I once worked for company where time management skills were exceptionally valued, beyond the standard expectation that workers would arrive punctually, focus on their duties and put in a full day.
In this office, every task (down to the use of paper clips) was assessed for efficiency by the organization’s leader, who read the latest books by the top business gurus and expected his staff to do the same. Our executive’s goal was to get us all to “create efficiencies” and “streamline operations” so we could “maximize deliverables.”
The required reading list for that job particularly irked me; for one thing, every book cover featured a picture of a smug-looking author, whose casual dress and folded arms suggested that he or she had probably retired early because of devotees like my boss. But there was another reason I was annoyed by this homework: I’ve always been terrible at time management.
I’ve often joked that my problems with deadlines began at birth, when I arrived on my due date just shy of midnight, with the calendar poised to flip to the next day. Throughout childhood and adolescence, mornings were a pitched battle between me and my parents, who struggled to coax me out of bed. “Five more minutes!” I would plead, burrowing under the covers.
I missed school buses, begged for extensions on term papers, pulled countless all-nighters in college and kept boyfriends waiting for dinner. “Why must you leave everything to the last minute?” demanded family, friends and coworkers in a Greek chorus of frustration that has echoed throughout my life.
The answer, quite honestly, is that all too often I’ve wanted to do things my way and on my schedule. And as a new year hails the season of self-improvement, that’s a strategy I’m earnestly working to revise.
But instead of stocking up on the latest business bestsellers, I’m cracking open the Bible.
Scripture has quite a bit to say on the subject of time management, and most of it can be distilled into one simple maxim: do things God’s way.
That’s not necessarily the advice a Fortune 500 management consultant would dole out, but practically speaking, we fare much better when we discern what the Lord asks of us and, with his grace, follow his will.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the builders labor,” the first verse of Psalm 127 declares, and how often have we proven this truth in our own lives. We weep over heartaches God never meant us to suffer: burdening ourselves with excess possessions and debts, ruining our health with overindulgence, struggling to preserve toxic relationships, relying on ourselves instead of on the Lord who gave his very life for us.
Somehow we always think we can shortcut our way to success, whether through crash diets, risky investments or taking the back roads to the Jersey Shore. If we’re running late (or not), the speed limit mysteriously becomes recommended, not mandatory — until the traffic ticket or, worse, the car accident. Dull as it may seem, obeying the rules of the road is a way of honoring God while saving ourselves precious time in the long run.
The ancient Israelites proved that the Lord knows how to maximize the moments of the day, and that human willfulness can cause tragic delays. Led by Moses out of Egypt, the liberated Israelites embarked on what should have been an 11-day journey (Deuteronomy 1:2) that turned into a 40-year sojourn in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 1:3-8). A golden calf, incessant grumbling, cowardice and mistrust of the Lord led to an entire generation’s death in the desert.
Retaining God as our management guru is far less expensive than hiring a consultant, and pays off in eternal dividends. When we recognize that our times are in his hands (cf. Psalm 31:16), we can humbly implore the Lord to “teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart” (Psalm 90:12).
And that’s a deliverable worth more than all the business advice in the world.
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