Time is a precious gift from God, but it is also a limited resource that we need to use wisely. In this article, you will learn 20 effective ways to manage your time according to biblical principles and practical tips. By applying these methods, you will be able to accomplish more in less time, reduce stress, improve your productivity, and glorify God with your time.
Mastering the art of time management is a crucial skill for success in any profession. As a pastor, chaplain, and counselor, I have come to recognize the immense value of time in my daily pursuits. Balancing the demands of preaching, studying, writing, visiting, counseling, family commitments, personal well-being, and more can be an overwhelming task. However, through my experiences, I have discovered that effective time management is the key to unlocking productivity and finding fulfillment in our lives.
Join me on this journey as we uncover valuable insights and practical tips that will transform the way you prioritize, allocate, and utilize your time. By the end of this article, I trust that you will be equipped with a newfound understanding of time management from a biblical perspective, empowering you to make the most of every moment in your life. Let’s dive in!
Biblical Ways to Effectively Manage Your Time
Some of the ways you can effectively manage your time and improve productivity include:
1. Accept Your Limitations: Know your strengths and weaknesses and don’t overcommit yourself.
Accepting one’s limitations is essential for personal development and productivity. It entails knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and not overcommitting yourself. It is critical to be honest about your abilities and to avoid comparing yourself to others.
Say no to requests or opportunities that are outside your scope of expertise, and concentrate on what God has called you to do. This enables you to set attainable goals and effectively manage your workload.
Pushing yourself past your limits can result in increased stress and decreased productivity. Prioritizing tasks and making informed decisions allow you to work within your abilities.
Paul the apostle, who learned to accept his limitations in ministry, encourages others to follow in his footsteps.
“Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size — abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (2 Corinthians 12:10, MSG)
Learn to take your limitations in stride, just like Paul.
Remember that you are not the only one who has ever failed to meet a deadline. Accept your limitations and learn to forgive yourself. Don’t live your life in denial.
2. Manage Your Emotions: Don’t let your negative feelings control your actions
Managing your emotions is an essential aspect of time management. Our emotions affect our performance and decisions. Unmanaged emotions can lead to exhaustion, demotivation, and harm to your mental and physical well-being. When you manage your emotions effectively, you can stay calm, make clear decisions, communicate better, resolve conflicts efficiently, and build positive relationships.
Emotions play a significant role in our lives. They can have a significant impact on your work, decision-making ability, and overall health. Unchecked, our emotions can either motivate us or distract us. Therefore, we need to acknowledge and express our emotions in healthy ways, not suppress or ignore them.
We all face setbacks and failures, and it’s completely normal, natural, and human to feel bad when we fail to meet our deadlines. However, it’s critical to learn to control your emotions after setbacks. Don’t resort to destructive behaviors like breaking things or going on a spending spree; instead, take care of yourself and your property. Don’t cause harm to others.
So, it is critical to cultivate emotional intelligence (EQ) in order to recognize and manage your emotions as they arise. In his article “Why Emotional Intelligence Is Important for Your Success,” Travis Bradley argues that:
“[Emotional Intelligence] is likely the single most powerful success factor yet discovered, affecting everything from job performance and annual income to mood and satisfaction in life.”Travis Bradley
Another important aspect of emotional management is turning your frustrations into learning opportunities. This approach can help you learn from your mistakes, improve your emotional intelligence, and become more resilient in the face of adversity.
Remember, if you are having difficulty managing your emotions, it’s perfectly okay to seek professional help. Mental health professionals can provide you with the tools and strategies you need to regulate your emotions more effectively, leading to better mental and physical health, improved work performance, and stronger relationships.
Ask God to sustain you like David prayed:
LORD, sustain me as you promised, that I may live! Do not let my hope be crushed. (Psalm 119:116, NLT)
You can turn your frustrations into learning opportunities. If you are having difficulty managing your emotions, you can seek professional help.
3. Eliminate Distractions
Managing time effectively in the face of distractions can be tough. Constant interruptions, such as electronic notifications, social media, emails, and coworker disruptions, can lower productivity and make tasks take longer.
To combat distractions, establish a quiet and clutter-free workspace. Remove all electronic and non-electronic distractions during your work hours. This includes disabling phone and computer notifications, resisting the temptation to constantly check emails, social media, phone calls, and texts. Limit internet access to work-related tasks, turn off the TV, radio, and music players, and schedule specific times for email and social media checks to reduce distractions.
Identify activities that waste your time and find ways to avoid them. Creating a physical barrier to interruptions, like selecting a quiet, well-lit location with good ventilation, can be helpful. Placing a “busy” or “do not disturb” sign on your work desk or door can reduce interruptions from friends, family, and colleagues. By implementing these strategies, you can create an environment that fosters productivity, reduces distractions, and helps you maintain focus on your work.
