Finding Time for What's Important This Year

Kara Powell | Jan 15, 2013

Photo by Ales Krivec

If you’re like me, I’m guessing you’d like to make better use of your time. As parents and leaders, we end up overly busy and under resourced.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the key to stewarding our time well is spending it on the right things. That’s why I so appreciated this Harvard Blog Post last week about how to better allocate our time.

The author provides a number of practical ideas for those of us who want to use time well:

  • Decide where you will not spend time: Given that you have a limited time budget, you will not have the ability to do everything you would like to do regardless of your efficiency.
  • Strategically allocate your time: Boundaries on how and when you invest time in work and in your personal life help to ensure that you have the proper investment in each category. As a time coach, I see one of the most compelling reasons for not working extremely long hours is that this investment of time resources leaves you with insufficient funds for activities like exercise, sleep, and relationships.
  • Set up automatic time investment: Just like you set up automatic financial investment to mutual funds in your retirement account, your daily and weekly routines should make your time investment close to automatic. For example, at work you could have a recurring appointment with yourself two afternoons a week to move forward on key projects, and outside of work you could sign up for a fitness boot camp where you would feel bad if you didn't show up and sweat three times a week.
  • Aim for a consistently balanced time budget: Given the ebbs and flows of life, you can't expect that you will have a constantly balanced time budget but you can aim for having a consistently balanced one. Over the course of a one- to two-week period, your time investment should reflect your priorities.

I want to focus on the recommendation of “setting up automatic time investment”. I’ve learned much from a colleague here at Fuller who blocks off certain times of his week for various activities (e.g., Monday and Tuesday afternoons are for meetings; Thursdays are for fund development).

I often don’t have that much control over my schedule. I can influence when meetings are scheduled but I can’t always control them. So I’ve tried to implement this principle by looking ahead a week or two and asking: When am I going to prepare that talk? When am I going to write those thank you notes to our donors? How am I going to carve out time for the strategic planning our team needs to move forward on our goals? When am I going to get the time I want with the Lord tomorrow morning (for more help on this for yourself and your students, see our new and free Sticky Faith Every Day Curriculum)

A few questions to ask yourself as you think about your work, family, personal and ministry schedules:

  1. What are the most important tasks for you to get done this week? This month? This year?
  2. When in your calendar can you block out the hours required to get those jobs done?
  3. What less important tasks are going to have to be cut from your schedule so that you can focus on what’s more important?
Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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