Time Stretchers

Do you often feel as if there are not enough hours in the day?  Do you wish sometimes you had the ability to freeze the hour, so you could get more things on your to-do list done? Do you feel as if you’re drowning in a sea of projects with no definite date of completion anytime soon?

Our lives are more than our to-do lists, but I relate.  Recently I looked at our dining room table at the thick piles of papers that I needed to go through, and  I thought, “I have GOT to tame this paper tiger!”   Too much clutter can cause you to spend needless time sorting through piles of paper, looking for what you really need.   I took one afternoon to tackle it, and felt such relief!

I also realized that much of my time was being swallowed up in activities like spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter, and surfing the web.  Ask yourself, is this activity helping me to achieve my goals and make the use of my time? What can I do to stretch out the hours of my day?

Here are some time stretcher tips to help you with your busy day.

Dedicate your time to God. He is the one who created it.  Proverbs 16:9 (Amplified Bible) says, “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure.” Jesus often went away alone to the mountains to pray, to hear God’s voice. He then did specifically whatever God directed Him to do.  Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”  (John 4:34)   

Some of the stress and time evaporation that we are experiencing may be because we’re doing things that God doesn’t even want us to do (and that includes all the “good things” that we do sometimes). When we obey God, we will spend our time in the most efficient way, and have the time to do what is really important.

Write everything down.  This is essential to effective time management. Zig Ziglar says in his 7-step goal-setting program, See You At the Top, that writing goals down makes them real and tangible, and keeps us from mentally bailing out of the goal.  He also says to set a deadline, identify obstacles, write down the people who can assist you in reaching the goal, list the goal’s benefits, list the skills necessary for the goal, and develop your detailed plan of how to reach the goal.

 I have goals for 2009 written in my journal, as well as on my laptop and in my Franklin Covey DayOne organizer.  I use the calendar in our kitchen and my organizer, to write down appointments, birthdays, anniversaries,  phone numbers, email addresses, websites, passwords, etc.  I also love post-it notes, and use them voraciously for article, blog, or podcast ideas, reminders of an appointment, to-do lists, grocery staples, etc.

Get rid of clutter. If you’re always trying to find something that you need in that huge pile of papers on your desk or in your drawer, you are wasting time.  Sort through it, and organize your mess into categories, like “File in insurance folder,” “Bills caddy,”  and “Throw away.” (The last one is my favorite.)  As soon as you get junk mail, toss it!

Don’t get sucked into the black hole of Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. Yes, they’re fun and necessary for networking, but do you really need to look at all the pictures of your co-worker’s kids eating watermelon at the July 4th party?  Set aside a certain period of time that you will allow yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, etc. If necessary, set a timer. Then get off, and get to work! And did you know that you don’t have to blog every single day, or read all your favorite blogs every day? (Gasp!) 

You don’t have to answer the phone. I know, how rude!  But the phone is a HUGE time-waster. Record a friendly message for both your house phone and your cell, and then check your messages at lunchtime, on break, or the end of your day.  Then call them back when you aren’t working and have time to talk (unless it’s another sales call!). Sometimes family and friends won’t understand if you’re “working at home,” why you won’t pick up the phone.  Because you’re working, and if you talk on the phone, you won’t get anything done!   

The same goes for answering email. Thank God for the spam folder. Unfortunately, not everything that you need to trash in your email inbox goes into the spam folder automatically, such as those forwards, telling you that if you send this to eight people, you’ll get a miracle. The miracle I would like is to get no more of those annoying forwards.  Set aside a certain portion of time during the day to go through emails. I try to delete the ones I don’t want to read as soon as I see them; otherwise, I’ll be overwhelmed with emails to move to folders later.

Do all your errands at once. When we used to live 12 miles outside a bigger city, I would do all my errands on one day a week, to save gas and time.  Even if you live inside town, this will help eliminate so many gas and coke runs, and help you check off most of those things on your to-do list. 

Set some time aside to play. Sometimes I just have to get up and stretch, and walk away from my computer. It is often hard for me to relax and do something like watch a movie. My family is used to the fact by now that if I am watching a movie, inevitably I will be up ten minutes into the start of it.  There just seems to be so much more to do than to watch a movie for two hours!  But we need to learn to have times of recreation so we won’t burn out. Go for a walk with your husband, go shopping, go swimming at the pool, invite some friends over for dinner, and to just talk and laugh. Your productivity will increase significantly from intentional recreation.

Plan menus for the week and keep groceries stocked. How often have you begun to cook dinner, and discovered you were out of onions, garlic powder, or that can of cream of mushroom soup that you needed for the casserole?  Laying out the meat first thing in the morning will help you not to panic at 6 p.m. when your husband walks in the door, and asks what’s for dinner. Write down your dinner menu for each night of the week, and make sure you have all the ingredients for the meal.   You can often save money by buying certain items in bulk, so that you don’t run out of staples as quickly. 

When I married Ray, I inherited a collection of cookbooks, that I have been exploring this year (he has prayed for years for me to actually start using them).  Planned meals save time.  The crockpot is one of my favorite kitchen accessories, and is a wonderful time saver, especially on those days when you’re facing deadlines or working hard on an important project.  You can also cook and freeze meals ahead of time, that can be quickly defrosted for a quick, delicious meal. And sometimes your husband can be the chef  (in our family’s case, this is the preference, even though I’m primary cook. Ray is a great cook!)

Tap into the human resources department.  This means put your kids to work.  When I was growing up, if our father ever saw us laying or sitting around, he would immediately assign chores like washing the huge, front , wrap-around porch of our Victorian home, or vacuuming the entire house.   At the time I didn’t appreciate it, but now I do because I have a strong work ethic.

You can begin training even small children to empty trash baskets, fold wash cloths, and put their toys away.  Older children and teenagers can do their own laundry, dust, and wash dishes. I do most of the housework in our home, but I am beginning to realize that our teenager Leah can help me out quite a bit, especially when I’m working on an article or a book chapter. Having everyone in your family pitch in with the chores will add more hours to your day.

Take care of yourself. We have all heard it, but do we do it?  If you’re eating healthy,  drinking enough water, exercising, taking your multi-vitamins, and getting enough sleep, you won’t wind up getting run-down and sick, being unable to accomplish the important  things you need to do.  Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), and if you don’t take care of yourself, then you won’t be able to fulfill your purpose in life and finish the work God wants you to do.

 Say to yourself, like Scarlett O’Hara, “After all, tomorrow is another day!”  No matter how well-organized or efficient you are, or how hard you work, there will still be something left to do. Do what you can, and leave the rest in God’s hands. Put work aside for the day, and enjoy spending time with God, your family, your friends, and    yourself.  Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, “Live joyfully with the spouse whom you love all the daysof your vain life which God has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.” 

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