Time management is by far my favorite kind of organization. Nothing clears the clutter out of your spirit like the knowledge that you’re using your time wisely—doing what you want to do and living how you want to live! If I could spend time with each of you individually, the first thing I’d do is challenge you to write your life goals and assess your priorities. How do you want to spend your time?
It’s a wonderful exercise, but when we really sit down and think about everything we want to do—personal goals, relationship goals, family goals, activities, ministries, passions, and callings—we’re easily overwhelmed. We start to hear voices in our heads, pieces of advice from loved ones combined with pop-culture snippets:
Don’t put off until tomorrow the things you could do today…
Don’t wait until “someday” to be happy…
Don’t wait until the time is right, because that time may never come…
Say “yes“ to life, or you may miss out…
Sign up before it’s too late… Serve, we need you… now.
But what does God’s voice tell us? In Ecclesiastes 3, the Lord tells us that there’s a time for everything. You know these verses—a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together. God knows we want to accomplish much with the gift of time He’s given us, but He also knows we can’t do it all at once.
Sometimes the Lord is calling you to His work now, even if you don’t feel ready for the task. Sometimes, even if your goals are worthy, Christian goals, it’s not the time for them. The difficult part is discerning which goal is which.
I’ve struggled a lot with this issue, particularly when my second child was young and I was fighting an anxiety disorder. Here are the things I’ve learned to ask myself—some things you may want to consider as you decide whether your goals are for now or later:
Is this goal going to expire?
So many of things we want to do really can wait until we’re out of the mother-of-little-ones phase. We don’t want to get so busy, so focused on “getting things done,” that we miss out on Legos and dolls. Is this goal or task something you can do with the same amount of joy (if not more) in a few years? If there is a time limit, how would you feel if the time to accomplish this goal passed and you hadn’t done it?
Will I be furthering the Kingdom of Heaven by accomplishing this goal? If not, will it deepen my joy in the Lord?
Sometimes you know a goal is worthy of “right now” because it’s so clearly work for God. But, a goal doesn’t have to be “holy” to be worthy, like that personal goal to run a marathon or see the Grand Canyon. God wants us to enjoy this life! He gave us gifts and talents and time for all kinds of things that will bring us great joy and please His heart at the same time.
Am I really the one to do this?
Recently our church asked for volunteers to be on a Meal Committee, a request that struck fear into my heart. I’m in that time of life when lots of friends and acquaintances are having babies, and I do try to help them out by taking meals to them. What happens is this: the new mom will say, “Gee, Shannon, thanks for the meal…(long pause)…Hey, we loved that dessert! Can I have the recipe?” Sigh. I know new moms need food that their family will eat, not a yummy chocolate dessert to aid and abet their baby weight. I’m a baker, not a cook, so I didn’t sign up for the Meal Committee.
When Satan tries to whisper guilt into my heart about that choice, I do my best to live in God’s truth (I can’t cook, and that’s OK) and ignore him. What helps is to think about the way I feel when I’m teaching Sunday school—the joy I feel when the kids are singing their little hearts out to God, or when they’re transfixed by a Bible story, or when they have a revelation about what the Word really says (verses what they thought it said). It’s like God made me to teach those little ones about Him. Maybe He did.
So when facing a service opportunity or other task-oriented goal, ask yourself: did God give you a special gift or talent for this task? Are you really the one to do it? Are you considering taking this on because of guilt, or out of a desire to impress others, or because you really feel God calling your heart to the task?
Am I feeling a Holy Spirit nudge about this goal?
This is the most important consideration. There can be plusses and minuses on both sides of a “now or later” decision—the question is, which side is God calling you to be on?
When my husband and I were in divided on whether or not to have a third child, I decided to take a month to prayerfully “try on” the idea that we were done with two kids. I spent the month thinking about the fun trips we could take, and mentally spending the money we’d save, and planning a second career…and weeping. A lot.
Then I spent a prayerful month “trying on” the opposite possible future—the late nights and the diapers and the spit-up and the potty training—and feeling the Lord’s peace fall over me like a blanket. (We now have three kids, and about once a week my husband thanks me for talking him into the third one!)
When you’re on the fence about a goal or priority, try to make a decision and “live with it” for a while before you take any action. Then ask yourself: is the Lord granting me peace about this decision, or is the Holy Spirit shaking me up?
Women of our generation are saying, “You can have it all, you just can’t have it all right now.” We have to pick and choose. What do you want to spend your time on now, and what can (and probably should) wait for later? The key to that discernment is prayer. Question, think, pray… and then spend your time doing the things that really matter, to you and to the Lord!
Giving Thought to Your Ways (a la Proverbs 14:8)
- What are your goals and priorities? (This is not a cheesy self-help question, this is a real question.)
- How do you want to spend your time?
- What is the Lord calling you to do?
- Which of your goals are for now, and which are for later?
Would you like more help setting your goals?
Check out my first book, Organizing You
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