Proverbs 4:25-27 advises,
"Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil." (Proverbs 4:25-27 NIV)
This timeless wisdom from Proverbs underscores the importance of maintaining a focused and undistracted mindset. When managing your time amidst various distractions, it’s crucial to heed this guidance. By keeping your eyes fixed on your goals, contemplating your actions, and avoiding unnecessary detours or temptations that lead you astray, you can enhance your productivity and stay on course. Proverbs reminds us that a steadfast commitment to our tasks and values can help us navigate the challenges of managing our time effectively in a world filled with distractions.
4. List Down Your Tasks Hierarchically
Don’t overwhelm yourself with thoughts about the complexity of the task at hand. List the tasks for the next day in the order of importance and urgency right after work or before you go to bed. You can make a paper list, an online list, or use an app to make your list.
Handle the complex tasks first. Todd Stocker, author and speaker, emphasizes the importance of breaking down tasks in his book Refined by stating, “Before you eat the elephant, make sure you know the parts you want to eat.”
Handle the complex tasks first. Todd Stocker, author and speaker, emphasizes the importance of tackling the difficult task first. Stocker writes:
“Before you eat the elephant, make sure you know which parts you want to eat.”Todd Stocker
Make your list as realistic as possible – list down what is feasible and attainable. An overwhelming list will discourage you even before you begin working. Break your tasks down into smaller, more manageable and achievable microtasks. Handling tasks in small chunks makes them easier and less intimidating.
Taking each task one at a time will help you clear the work log. Therefore, make a list of your tasks and prioritize them.
5. Set Self-assigned Deadlines for Each Task
It is good practice to set self-assigned deadlines for each task. You can do this by dividing your work into phases or sections. Then you need to estimate the time it will take to complete each task. You can then set the due dates and timelines accordingly. Also, the deadlines you set should be reasonable and achievable. Add extra cushion time to your deadline for the inevitable. It is these small wins that count at the end of the day.
6. Work at an Optimal Level
As the day progresses, your energy levels decrease. Working at a lower energy level reduces your output. Because your energy level varies throughout the day, it is critical to identify the times of day when you are most productive.
Work on difficult tasks when your body is at its peak. Ideally, schedule your most difficult tasks for the early hours of the day, when your mind is still clear. Set aside the easier tasks for later.
7. Set Physical Reminders or Use Apps
Reminders are very important. In our formative years, whether at home, school, and church, we are taught to set reminders. In our adult life we set reminders for meetings, birthdays, anniversaries, deadlines, street names, house numbers, et cetera.
Some of the benefits of using reminders include:
- Reminders help you set dates and time for events or task – making it hard to miss on any
- Reminders keep you focused on the tasks at hand
Traditional reminders like the sticky notes, diaries, and journals are lifesavers. For example, you can write down your tasks for the day on a sticky note and place it at an appropriate and convenient place where you can easily access it as you work.
You can also set your reminders electronically using your device (smart phone, tablet, computers, digital watch, etc.). For example, smart phones come with native calendar features which you can use to set your tasks and corresponding reminders for the day. If the in-built features don’t meet your needs, you can download a reminder app for your device.
There also web based apps and email services which offer reminders and note-taking features. When choosing a note taking app, consider its speed, integration, simplicity, and ease of use. An app that is minimalist in design is easy to operate. Some of the best reminder and note-taking web and apps in the market today include:
Notion, Bear, Evernote, Ulysses, DropBox Paper, Google Keep, SimpleNote, Super Productivity, ProofHub, Slite, Notability, IFTTT, Web Clipper, Forest App, Pomodoro Technique Timer, Twist, Asana, Todoist, and many other.
8. Set Rewards and Consequences
Rewarding yourself for the tasks accomplished encourages performance. Incentives motivate people to stretch their limits. The reward or treat that you set for yourself needs to be relevant and serve its objective (to encourage you to do more). Tony Robbins a motivational writer and speaker explains why it is important to reward yourself for the tasks done:
“By rewarding yourself in the moment, your brain elicits positive emotions, leading to the realization that your efforts result in a positive reward. By doing this continuously, your brain will start to link pleasure to accomplishing the task or objective and move towards it in the future.” ~ Tony Robbins
The reward could be something you enjoy doing or something that makes you feel good. For example, set apart some leisure time activities to celebrate your wins. Also, you may watch your favorite TV or Netflix movie, listen to music or anything that interests you.
The consequences could be missing out on the reward for failing to meet your deadline. Set deadlines for each task with corresponding rewards and consequences.
