Adapted from Personal Disciplemaking by Chris Adsit (used with permission)
The disciple has a basic understanding of the principles of time management and has begun to utilize his time better.
BIBLICAL BASIS FOR THIS OBJECTIVE
In Scripture, time is seen as a precious commodity which God commands us to invest wisely. We each have been given time to accomplish everything God wants us to do. Eventually, we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and account for how we used the time He entrusted to us. The following passages underscore these facts. Why not look them up and jot down a brief summary of each in your disciplemaker’s notebook? Or had you already thought of that?
PEP TALK FOR THE DISCIPLEMAKER
“Time management? Right up there with prayer and the filling of the Holy Spirit? With the holy stuff? I thought these training objectives were to help our disciples grow in Christilikeness. How could you bring up a subject so mundane as time management?
My defense of the inclusion of this topic is very simple.
Life on earth is short—and it gets shorter all the time. And we want to have a positive impact for Christ on our world in the few hand-breadths of time we have remaining, right? But for most of us, making it through each day is a lot like wrestling a gorilla. You can’t stop when you get tired; you stop when the gorilla gets tired. How in the world can we take on any more? How can our disciples?
You are asking a lot of your disciple—to make an additional two to five hours a week available to you and to the Lord. Eventually, as he matures and develops a ministry, that may go up to around twenty to thirty hours a week. Where will he find the time? Where can you find the time to keep ahead of him? It doesn’t matter how high and holy our world-changing intentions are if we don’t have the time to carry them out.
As David Dawson, founder of Equipping the Saints Ministry wrote, “The real difficulty is not the lack of time but what we do with the time we have. Since we can never accumulate, stockpile, replace or turn back time, we must learn to control it as it passes. If we fail to manage our time, nothing else in our lives can or will be managed.”
Life is one big exchange. We give our time to an employer in exchange for money. We give our money to a store in exchange for food. We give our food to our bodies in exchange for energy. We give energy to our wives in exchange for a checked-off “Honey-Do” list. Through it all, the main coinage is time. It’s what starts the transaction and it’s charged to our account all along the way. Time is our number one resource. We may want a million other things—money, love, a motor home, maturity—but what we’ve got is time. You can’t stipulate how much time you start with, but it’s completely up to you what you’ll exchange it for.
Some exchange it for nothing. At this writing the average American spends more than one-fifth of his waking hours in front of a TV set. So each year, he has spent every sentient moment from January 1 to March 13 doing nothing but stare at a cathode-ray tube. Some exchange it for junk. Maybe you’ve seen the slogan on a bumper sticker or T-shirt, shouting in puzzling triumph, “The one who dies with the most toys wins!” That really is the motivating credo of millions of people today, whether they realize it or not. But in the end, all the toys are worthless. They break down, are stolen, get worn out, or are left behind on this world when their owner goes to the next.
Some, on the other hand, exchange their time for gold, silver and precious jewels, the kind talked about in 1 Corinthians 3:11-14…the eternal kind.
We want to throw our lot in with that last group, and we hope our disciples will too. But we can’t tell a busy housewife how important it is to set aside an hour a week for Bible study, and not tell her where to find that hour. We can’t suggest to a harried account executive that he find twenty minutes a day to pray when he’s already sprinting from dawn to dusk. We’ve got to help them organize the secular so there will be enough room for the sacred.
Actually, disciplemaker, this training objective is as much for you as for your disciple. If you struggle in this area, inadequate time management is hindering your ministry, and I urge you to assimilate these principles along with your disciple.
BROACHING THE SUBJECT
First, see where your disciple is on the matter of time. He may be more squared away on it than you are! Ask him a few of the following questions:
Have you ever thought about your specific purpose or mission in life? I don’t mean “as a Christian” or “as a human,” but “as YOU.” What do you want to accomplish in the seventy-five or so years you’ve been given on earth? (If he can answer…) Do you feel you are accomplishing your purpose?
What are some of your major goals in life? Do you think those goals line up with goals that God has in mind for you? (Or, How does God fit into those goals?) What specific steps are you taking toward reaching those goals?
