock can tell the future, too.

Comments
  1. Melanie says:

    Travis, I really enjoyed reading your blog post, Making the Most of Your Time. It sounds like God has been working across the board in your life– professionally at JFB, in time management practices, and in the way you view life (and its eternal impact). Very cool. I know that your parents must be very proud of who you are in Christ and how you’re budgeting your time and talent. Keep the talent flowing via your blog!
    – Melanie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like this a lot!! And it helps me to understand why you do what you do. And I will support you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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