9. Say No To Requests
As a human being, there is a limit to what you can do at any given time. It is easy to fall into the trap of taking in more than you can handle. Don’t commit to requests when you know your plate is already full. Learn to say no to things, events, or people that distract you from your tasks.
Learn to turn down requests to avoid getting overwhelmed by your workload. Over-commitment is the road to ineffectiveness and failure. There is nothing wrong with saying no to a job, task, or assignment that you can’t deliver right on time.
Firmly and respectfully decline any requests that would crowd out your other commitments. Saying no boosts your self-control. As a pastor, I’ve found myself in a situation where I over-commit and have less time for myself. I have learned the hard way to turn down requests. You too need to learn when to say no and when to say yes.
10. Mind What You Eat
Your health is your greatest investment. Take care of your health. Eat a well-balanced diet regularly and don’t skip your meals. Healthy eating helps you avoid diseases and ensures longevity. Ron Friedman, a psychologist and regular Harvard Business Review contributor, argues that your diet affects your productivity:
“Food has a direct impact on our cognitive performance… Just about everything we eat is converted by our body into glucose, which provides the energy our brains need to stay alert. When we’re running low on glucose, we have a tough time staying focused and our attention drifts.”Ron Friedman
Wholesome meals boost your energy levels, increase alertness, and boost your immune system. All work and exercises with little or no regard to the nutritional value of the food you eat is detrimental to your health. The Bible admonishes us to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil — this is God’s gift to man. (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, ESV)
11. Rest and Workout Breaks
Taking breaks between tasks rejuvenates your brain. Breaks relax your mind and improve concentration. When you are tired you are less productive. If your working environment is sedentary you can do some workouts during the break time. Dawn Earnesty, a Michigan State University community nutrition evaluation specialist wrote about the importance of workout breaks at work:
“What may be news to some is that small workouts at work or taking a workout break in the middle of the day provide endless benefits. A workout or short exercise at work may improve job performance, productivity and the overall workplace environment.”Dawn Earnesty
Use the breaks at your workplace to do some physical exercises and reap these “endless benefits.”
You may be wondering, “Are break time workouts really effective? Yes, the short workout sessions during the break time are effective. According to the Journal of the American Heart Association bouts of ten minutes or less of physical activity have substantial health benefits:
Despite the historical notion that physical activity needs to be performed for a minimum duration to elicit meaningful health benefits, we provide novel evidence that sporadic and bouted MVPA (moderate‐to‐vigorous physical activity)are similarly associated with substantially reduced mortality [emphasis added]… Practitioners can promote either long single or multiple shorter episodes of activity in advising adults on how to progress toward 150 min/wk of MVPA [emphasis added].
What then do you do during the short breaks at work? You can take short walks, do light stretch ups, and light aerobics. Use stairs instead of the elevator when moving from one floor to another. Receive your phone calls while pacing in your office or corridor as opposed to answering calls while you are seated. If you spend time working with computers, then you need some eye break intervals.
Adopt healthful daily routines like having a regular time for sleep, which refreshes your mind. Regular waking time, physical exercises, and plenty of water taken orally and outwardly invigorate your body and the brain. This will greatly enhance your performance at work and will help your brain to function properly.
12. Get Sufficient Sleep
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, getting enough quality sleep at regular intervals improve your ability to function.
Your ability to function and feel well while you’re awake depends on whether you’re getting enough total sleep and enough of each type of sleep… If you aren’t getting enough sleep, are sleeping at the wrong times, or have poor quality sleep, you’ll likely feel very tired during the day. You may not feel refreshed and alert when you wake up.
Stick to a regular sleep schedule. A resource from Harvard Medical School highlights the benefits of sleep to our well being:
Scientists have gone to great lengths to fully understand sleep’s benefits. In studies of humans and other animals, they have discovered that sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions.
Do not deprive yourself of sleep in the name of being productive. More work hours don’t translate into more productivity. Quality instead of quantity of work is the key to success. For optimal performance get sufficient sleep. Go to bed early and wake up early. Before retiring to your bed, turn off all kinds of distractions. For example, switch off some of your electronic devices. Also, you can switch off your radio and music player. Put your phone on silent mode or switch it off. Set up your alarm to wake you up right on time.
Albert Schweitzer, a theologian said:
A man can do only what he can do. But if he does that each day he can sleep at night and do it again the next day.Albert Schweitzer
The Bible teaches that it is not our sleepless “anxious toil” that gives us success. Trusting God is what makes us successful and gives us a peaceful night’s rest:
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:2, ESV)
Depriving yourself of sleep is intemperance. Sleeping too much is detrimental to your progress. The Scriptures warn:
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. (Proverbs 24:33,34, NIV)
You need to strike a balance between work and sleep. Shun laziness.