What are your top five priorities in life? How do you rank them in order of importance? Now, how would you rank them according to the amount of time you spend on each one each day? How do those priorities line up with your life’s purpose and major goals?
Do you often feel that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything you’d like to do?
Are there some activities eating away at your time that you wish you could get rid of? (If so…) What are they?
Have you got a system of time management that you’re pretty satisfied with? (If so…) Would you mind sharing it with me?
Do you conduct your affairs with the aid of a personal calendar and “to-do” lists?
SUGGESTIONS FOR GROWTH
When it comes right down to it, the battle for effective time management is won or lost in our ability to make intelligent, consequential decisions regarding day-to-day activities. Most of our time is frittered away, not on bad things, but on needless things. We make tons of decisions every week about the use of our time, often the wrong ones. But one cannot make those decisions intelligently unless he has some overriding frame of reference with which to evaluate the pros and cons of each decision.
Major companies each have a “Mission Statement,” a succinct way of expressing why they exist and what they’re trying to accomplish. General Motors might say, “We exist to produce the best cars and trucks in the world.” When someone comes to the company executives and proposes building the world’s best lawn mower, they confer. “Does this fit in with our mission statement? Well, it says here that we exist to make cars and trucks. A lawn mower doesn’t fit either of those categories. Thumbs down.” Someone else comes along with a proposal to make car engines less expensively, but sub-standard. “It’s good to save money, but we’re committed to making the best. Give him the boot.” Another fellow proposes a state-of-the-art, computerized, fuel-injection system. “Let’s see—it goes in a car or a truck, it will make GM fuel-injection systems the best in the world. This looks like a winner! Let’s start production!” Their mission statement has helped them say no to activities that would hinder their function, and yes to the ones that would help.
We individuals should learn from those conglomerations. The principle that is vital to their existence ought to prove beneficial to us.
But before we can come up with a mission statement, we have to figure out what’s important to us—our priorities. If we don’t have a clear idea of what we value, we aren’t going to know the first thing about using our time wisely in going after it. You rarely hit what you can’t see.
Christians, particularly, need to set their priorities. “What’s on God’s heart? What’s important to Him? In light of eternity, what is of utmost value to me?” When a person has answered those questions, he’s ready to decide how best to utilize his time now in going after his priorities.
So the construction of an effective time management system should proceed according to this sequence:
- Determine life priorities
- Determine life mission statement that reflects priorities
- Determine major goals that will combine to make the mission statement functional
- Determine intermediate goals that will help in reaching intermediate goals
- Determine short-term goals that will help in reaching intermediate goals
- Determine a schedule that will allow for the reaching of short-term goals and will screen out unnecessary activities.
To help your disciple get established in the area of time management, we’ll follow that order. One of the first things you should do with your disciple is share the above sequence with him so he’ll know where you’re taking him.
1. Determine Life Priorities
A. Priorities from God’s perspective.
To construct a criteria by which you can make day-to-day decisions regarding your use of time, you have to start at the top of the list: life priorities. As Christians, we want to subordinate our priorities to God’s priorities, so we need to find out what those are.
Start by reading Matthew 22:37-40 together. Here Jesus describes what man’s two greatest concerns should be: (1) loving God; and (2) loving his fellow man. Write those two commands at the top of a piece of paper. These priorities are listed in other passages also: Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Micah 6:8; Acts 24:16; 2 Corinthians 4:5.
Next, let your disciple brainstorm a little about what might be entailed in those two priorities. Ask him something like, “What are some ways you and I could do those two things? How do we go about loving God?” You’re looking for general activities such as:
|Loving Fellow Man|
|Obey Him||Help the poor and needy|
|Trust Him||Encourage the downhearted|
|Learn about Him||Fellowship with them|
|Communicate with Him||Tell them about Christ|
|Do things for Him||Help them grow spiritually|
|Put Him first||Take care of my family|
|Don’t be ashamed of Him||Don’t hurt anyone in any way|
|Worship Him||Serve them|
If he has a hard time getting started, help him by suggesting a few yourself. List at least six things in each column.
