The Habits of Time Management

Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

Proverbs 16:3,9

Stephanie Beals (’99), a Master’s University alumna and manager of global leadership development at healthcare and research company Abbott, has traveled the world to speak to major companies about organization, productivity, leadership, management, teambuilding and more. Recently, she came to speak about time management with the students, faculty and staff of the music department —a program known for its strenuous time commitments.

“College can be (some) of the most selfish years of your life,” Beals’ mom had told her as she went into her freshman year. “Remember it’s not all about you. It’s also about how you impact others and use that time for the Lord.”

Time is a stewardship just like money, energy and relationships are, and Beals suggested that people look at the big picture before determining how to manage their time.

What is our purpose?

For Christians, that can be found in the final words of Christ before His ascension: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matt. 28:19-20). We are first dedicated to what God has planned for us on this planet, including evangelizing, baptizing, teaching and observing all He has commanded.

In light of that, we can consider our top five roles. For some that may include wife or husband, daughter or son, mother or father, church member, employee or employer, friend, etc. The amount spent focusing on these separate roles fluctuates from week to week and how we prioritize them impacts those relationships.

Even outside sources recognize this. Coca Cola’s former CEO, Brian G. Dyson, gave an applicable speech: “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them—Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spirit—and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls…are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same.”

Once you have established your roles, move on to your strengths and abilities. We will give an account for the stewardship of those as well. To which tasks are you more averse? Which ones do you enjoy and do well?

Once you have identified those three things (your larger purpose, your roles and your abilities), choosing which tasks to manage becomes less tiresome.

Beals suggests:

  • Set S.M.A.R.T. goals.

  • Specific

  • Measurable: e.g. walking 10,000 steps every day

  • Achievable: attainable

  • Results oriented

  • Time-bound: there is an end in sight rather than an ominous “one day it’ll get done”

Once you set those goals, scheduling time to get them done becomes easier.

Set aside time to schedule, schedule your scheduling. Schedule time to plan your week. Thirty minutes is ideal and make sure to put it on the calendar, same time and place each week. “Connect with your roles and then connect with your goals” during this time, Beals said. Then, each day, take time to schedule that day either the night before or the morning of. “What am I saying yes to? What am I saying no to? Why am I making those choices?

“Look at the big rocks when it comes to the week,” or essentially look at the things that you don’t have freedom to move, such as your class or work schedule. Look at the commitments that you have previously made and keep them, or look ahead before making them and ask, “Plausibly, will I be able to make this?”

“Remember to sharpen the saw,” or take care of yourself physically. Get sleep and exercise; eat well. Beals gave an example: “If you needed gas in your car you would stop for gas. You wouldn’t be looking at the empty gauge and say I can keep going. We need to take care of ourselves so we can function.”

Stick to the 60-40 principle. Don’t overschedule or have everything down to the minute from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. the next day. Have 60 percent of it set and then leave about 40 percent for flexibility.

In the end she reminded the audience, “Don’t be afraid to fail” and then use those failures as opportunities to do better the next time.

Stephanie Beals’ time management book list:

Theatre Preview: Over the River and Through the Woods

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