11 Questions to Ask Yourself About How You Use Your Time
Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webster define it as “the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues”.
The Rolling Stones claim it’s “…On my side. Yes, it is.”
According to the Steve Miller Band, it “…Keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future”.
And Ecclesiastes 3 assures us that “For everything there is a season, a time for every matter under heaven…”
In my professional opinion? Time is our absolute greatest commodity. And we squander the crap out of it.
I’m not just talking about procrastination here. You know, the act of putting something off until the last minute.
(I’m a procrastinator from way back. Case in point? I didn’t even start writing my history thesis in college until the night before the rough draft was due. That was one bad piece of writing, right there! Turns out, Northern public opinion didn’t seem to give even the littlest, tiniest crap about John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. And quite honestly, by that time, neither did I.
Now in my defense, I actually DO work better under pressure, but this was a full blown case of Scarlett O’Hara “I’ll think about it tomorrow” syndrome, i.e. PROCRASTINATION. Actually it was more of a combination of “I’ll think about it tomorrow” dosed with a huge helping of “I really hope Jesus comes before this sucker is due!” but either way? Still procrastination.)
Don’t get me wrong. Procrastination IS a problem. Obviously. One on which we’ll spend a good amount of time later, FOR SURE. The bigger problem though? Procrastination is just one of its many symptoms.
The bigger problem is that we’ve stopped treating time like the precious non-renewable resource that it is. Somewhere along the way, it seems we’ve lost all respect for time.
Have y’all seen that Justin Timberlake movie In Time? Basically the world has become a place where time is the only currency that matters. Science has advanced to the point where people stop aging at 25 BUT, and this is a big but, after turning 25 the body is only genetically engineered to live one more year.
Since time is the only currency that exists, the characters earn more of it by working or through gifts or whatever, but they also have to spend it to buy food and pay bills and stuff. Money doesn’t exist. The characters pay and get paid with TIME. ONLY. TIME.
Once they run out of time, they die. All have this bright green digital clock on their arms that counts down how much time they have left. If their clock runs out while they’re standing in line to get coffee, they fall down dead right there.
Now granted, the movie portrays an extremely intense take on time, but how differently would we live if our world worked like that? If we treasured and cherished our time like that? If we not only believed in, but also acted out, the value of each hour? Each minute!
I’m gonna make a little confession here. Prepare yourself, okay?
Not only am I procrastinator, but I also struggle, and I mean STRUGGLE, with treating time with the respect that it deserves. And it’s definitely not from a lack of time management knowledge. Quite honestly? It’s sheer lack of discipline. It’s from bad habits that I’ve allowed to creep in and strangle the good ones. It’s because I allow unimportant things to distract me from important ones. It’s because I’ve gotten complacent and just always assume I’ll have more time.
The truth is that if I had a bright green digital clock on my arm counting down how many minutes of breath I had left, I’d be living my life a heck of a lot differently than I am now. If I had this gift of foresight instead of only hindsight-“Wait. WHAT? I’VE BEEN PLAYING CANDY CRUSH FOR TWO HOURS?! WHERE DID MY DAY GO?!!”-I’d be a heck of a lot more deliberate, a heck of a lot less thoughtless, with that sacred commodity.
That’s really easy to say, right? But how do you put that into action in your everyday life? How do you figure out if you’re a good steward of your time? Or better yet, how do you determine just how bad of a steward you are? On a scale of “Ehh, I don’t completely suck.” to “For real. It’s so bad I should be forced to read Brenna’s history thesis for all eternity! ”, where do you fall on the time steward spectrum?
Here’s a little exercise that helps me out from time to time. You ready?
Pretend that at the end of each day, you have to report to your absolute favorite person in the world. It can be your favorite aunt. Your grandma. Taylor Swift. It doesn’t matter who it is as long as this person and their opinion means the world to you. The report has to include an in-depth recall of the entire day. An hour by hour summary of what you did. A no holds barred recount of what you did from the time you woke up until the time your eyes fluttered shut and you drifted off into that sweet place we call sleep.
Would you be over-the-moon, pee-in-your-pants excited to do this? Would you be bursting at the seams to talk about your day? Or would you be a little more…leery. Less exuberant. Maybe you’d have to gloss over a few parts or be less than forthcoming about a few things. I don’t know about you, but that little scenario up there is a pretty good gauge for what I need to adjust in my life.
Take a look back at that passage from Ecclesiastes (chapter 3 verses 1-8) that I mentioned before-
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sow;
a time to keep silent, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Notice anything? You know, aside from the blatant declaration that there IS a time for everything.
(Even dancing, which turned out to be really good for those kids who lived in that town in Footloose.)
Know what I notice? I notice that these verses are telling us exactly how to examine our stewardship of time. They’re telling us the exact questions we need to ask ourselves when our daily time report gives us the creepy crawlies, and we don’t know why. And even better? It gives us SO. MANY. different ways to ask those questions—a different language so that we can ask the RIGHT question at the RIGHT time. Think about it:
11 Questions to Ask:
- What do we need to plant in our day? What needs to be plucked out?
- What habits do we need to execute? Which broken ones need to be mended and reinstated?
- Do we need more margin in our day for rest and reflection? Or is it time to replace apathy with activities that will make us better?
- What only brings sadness? What brings joy?
- What should we kick to the curb? What responsibilities should we add?
- What deserves more of our attention? What should we run like crazy from?
- Is it time to expand our horizons and our comfort zones? Is it time to make our world a little smaller?
- Should we reevaluate the commitments and people who take up our time and energy? Should we maybe make some introductions that cause our worlds to collide a little?
- Is now the time to be bold or the time to fly under the radar?
- What do we need to grab on to and hold for dear life? With what do we need to finally cut ties?
- What do we need to fight tooth and nail to include in our life? What do we finally need to make our peace with, so we can move on?
Your time is precious. And irretrievable. You become the person you are because of the way you spend your time. Look at your day. Ask some of those questions up there. You won’t regret reevaluating your relationship with time, I promise.
If you need some help organizing your space to create more time, you should check out THIS article to help you get started.