Now, using the bottom half of the paper, go into more detail about each one. Encourage your disciple with, “Say that starting tomorrow, you wanted to begin making some of these activities a habitual part of your life. Taking them one at a time, and keeping in mind your unique gifts and circumstances, what could you do to start?” You’re looking for “specific activities” here, things like:
· Obey Him
—Study the Bible to learn His general commands
—Take steps to comply with them
—Forsake the sinful things I know of that I’m doing
—Spend time in prayer asking God to help me obey
· Trust Him
—Study the Bible to find what it says about trust and faith
—Talk to somebody about the doubts I feel
—Pray and ask God to give me more faith
—Think of something to do that will require me to rely on God for its outcome
B. Assessment of present personal priorities.
The next step is to see how your disciple’s present priorities stack up against God’s priorities listed above. At the end of last week’s assignment (Training Objective #10), you asked your disciple to write out a schedule of one of his typical weeks. Hopefully, he has brought that with him. Have him take the schedule and run through the “Priority Assessment Exercise” here:
We each are given 168 hours a week. How do we spend them? In the blanks provided (or on a separate sheet of paper with its own blanks), have your disciple examine his personal schedule and write in how much time he spends each week on each listed activity.
Priority Assessment Exercise
____ Family time
____ Visiting with others
____ Relaxing; personal time
____ Exercise program
____ Home and car maintenance
____ Class and homework
____ Bible study (preparation and meetings)
____ Dressing, shaving, shower, make-up, etc.
Realizing that we find time to do the things we feel are important, this exercise will help your disciple see where his current priorities lie. A person may say church attendance is important to him, but if he rarely goes, he has cause to wonder.
Have your disciple total his hours. The difference between the total and 168 hours should be considered “lost time.” With some people it doesn’t amount to much, while with others it’s quite significant. The latter will be appalled, and will immediately begin keeping a lookout for unexplained “time leaks.”
Now go back and look at the lists of general and specific activities you’ve already written. How does his current use of time fit his idealized, Christ-centered list of activities? How much of what he’s currently doing wouldn’t fit anywhere on the first two lists? More important, how much of the specific activities list fits into his current activities list? Should some activities be added to the first two lists?
Unless he’s already exceptionally mature spiritually, he’ll see quite a distance between the first two lists and the third. This should motivate him to begin changing. Make sure he understands that all Christians start with flawed priorities. One of the primary reasons God gave us the Holy Spirit is to help us make list 3 line up with lists 1 and 2. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not necessarily easy, but if we’ll cooperate with God, He’ll bring it to pass.
2. Determine Life Mission Statement That Reflects Priorities
A personal mission statement simply expresses what one is accomplishing or hopes to accomplish. It probably will include answering needs he feels uniquely qualified and deeply burdened to meet. Bobb Biehl asks on his Masterplanning Arrow,[ii] “What needs make us weep or pound the table?”
Above all else, the mission statement should reflect the disciple’s personal priorities talked about above. Biehl defines this statement as being made up of three important characteristics: “directional” (taking you somewhere; accomplishing something), “umbrella” (taking in everything you do), and “lifetime” (on-going; never completely accomplished; never needing to change).
Here are a few examples of personal mission statements:
Mine: “To cooperate with God in His program to conform me to the image of Jesus Christ, using all my available resources to serve Him, my family and my fellow man mainly through a fruitful ministry of disciplemaking, writing and speaking.”
David Dawson, founder and director of Equipping the Saints Ministry: “To walk in daily fellowship with God and to order my life and family in accordance with the Word of God so that we are daily exchanging our lives for the fulfilling of Christ’s Great Commission.”[iii]
John Klein, associate national director of Athletes in Action: “To love the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind and my neighbor as myself, and to be a good steward of the resources God has given me, glorifying Him in all that I do.”
Bobb Biehl, founder and director of Masterplanning Group International: “To love God and my fellow man and to show this love by helping people see life with increasing clarity and know how to cope with life’s pressures and challenges.”
Terry Valentine, associate director of admissions, Spring Arbor College: “To make disciples in all areas and among all peoples toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission, providing vision, strategy and training in prayer, evangelism and discipleship, working through the church where viable and directed toward society in general.”
