One of the reasons I love what I get to do for work is speaking into the lives of high school students as think about their next season of life. For those who go decide college as their next step, I love giving this advice: “College can be as easy as you want it to be, or as hard as you want it to be. It all depends on one thing: being disciplined with your time.” Is this an over simplification? Maybe, but you get my point. When I was a sophomore in high school, one of my teachers described college as a season when “you have more freedom than you’ve ever had with the least amount of responsibility.” No one is telling you to not go to Taco Bell at midnight. No one is telling you that you have to attend class. No one is telling you to not procrastinate on that paper until the night before. However, this could open up the door to some bad time management habits.
Whether you are currently in college, trade school, first career job, etc., time management is an essential skill. You may naturally be good at time management (if you are a “J” on the Myers-Briggs personality test like I am, that’s usually the case), but even then, we could all improve our management of time. This is an incredibly important skill to learn because at the end of the day we can make more money, but we cannot make more time. Therefore, no matter where you’re at on the time management spectrum of “good” to “crap, I’ve got to come back to this because I’m late for something important,” I hope this is helpful, and not a waste of time.
When it comes to time management there are three essential habits we need to implement.
1. Proactive over Reactive
We understand budgeting right? You allot money into categories such as groceries, gas, and entertainment. Here’s the thing: it is just as important to budget our time. Get ahead of your week, don’t let your week get ahead of you. This is called being proactive rather than reactive. Normally we are reacting to what is right in front of us. But when we take time to intentionally think through our weeks – all our appointments, responsibilities, nights with friends – and put it on paper, we are able to get on top of our week. I do this every week on Tuesday mornings (Tuesdays are the start of my week): I sit down with a printed excel spreadsheet of the week, and write in all my appointments, write down the projects I need to get done, and fill in the gaps with working on those projects. It has become habit. My encouragement for you is to try it for a few weeks, and see how it works for you. I guarantee you will feel less anxious, get more accomplished, and have more time to enjoy life.
2. Make Time for the Important before it becomes Urgent
Have you ever heard the saying “The tyranny of the urgent crowds out the important” (or however this saying goes)? Sometimes we don’t have time to work on what’s important because we are too focused on what is urgent, until what is important becomes urgent. For example, writing that paper is important one week out, but then it becomes urgent the night before. That presentation you’re giving next week to potential investors is important, and you want to give the proper time and mental energy to it. But if you’re too busy on urgent matters, you miss out on giving the presentation the time and energy it deserves. Give what is important the time it needs before it becomes urgent.
3. Schedule in “White Space”
When we are running from one thing to the next, are juggling too many commitments, and are constantly responding to emails and text messages, we soon run on empty. Have you ever been there? You’re working on that project at 4 PM and your creative brain juices are just not flowing. You are home from work, but you can’t resist not checking your phone for emails, even though your family is there. When we are running at a million miles an hour we can feel good. We feel like we are getting a lot done. However, what we don’t realize is this does something to us. The positive side may be that you’re getting a lot done, but the negative side is that you’re addicted to your phone, constantly distracted, and unable to be present with your friends and family. This is why we need to schedule (because if we don’t schedule, it’s just not going to happen) what is called “white space.” It is that space in between that you can stop, slow down, and think. What is energizing to you? What are some practical ways you can insert some white space in your weeks. This looks different for everyone. For me, I like to take a walk for a few minutes, read, or pray. Sure, you may feel more productive going a million miles an hour from one thing to the next. But the truth is our work, our studies, and our soul is affected by this. In fact, not having some white space can lower your job performance and productivity. So, as you schedule out your week, what are some of the pockets of time where you can let your soul rest? This is not a waste of time. You will not regret adding white space into your week.
Why do I want you to get this? Because here’s the harsh reality: Too many of us are rushing from one thing to the next that we are too busy, stressed out, and too frantic to even show up to our own lives. Have you ever experienced that moment when you catch yourself rushing from one thing to the next, only to find yourself asking “Is this what my life all about?” My hope for you is that by developing these time management habits, you would be able to reclaim some of your life, and invest it into what really matters. Can you imagine that? Not being spread so thin that you have time and energy left over to enjoy your life and spend time in meaningful relationships? What could your life look like if you had space and time to enjoy more it?
So may you, through the skill of time management, reclaim this life of yours, and become the master of your schedule rather than mastered by your schedule.
INSTAGRAM & TWITTER: @DAVIDBEAVIS
Eating lots of food and looking at pictures of puppies are couple of ingredients to David's perfect day. The driving passion of David's life is walking alongside people as they figure out what it means to follow Jesus today. David holds a B.A. in Psychology from Vanguard University and an M.A. in Theology from Talbot School of Theology. He currently works at Mariners Church in Irvine on the High School Ministry team. David lives in Costa Mesa, CA, with his amazing wife Laura.