Spending My Time Well: How to set priorities

“’I have the right to do anything,’” you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” – 1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV

I am a champion time waster. I dawdle over social media. I perform low priority tasks to procrastinate over completing more important matters, fearing my efforts won’t measure up. Then, I decide I’m too busy to engage with friends because I would rather crawl into my introverted shell than engage.

In the 1960s, a best-selling business book Tyranny of the Urgent was written by Charles Hummel. This book discusses the tension between urgent and important. Do I give into the pressures others place on me to complete a task or create pressure of my own without weighing importance before I choose where to spend my time? What things scream “now” that rush me to react before I stop to weigh importance? How many unimportant “urgent” requests have I let hijack my life?

In the above passage, Paul details why Christians should not participate in sexual immorality. The same verse is repeated almost word for word in 1 Corinthians 10:23 where he talks about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Paul offers a principal to live by. We should not live to please ourselves but to remember that our life choices testify who we are. As Christ-followers, we should live to point others to Christ.

So the question is, what masters us? What gets us off track, or out of balance, as we try to live in Christ? Do emotions master us? Does entitlement? Are we self-centered when we should focus on others? Maybe, like me, you do not use your time as well as you could. Maybe your nemesis is something else.
To find God-given balance, we must look to God. If I were to lay open my planner before you, it would reveal how I spend my time. But more than that, it will reveal my priorities.

Making Wiser Decisions

Two weeks ago, I adopted a new practice (writing this post convicted me). In my morning time with God, I now lay my day before him. I ask, what should stay? What must go? I seek His guidance for making decisions throughout the day about how I spend time.

God has yet to reach down and mark through an entry or to add one. But, I am more aware through the day that the phone call from a friend who needs to vent may be an assignment I need to take even if I dread picking up the phone and am tempted to let it roll to voicemail. I recognize that a detour in my route to the gym may be an invitation to open my eyes to something I had not noticed before–perhaps an opportunity for service.

I want my time wasters gone! I want to rest in God rather than mindless activities. I want to be alert for opportunities to serve others, stretch myself and say yes. I want to write regularly, because I feel that is the main work God has called me to in this season. Following His plans helps me find balance and rest for my soul.

I also take a sabbath because I believe God can use me to accomplish what I’m assigned to do in six days. I prioritize a day of rest and worship without feeling the pressure of my schedule.
I’m older than most of you. In this season of life, I am compelled to finish well and point as many to Christ as I am able in the time I have left on earth. I regret I have not always recognized the importance of this attitude. I excused myself, thinking I’d get to certain important tasks when work was not pressing or when resources were more abundant.

I will leave you with this quote from Elizabeth Elliot: “If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to him and ask him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”

12 responses to “Spending My Time Well: How to set priorities”

  1. Thanks Loretta. I find myself in a strange season of not being busy, having experienced two big losses, and I feel like I’m wasting all my time. Maybe God has me in a season of rest, but I still have to keep my eyes open for what He has for me next.

    1. Melanie, rest is good too. You had a season of giving a lot! This is likely a time of recuperating and preparing. God takes good care of his girls!

  2. “What gets us off track, or out of balance, as we try to live in Christ? Do emotions master us? Does entitlement? Are we self-centered when we should focus on others?” These are difficult but necessary questions. This is a great reminder for our daily time with God!

  3. I love that daily practice you’ve developed. It’s similar to my own, though your post reminded me I’ve been slacking lately. The quote from Elizabeth Elliot has had a huge impact on my life by challenging me to evaluate my schedule in light of eternity.

    1. Jana, I was slacking too but recently convicted again to be more diligent.

  4. Thanks for sharing! God has been convicting me of taking a Sabbath too. If I let Him guide my calendar, I won’t feel like I have to fill Sundays with errands, but instead can rest in Him.

  5. A perfect time for this Ms. Loretta. I was asking myself these very questions while working on yet another “To Get Done” list for this week. I had to ask myself, “Where did you leave margin for God?” Some of these things are important and needed. Some are even God-honoring in their intent. But I fill my schedule so full that I don’t leave space, or time, for God to re-route or re-prioritize my days so He might use me. I can’t become a slave to my rigid schedule. Well said ma’am. God’s blessings!

  6. Very good thoughts! And that quote at the end convicts me! Thanks for sharing!

  7. I loved the post and shared it.

  8. Katherine Pasour Avatar
    Katherine Pasour

    I struggle with “busy-ness” so I eagerly read your wisdom in hopes that it will rub off! I’m not a procrastinator, but I tend to overbook myself. Thanks for your focus on what really needs to be our priorities. I know it–but, the reminder is very timely for me. Thank you!

    1. Katherine, clearly we share struggles with priorities from time to time. God provided wisdom, because I needed it.

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