This might be a good note on which to end this session with your disciple, giving him the assignment to spend the coming week formulating his own personal mission statement. You might need to call him once or twice during the week to remind him, primarily so that he won’t throw it together during the five minutes before next week’s meeting. Encourage him to spend a good, solid hour working on it—he’ll need that kind of concentration.
3. Determine Major Goals That Will Combine to Make the Mission Statement Functional
The next three steps, the setting of major goals, intermediate goals and short-term goals, are pretty well known and widely used strategies of time management. I like the way Richard Furman, M.D., talks about them in Reaching Your Full Potential.[iv] His succinct, down-to-earth capsulization of weighty principles stands out to me. About a major goal, he says, “Set it and never change it.” These are the big, long-term dreams that we might spend months, years or decades pursuing. All of your major goals balled up and stirred together will accomplish your mission statement. The mission statement is the car; the major goals are the wheels that enable the car to roll along.
Dr. Furman’s first major goal was to become a surgeon. That’s no small feat. One of my major goals is to become a writer. The more specific a goal is, the better, but at the major goal level being specific is not crucial. The day Dr. Furman completed his surgical residency, he could say, “Today I have reached my goal.”
Some goals are like that, quite specific. Mine, however, isn’t. When I was a college athlete, I could say, “I’d like to be a writer,” and the goal was made very clear by its contrast to what I was doing at the time. The road to “writer” was very distinct from the road to “professional athlete,” “car mechanic” or “insurance salesman.” As time passed and I became an administrator for Athletes in Action, the goal started to get fuzzy—the contrasts weren’t as sharp. I did some writing, true, but it was utilitarian, things like slide shows, memos, reports, proposals. It didn’t really represent my earliest visions of “a writer.” For that reason, I needed some more specific intermediate goals. But we’ll talk about them in a minute. The first step is to just get some major goals down on paper—specific or not.
Have your disciple come up with some of his goals. These could deal with some or all of the following areas of his life:
1. Spiritual 5. Financial
2. Physical 6. Family
3. Personal 7. Social
4. Vocational 8. Political
What would he like to see happen within the next twenty or thirty years? What would he like to look back upon when he’s seventy? What would it take for him to be able to say at the end of his life, “I have no regrets”? Raise a family? Become a commercial pilot? Move to France? Earn a million dollars? Compete in the Olympics? There must be some specificity—it wouldn’t do to have as a goal, “To be happy,” for instance. One must then ask, “What is it that would make me happy?”
After he lists his major goals, (there might be anywhere from two to ten) see if they fit in with his mission statement. If they don’t either the goals or the statement needs to change. It’s OK for him to change the mission statement, by the way, especially during these early days when he’s still trying to figure out what’s important in his life. Frequently, when one starts thinking in terms of specific goals, the picture of the life goals clears up considerably. Also, he may want to revise it as he matures in Christ and gets a clearer picture of God’s mission for him.
4. Determine Intermediate Goals That Will Help Reach the Major Goals
Intermediate goals are stepping stones to the major goals. All of the intermediate goals stacked up equal one major goal. Remember Dr. Furman? The first intermediate goal he set for himself was to get accepted to medical school. That gave him something pretty specific to shoot at—and rather imperative. It was his first stepping stone. If he couldn’t accomplish that, he could forget about becoming a surgeon.
My first intermediate goal in becoming a writer was, “Find out if you have any talent.” If I had none, I should either forget the major goal, or take measures to get some talent. The next intermediate goal was, “Publish an article or book.” Then, “Publish five articles or books.” And finally, “Publish a bestseller.” My desire was to serve Christ by having a fruitful ministry through writing, as mentioned in my mission statement. I figured that if there were quantity (five books and articles) and quality (a bestseller), those would be strong indications that I had indeed achieved a “fruitful ministry through writing.” I have not yet accomplished all of those goals—but I’m working on them!
Have your disciple look at each of his major goals and, in the light of wise use of time, formulate the intermediate goals necessary to reach them. If he wants to become a commercial pilot, he’ll first need to get his private pilot’s license, then his commercial pilot’s license, then get a job. If he wants to earn a million dollars, maybe he first needs to get out of debt. Then perhaps he needs to get a degree in finance. If she wants to raise a family, her first goal had better be to get married. Then she should have a baby. Very important.
