This is the third in a series on becoming more disciplined in your life and ministry …
5> BE AWARE OF TIME
I have never known a person who lacked awareness of time who was self-disciplined. Successful people, people who accomplish things in life, are time conscious; they know how they spend the time they have, and they understand that every minute matters.
“If you become aware of the importance of time, you’ll have a different concept of time, valuing of time, and how you must exercise control over your use and others’ consumption of your time in order to have a reasonable chance of achieving your goals and tapping your full potential. You’ll have new awareness of how your time is used or abused, invested or squandered, organized and controlled or let flow about at random”
(a quote from my files – author no longer known)
So, a self-disciplined person is aways conscious of time and what they must do to maximize their efforts. As I get older I have become more aware that time is slipping past me, my days are numbered, and my time is limited. I think we become more aware of this as we age, but it is true no matter if you are seventeen or in your mid-seventies as I am.
If you want to maximize the time you have, then I recommend that you do two things that I do continually (learned from a former mentor)….
A> Set upfront expectations
Have you ever noticed that the completion of tasks often fills whatever time we allot to it? If you have to get an article written and you give yourself a week to do it, the writing takes a week. If you give yourself a day, it takes a day. If you say to yourself, “I have to get this done in two hours,” it will take the entire two hours. The same kind of thing happens in meetings — unless you set expectations up front.
When I meet with people, I always tell them the time frame that we will be together. I also mention that if they are going to be late they need to let me know. And, I wait only ten minutes and then if they are not there I leave and don’t rebook the appointment. If they don’t value my time enough to arrive on time, I do. If I set the appointment then I express what I would like to accomplish during our time together. If they have asked for the appointment and time together then I ask what they wish to accomplish and set the time frame accordingly. This helps them and me be time conscious, causes us to set priorities, and allows us to accomplish what is needed in the time allotted. We enter our time together knowing the agenda and the time frame it must all fit in.
When you practice the disciplined use of time, you have an edge. Start setting expectations for yourself and others up front. Once you make this a regular practice, you can begin compressing the time you allot and keep compressing it until you figure out how efficient you truly can be with your time. Then you will know how quickly you can get things done and set aggressive yet realistic time frames for meetings and tasks.
B> Set external deadlines
So much of what we do in life has no deadline. As a result, many things get put off and float from day to day on our to-do lists. That’s why I give myself eternal deadlines for nearly everything I want to get done. These visible deadlines create an awareness of time for me.
On Sundays I look at the coming week’s schedule of events and ministry appointments and opportunities. I look at the things that need to be accomplished. Then I schedule everything that needs to be accomplished into the days that I have available (the week minus my sabbath, family time, and personal time needed for the week). I make sure everything has a spot but that each day is not too crowded and has some breathing room in case things take longer, meetings go longer, or emergencies pop up.
Then the last thing I do each night is make a list of the things, meetings, and people I have scheduled for the next day. I adjust the schedule if needed. Then this becomes my schedule for the following day. The deadlines and calendar work keeps me moving mentally and helps avoid any waste of time doing non-productive work (weeded out in the scheduling stages) or unnecessarily taking longer to do what needs to be done.
Remember: discipline is like a muscle. The more we train it, the better we become in developing it.
Remember: Every moment you stay in dreamland is a moment you lose in working for that dream.
Expectations and deadlines are great friends for any disciplined person. Try using them. I am sure you will be amazed at how they increase your discipline capacity and your use of time.