13. Avoid Negative People
Some people can be unreasonable at times. Every society has had its share of controlling people. You need to learn how to handle people with micro-managing tendencies, especially those who wield a lot of power. You need to develop a thick skin to provocative and judgmental people. Also, avoid pessimistic and uncooperative colleagues at work. Stop thinking about them. Think about people that matter in your life like your family (who are the reason why you are working). Remember, you cannot change the people who resist you, but you can manage your reaction towards them. But also, don’t put up with their difficult behavior.
The Bible instructs us to pick our associates wisely:
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm (Proverbs 13:20, ESV)
15. Put Your Heart Into It
I remember reading a story from a The Literature Evangelist, a colporteur magazine, about a trainee circus performer who was reluctant to jump over a series of metal bars.
The circus trainer appealed to the trainee’s desire by posing a question, “Do you desire to be a celebrated performer?” The young trainee answered, “Yes, sir. I aspire to become a great performer.”
The trainer retorted, “You can’t be a great performer just by dreaming. Throw your heart over the bars and the rest of your body will follow.” The young trainee obliged and threw himself over the metal bars and was successful in his first attempt.
Why did the instructor command the trainee to act against his fear? It is because the trainer understood that the young man could only succeed if he overcame his fears. For the young trainee to realize his dream, the desire for greatness had to be greater than the fear and risk of missing the metal bars.
That day marked the beginning of a new chapter for the young trainee. He followed his coach’s advice and went on to become a celebrated circus performer.
The moral of this story is that there is nothing that can stand in the way of a determined person. If you “throw your heart” into your job, task, or assignment there is no limit to what you can achieve. Throw your heart into your projects and tasks and success will follow you. The Holy Writ admonishes us that:
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might , for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going [emphasis added] (Ecclesiastes 9:10, ESV).
16. Maintain a Positive Mindset
Optimism is key to getting on top of things. There is a positive side to every failure. Focus on the positives of your failures. Your present predicament is not the worst situation you have ever been in.
It cannot possibly be the worst mistake you have ever made. If you consider it keenly, you will find that it may not be as bad as you think. Don’t dwell so much on what has happened focus on the future. Winston Churchill once said,
The further backward we can look, the further forward we can see.Winston Churchill.
When you look “backwards” (your past) you’ll find the motivation to look forward (your future). The Holy Bible encourages us to keep a forward focus:
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)
17. Practice Proper Ergonomics
Nothing is as good as working in a comfortable environment. Poor body posture in your working environment can lead to muscular-skeletal disorders. Uncomfortable body posture affects your muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, and nerves.
Ensure that you work in an environment that is comfortable, safe, and secure. For example, get a comfortable seat for your office space, walk around, and stretch in between tasks. If you implement good ergonomic practices in your work, you will witness an increase in your output. You will become more efficient.
18. Utilize Your Commute Time
Utilize your commute time to sort out your thoughts. Keep your mind engaged between appointments (as you wait in the queues, waiting lines, benches, or take a commuter train). Commute time is a good time to passively brainstorm potential answers and solutions to your problems and tasks.
It is impossible to do everything by yourself. You need helping hands. Your colleagues and juniors at work can help you perform certain tasks. You can also train others and entrust them with tasks to lighten your workload.
In my work as a pastor, I have a team of trusted church elders to whom I have assigned different tasks and this lifts off the administrative burden off my shoulders. The apostle Paul understood the power of delegation and instructed Timothy, a young elder, to delegate:
And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2, ESV)
Delegation of tasks frees up your time giving you room to perform other duties. You won’t be able to achieve much unless you enlist the help of others.
20. Trust in God
Recognize God in your planning. Acknowledge God in your plans and tasks. In prayer, lay bare your plans before God. The psalmist encourages us to:
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 16:3,6, ESV)
Remember, your times are in the hands of God.
My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! (Psalm 31:15, ESV)
By and large, the above suggested ways of managing your time are in no way exhaustive. These suggestions are not one-size-fits-all solution. Apply what works for you. Of importance is to come up with systems that work for you.
Remember, our life on earth is brief. Our days are numbered. James, in his epistle, reminds the first century Christians, as well as those of the 21st Century, that our years are limited.
…Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4:14, ESV)
If then our life is transient like “mist that appears for a little time,” then we need to be careful how we use our time. Besides highlighting the shortness of life, the Bible also, in several verses, emphasizes the importance of applying wisdom in time management. For example:
We are to conduct ourselves wisely.
“Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” (Colossians 4:5, ESV)
We are to walk wisely.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15,16, ESV)
We are to apply a heart of wisdom.
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
We are to know proper time.
Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. Ecclesiastes 8:5
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17, NIV)
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