5. Determine Short-Term Goals That Will Help Reach the Intermediate Goals
The next question the goal-setter needs to ask himself is, What can I do right now to get the ball rolling toward that first intermediate goal? His answer will be a list of short-term goals. During his second night in college chemistry, Dr. Furman realized that his entire goal structure depended on what he did that night. If he did poorly that night, he could fail a test. If he failed a test, he could get a low grade for the course. If his grades were low, no medical school. No medical school, no surgeon. Conversely, if he did well that night, the doors would continue to swing wider and wider along the way to that surgeon shingle. It all depended on how he used his immediate time, and that was: “Study now.” He had to say no to friends who wanted him to join them for football and pizza. Nothing wrong with pizza or football, but he had determined that his mission, his major goal, his intermediate goal, the whole operation hinged on what he did, not next week, not in the morning, not later today, but right now. His first short-term goal: “Set study time each day and never depart from it.”
In order to find out if I have any talent as a writer, I set short-term goals to talk with specific people I knew would be honest with me. They had read a lot of what I had already come up with, and without putting them on the spot, I was able to get their candid opinion. I don’t know what you think, but they thought I had potential. Next I set a short-term goal to submit an idea to a publisher, along with a brief selection of the piece, in order to see what the pros thought. I accomplished that and they also gave me the green light, in the form of a signed contract! This signified to me that I did indeed have some talent as a writer. Not that it didn’t need a major tune-up, but there was talent, nonetheless. The coast was clear to move on to my next intermediate goal: Publish an article or book. You hold in your hands the fulfillment of that goal! So now it’s two down, two to go!
Have your disciple examine his intermediate goals one at a time and write out the stepping stones required to reach each one. These should describe specific activities in clear, concise terms hooked to a time frame. He may come up with twenty to thirty of them, so he should wade through the list and underline the ones he can handle within the near future. Those become his short-term goals.
This list may look suspiciously like a to-do list, but it has a grand purpose—to move him toward the goals God has set before him. It’s a list of specific activities that have their roots sunk deep into his life’s mission.
6. Determine a Schedule That Will Reach Short-Term Goals and Screen Out Unnecessary Activities
The second-to-last mile in this journey is traversed when the short-term goals are placed on the disciple’s schedule. The last is when they are completed. “Desire accomplished is sweet to the soul!” (Proverbs 13:19) It’s not likely he’ll ever taste that sweetness if he doesn’t get those desires onto a timetable!
Make sure your disciple has a personal calendar. It could be a month-at-a-glance type, week-at-a-glance or day-by-day. It all depends on how much writing per square inch needs to go on it. It can be a “Day Timer,” or a “Snoopy and Friends,” or even a bunch of lined paper in a notebook. If one has a calendar, one can schedule things. If one can schedule things, when someone calls one to do something one doesn’t really have time for, one can truthfully say, “One is busy at that time. How about some other time?” That’s an important key to mastering your time—knowing when and how to say no. If your disciple schedules the activities that reflect his priority structure, people will not be able to come along and fill up his days and nights with pursuits he doesn’t really value. Like the saying goes, “If you don’t schedule your days, someone else will do it for you—and you probably won’t like it.”
Here are a few practical hints you could pass on to your disciple (and to yourself) about this matter of managing your time effectively:
A. Make sure you are filled with the Spirit, asking God to control your days. If you’re not, you may be adding things to your schedule that He really doesn’t want in there, and leaving things out that He wants in. As Gordon MacDonald wrote, “To bring order into one’s personal life is to invite His control over every segment of one’s life.”[v]
B. Re-evaluate your mission statement, major goals and intermediate goals periodically. People change. They grow up. They get smarter. They figure out things they didn’t know before. For these reasons, we can’t assume that the goals we work out today will remain static the rest of our lives. It’s a good idea to get away for a half-day all by yourself to ask God for whatever input He’d like to have as you think through your goals. You will probably find it necessary to change them from time to time. Set aside a time for this about every six months—that means put it on your schedule today!
