Exactly HOW long?

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,

making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16


I’ve been in a season where I’ve been giving my Time Management Talk, “Where is Your Time Going?” I dearly love the “ah-ha!” looks I see out in the audience as women realize they can manage their time with Jesus and for Him. Time management has to be my favorite kind of organization!

But as I was speaking, something was niggling at me… an idea that’s been in the back of my mind for a while. As I try to manage my time, am I working with all of the facts? Do we know how long it really takes to do the things that we regularly do?

We all constantly, and without truly thinking about it, estimate the time it will take to our daily tasks and plan accordingly. Estimation is a great tool and often a time saver.

Here’s the problem: We can guess wrong.

While managing our time is wise, mismanaging it makes us feel like the proverbial fool. Miscalculating the time it’s going to take us to do things causes clutter in our schedules, and our spirits! If we overestimate the time a task will take, we may end up procrastinating or feeling overwhelmed. If we underestimate the time a task will take, we can cause ourselves to run late and feel hurried.

So, I decided to time those tasks that I’ve been feeling a little off-kilter about.


First I timed the things I think of as taking only 3 to 5 minutes at most, things I’d shove into my day, thinking I could get them done before I run out the door. Or things I’d stack up on my to-do list, thinking they’d take me no time at all… then feeling frustrated about my lack of time to get “more important” stuff done.

Loading the dishwasher

Guess: 3 minutes

Reality: Depending on how many dishes have accumulated, and on how messy the counters underneath them are, and on whether are not there are any “hand wash only” items lurking in there, usually at least 7 minutes, possibly up to 20.


Folding a load of laundry

Guess: 5 minutes

Reality: The reality is that I take that load out of the dryer, put the freshly washed load into the dryer, fill the washer with the next load, add soap and softener, set them both running, and wash my hands—all before I even think about folding that laundry. And I usually feel compelled to put them away immediately, so this process takes least 15-20 minutes.


Writing a quick email

Guess: 3 minutes

Reality: No matter how simple the email, I cannot hit “send” until I’ve read it over and checked for clarity (and typos). And I usually think of one more thing I want to say… even the quickest emails take me almost 10 minutes. Ditto for posting on my ministry Facebook page. (Boo.)


“Freshening Up”

Guess: 5 minutes max

Reality: This one is a major issue for me when it comes to getting out the door. I think I’m just going to use the restroom and brush my teeth, but then I put on some lip balm, and hand lotion, and pull a brush through my hair, and perhaps add a smidge of powder to even my skin tone, and then I’ve got to put my shoes on and get my car keys and purse and whatever else is going with me… this never, ever takes me less than 10 minutes and I shouldn’t fool myself into thinking I only need 5!


Lesson Learned: I need to give myself the time to do these things and do them well, without the spiritual clutter of hurry-hurry-rush-rush!



Then there were those things I’d assumed took 10 minutes or more… things I might be tempted to procrastinate about, or put off simply because I thought I didn’t have enough time. These also happen to be things I don’t like and tend to dread.

Emptying the dishwasher

Guess: 10 minutes

Reality: 4 minutes. That’s it. Even shorter if there is a kid handy to put away the silverware and cups!


Wiping down a bathroom

Guess: 10 minutes

Reality: I can wipe down a bathroom for company in 3 minutes flat.


Running a quick errand

Guess: at least 30 minutes per store

Reality: I can get in and out of a store very quickly. My kids call this “mom shopping.” I’ve been known to hit four stores in a strip mall not far from our house in a one hour round trip!


Lesson Learned: Just getting started on these things is half the battle! To quote Mary Poppins, “Well begun is half done.”



So, here’s my Time Management challenge for you this week:

Time a few things! What always seems to take longer than it “should”? What do you dread doing that really isn’t so bad? Learn how long you take to do various tasks, and manage your time accordingly so you can clear the clutter out of your schedule, and your spirit!


Want to learn more about managing your time with Jesus? Check out my first book, Organizing You.

Want to hear my Time Management talk with your moms’ group? Check out the Organizing You Time Management Video.

So, what did you time, and were you surprised? I’d love to hear your story, so comment here or tell me on Facebook.

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