A note from Kelly King: I’m excited to introduce many of you to one of LifeWay’s new trainers, Jessie Seneca. Jessie has actually been training at our You Lead events over the years as a volunteer, but next year she’ll join the regular line-up of incredible women God has placed on our team. I know you will be encouraged and challenged today by Jessie’s article about how to make time for the most important things.
Time is a gift. Every day, you are given twenty-four hours. That’s one thousand, four hundred, and forty minutes. What do you and I do with the time we are given? How do we manage our time?
I believe that one of the hardest battles in a leader’s day is the continued practice of carving out quiet time with God and having white space on the calendar. It is very easy to allow the hurried lifestyle of preparing, organizing, delegating, and planning to disrupt one’s relationship of abiding in Him. Often, it’s something good that will stain it—something good but not what is the best.
Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. —Psalm 90:12
I clearly remember back to a year when my girls were in middle school, nearly fifteen years ago. It was a time when my days felt like they were spinning out of control; the to-do list exceeded the allotted twenty-four hours. Between the Christian school they attended, a neighborhood Bible study held in my home, a children’s program I oversaw at our church, a newly formed community Bible study I organized, plus managing our home, something had to give. And, give it did.
My relationship with the Lord, that is.
You see, I was doing all these good things for God, but I was missing the most important part of my day—time with Him. Oh, I would walk by the chair that once occupied my early morning moments and whisper to God, “I’ll be there when…”
Sometimes, we can allow the clutter in our lives to overshadow the necessity. The necessity of living close to God. When you allow your heart, mind, and soul to be captivated by your time with God, He will reveal the most important next step in your hour, day, month, and task. Let His presence bring order to your thoughts as you set aside alone time with the One who holds your days. Allow His peace to permeate a few moments of your day to bring wisdom, clarity, and direction. The nearness of God is as close as you make it.
You make time for what is important, don’t you?
Many of us have bought into the cultural lie that a busy life is a productive life, and as leaders, we thrive on productivity. But it cannot be at the expense of our alone time with God.
I am all for a balanced life, and that is what we, as 21st century women, try to achieve in so many areas of our lives. The one area that should be unbalanced is our time with God. This should be the one thing that tips the teeter-totter to one side over all the others.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. —Matthew 6:33
By seeking Him first, He will guide your decision making while you learn to trust Him and adjust your days, attitudes, and time.
As leaders, we often have our eyes set on the the next event, the next deadline, and the next square on the calendar. This is not bad. Yes, it is necessary for success, but not at the expense of your time with the Giver of all good gifts (James 1:17).
Please, know I am one of the biggest planners you will meet. I love to organize, make lists, check them off, and make more lists. Planning is not bad. We need to plan, but my biggest learning curve over fifteen years ago was the ability to adjust when God changed my plans.
In the end, His grace is sufficient for you only one day at a time.
Managing my time has been a learned process; it’s not one that I have conquered, but I will share some practical ideas that may help you as you fill the blocks on your calendar.
Be a good steward of the time you have been given.
A steward is a person whose responsibility is to take care of something. No one else can manage your time besides you. God gives you time and people to manage. The clock is ticking, so make the most of it. Don’t just spend it. Invest it. Be a wise manager (steward) of the time the Lord has given you. If you do not manage your time, time will manage you.
Organize your week ahead of time.
Actually, I like to organize my month ahead of time and then break down the weeks. I always have an erasable, four-month-at-a-glance calendar mounted on my wall next to my desk. I have the months filled in with the important appointments, events, and deadlines. I then blackout days prior to the important dates that are “office work days” so that I can work on whatever is needed to accomplish the task. And, I stay loyal to that blackout time, which means I will need to say NO to things that may seem fun, necessary (to others), or beneficial. But, if it is not going to accomplish the end result, it needs to be put on the B-list. (This can easily be accomplished on your laptop calendar as well…I just need to always see it in front of me.)
Make a timeline.
I love timelines. I live by my timelines. I have a timeline running for each task. I provide a timeline to those I work with so everyone knows what is needed and when it is due. I simply work backward from the end date providing dates for each task needed. It’s a sure way for your team to know what is expected and when it is required by. (You may need to send a gentle reminder here and there, but in the end, it is beneficial to hand the timeline out at the first meeting.)
Even the best leaders dread certain tasks. You will need to tackle them head-on. Just start, even if you can’t accomplish it the day you begin it. There is always tomorrow. I know this is a tough one for you, especially if you like to check your tasks off the list. There is just something about making that check mark next to your task that says, it is completed. I still like to do it the old fashioned way—a handwritten, rolling list I keep next to my laptop. And yes, I look at it every day.
A lot of times, delegation is something we learn the hard way. Sometimes, it is learned through burnout, but it doesn’t have to be that way. So, if I can help keep you from learning it on a field trip, amen. As you build your team, consider the gifts each person brings to the table and use them accordingly. Know their strengths and abilities and place them over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens (Exodus 18:24-25). Be careful to place your leaders in roles they can handle. I am not suggesting you shouldn’t stretch those you manage, but be careful to help set them up for success. Once you delegate, don’t micro-manage their every step, but allow them the space to exercise the gifts God entrusted them with (Romans 12:6).
“It marks a big step in a man’s development when he comes to realize that other men can be called in to help do a better job than he can do alone.” —Andrew Carnegie
It’s okay to look at your month-at-a-glance calendar and see some white space. White space is needed for your sanity and for those you work with. Life happens. Allow a few days a month for the unexpected. If it is not needed, you have a bonus work day in the office to catch up. When I started to do this, it gave God elbow room to fill my days with what He wanted to fill them with and not my mere little agenda. Leaving margin in your schedule allows for flexibility, availability, and trust.
Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. —Matthew 6:34
Please know, this is not an exhaustive list or a foolproof step-by-step plan to fully manage your time, but I hope you are able to take some nuggets away that will help you plan your days better, prioritize the necessary, and better steward the days you have been given.
May God bless your year ahead with fruitful days. “And, may the Lord our God show us His approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!” (Psalm 90:17 NLT).
Jessie is the founder of More of Him Ministries in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She has been leading women in the local community and churches for over twenty years. Each year, Jessie offers SHE Leads, a women’s leadership Conference. She has also worked with LifeWay as a Living Proof Live City Coordinator and Northeast Simulcast Specialist. She enjoys seeing women get into the Word of God and the transformation it brings into their lives. Through God’s Word, Jessie shares what true leadership looks like along with practical teachings from her personal experiences. Her message inspires women to move into a whole-hearted lifestyle—one devoted fully to God. Jessie’s passion and wisdom is to use the gifts God has given her to speak into the lives of her listeners and now readers through her Bible study, The Secret is Out and book, Road Trip. Her newest book is Abound: A Call to Purposeful Servant Leadership. She is a wife and mother of two young adult daughters.