C. Schedule your days, weeks, months, years. As I said before, if you don’t, someone else will. Another tired but very true cliché is: If you fail to plan, plan to fail. The important things get scheduled, the unimportant things don’t happen at all. Which category do these things belong in?
Personal Bible study time
Call Mom on her birthday
Personal prayer time
Son’s football game
Have neighbors to dinner
Daughter’s dance recital
Date with wife
If you don’t get them on your calendar, they’ll buzz right by you and you’ll miss out on some of the most meaningful things in your life.
A couple of other activities you should include in your schedule are relaxation and family time.
By relaxation, I don’t mean playing softball or fishing or sleeping at night. I’m talking about a little time each day, and a longer period once a week, when you can just do nothing. Total rest, physical and mental. Daydream. Look at the trees outside. Decompress. This will keep burn-out and mental and physical exhaustion at bay. If you don’t schedule relaxation, it’ll get crowded out—and you need it. If someone wants you to do something of low priority to you during your relaxation time, you can honestly say you’re booked.
As for family time, I work all day, and often at night, too, but each evening from 6 to 8, at least three evenings a week (but usually five), I hold jealously for my wife and daughter. They also get Sunday afternoon, and it’s a rare day when I let someone else have it. People who have accomplished much in the world’s eyes at the expense of their families die just like the rest of us. You rarely hear them lament from their death beds, “If only I’d spent more time at the office!” We can learn from them.
D. Use to-do lists. Prioritize them daily. What’s the most important short-term goal you have today? Write it at the top of a piece of paper and put a big #1 next to it. What’s next most important? Write it down and put a #2 next to it. List these goals as far as you need to go. Then, set about doing #1. Don’t stop until it’s done, no matter how long it takes. When it’s finished, go on to #2 and hammer away at it ‘til it’s flat. Then move to #3. You may not check off your entire list, but you’ve gotten the most important things done, and they’re the ones that really count. The rest can wait until tomorrow.
E. Just say no. When someone tries to get you to commit some of your hard-won time to something that does not lead you toward your goal, kindly, graciously, patiently, and with utmost decorum say, “WHAT?!! ARE YOU CRAZY? FORGET IT!!” Or something to that effect. If you don’t have the guts to say no right then and there (or if you’re not real sure what to say), just tell them you’d like to think and pray about it a while. After that, if you’re still convinced it just isn’t the best use of your time, get back in touch with them and say, “I just don’t think I would be able to give it the time and attention it deserves. But I really appreciate your asking me!”
F. Don’t fritter away your time on non-essentials. Do the insides of the trash cans really have to be spotless? Does the tree house need four coats of paint? Do I have to wash the car every Saturday? Can I leave a little dust on the garage floor? I know this will sound heretical to some, but I believe that we have to do some things in a mediocre fashion in order to have the time to do important things well. In Mark 7:31-37 Jesus took the time to do an excellent job of healing the deaf and dumb, but less important tasks, such as paying a non-essential tax or setting up a room for the Passover meal, He delegated (Matthew 17:24-27; Luke 22:7-13).
G. Get rid of “time-eaters.” Assuming you did the Priority Assessment, were you amazed at how much time you spent watching television? reading the newspaper? browsing through magazines? These enterprises will eat up your time before you know what’s happening. You might be better off making the ruthless decision to cancel your Mad Magazine subscription, or cut off your cable TV, or not take the paper.
H. Multiply your time. If you look, you’ll find that many times during the day you could be doing two things at once. Driving, standing in line, waiting for a bus, waiting for an appointment, cooking, and walking are all prime time for doing double duty with Scripture memory, meditation, reading the Bible, listening to teaching tapes, writing letters, prioritizing your to-do list, etc. If it’s not too redundant to say it, kill “dead time” wherever you find it!
I. Pray Godly perspectives and priorities into your life. Look up the following passages and add the appropriate ones to your daily prayer list:
1. This world is not my home; I’m just a-passin’ through.
2. What time I have here should be invested for God’s kingdom through the spiritual gifts, natural talents and acquired skills God has given me.
3. God is the Master, I am the slave. He owns me and my time.
4. Time is running out.