Wednesday 24 April 2013

Focus and Schedules: The Spirituality of Time Management

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


I am a busy person (read: I run around like a headless chicken, trying to get some work done). I often complain that I do not have enough time to accomplish all that needs to get done. For the longest time I have mismanaged my time … somewhat. I don't have a problem; I have “time” issues. Even though I often find myself rushing to places, double-booking myself, missing deadlines, I've never attempted to tackle my “issue” and solve this mismanagement of time. See, I am too perfect (read: lazy, cynical and full of denial) to have a problem.

Last week, I found myself especially bogged down by work and by the amount of things I had to do. It seemed to me that there was not enough time for me to get all my work done. On my way home from work, I called my friend Tiffany. I moaned and whined about my inability to cope with my work load for a good while. Tiffany listened patiently and asked a few questions about my ordeal. At the end of my grumble, she told me, “Santi, you have been complaining about this for the last year. You can either do nothing and continue whining about it, or you can learn how to better manage your time and bring your game to a whole new level.”

I was startled by her response, but she was totally right. It was a moment of grace. The message came through loud and clear: “Quit complaining and get better at managing your time.” Over the last week, I have been reading about and listening to videos related to time management. I invested my time doing this because I hoped to find some good and practical tips to improve the way I employ my time.

One of the books that I read is Marshall J. Cook's Time Management: A Catholic Approach. According to Cook, God has given exactly as much time as we need to live out our Christian vocation. Time management is simply the way of seeking a balanced, healthy Christian life. After all, the great men and women who inspire me – and the ones that inspire you – were given the same amount of hours as us each day. St. Benedict of Nursia only had twenty-four hours a day to pray, write and teach. Johann Sebastian Bach only had twenty-four hours a day to compose and play his music. Dorothy Day only had twenty-four hours a day to advocate distributism and become active in the Catholic Worker Movement. Amelie Earhart only had twenty-four hours a day to set records and write best-selling books about her life as an aviation pioneer.

This past week has been an invitation for me to get rid of distractions in order to live a more balanced life. St. Ireneaus came to mind during the weekend: The Glory of God is the human being fully alive. “Am I fully alive?”, I asked myself. “Because if you are not, you are not glorifying God.” I realized I had a problem. With God's grace I am hoping to change that. I am hoping to build some good habits that will make my talents more available in helping to build God's Kingdom.

Some of you might also be struggling to manage your time. I would like to share with you five of the best tips I that I have found from my research:
  1. Get up early in the morning. I know what you are thinking: What? Get up early? Are you crazy? I am a bit crazy, but almost everyone writing on time management and living a more balanced life speaks highly about getting up early. Most of them advocate getting up about five o'clock in the morning. When you get up early, you have more time to focus yourself and build up your energy level: exercise, pray, read, have a good breakfast.

  2. Exercise first thing in the morning. It helps you feel better and gives you all the energy you need to accomplish your goals. It improves your health and it is fun. It is good for your mind, body and soul.

  3. Prepare for your day. Don't go through your day by simply reacting to things that come your way. Organize your schedule and visualize your day. The things that are scheduled are the things that get done. Set goals daily. Write five goals that you want to accomplish for the day. Prayer is an important part of the way you prepare for your day. Pray for those you will encounter that day. Pray for the graces you need for that day.

  4. Embrace your monsters. Do the things that you are most afraid to do. The things that scare you the most are the things you should do first every day. Don't let fear drain your energy. Tackle your greatest challenges.

  5. Less technology, more humanity. Facebook and Twitter are great; they allow you to connect with others and to share your ideas. But too much technology and social medial can actually become a hindrance. They also become a distraction. If you are checking Facebook every thirty minutes, you cannot get anything done. If you are texting while you are supposed to be studying or working, you won't accomplish your goals. Don't let technology become a distraction. Get more done, and when all your work is done, take the time to go out with a friend, call a family member, or meet new people.
Time management is always an exercise of discernment. We are called to discern the best ways to live out our call to praise, serve and reverence God. We cannot give ourselves fully to that purpose if we are bogged down by distractions. We cannot love and serve God and his people if we lack energy and focus. Take the time to find the best ways for you to renew your focus and commitment to build God's Kingdom. God is inviting us today to take up the cross and follow him. He gives us the gifts, the focus and the time to do so.

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