Monday, August 22, 2022

A Merchant of Time

“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator,” quipped Robert Orbin.

The freshman year of college is a big learning curve in knowing how to be disciplined and organize yourself and your schedule. With all of the new freedoms, a lot of freshmen either get way too overcommitted in activities and social engagements, or they seem to major in vegging and hanging out.

Dr. Jack Presseau, my freshman adviser, shared a nugget of wisdom that remains with me today. Perfect for that role, Jack was accomplished enough to earn my respect, thoughtful and pastorly enough to emulate genuine care, and thorough and disciplined enough to challenge a young eighteen/nineteen-year old.

He gave a chart to me with the instruction to write down what I did every half hour of every day for one week. It made me begin thinking in terms of time management and learn to see my time in terms of short segments. Since then, I've learned to think of an hour as four segments of fifteen minutes, and many tasks can be completed in a fifteen-minute segment. It was also a good exercise to begin appreciating the power of keeping tasks and appointments written down. As Adrian Rogers said, "The weakest pen is greater than the strongest mind."

Our Private Worlds

Several thousand books have come through my library the past thirty years. Some stayed. Others found another life via Goodwill. A few helped change my life. One of those in the latter category is Gordon MacDonald's Ordering Your Private World

MacDonald shares his experience as a young pastor with lots of talent and a great personality. For most of his latter twenties he rode the wave of those two assets, while ignoring the guardrails of habitual disciplines.

After hitting an emotional-mental wall one day, a sobering reality struck him head-on: he could not coast the rest of his life and ministry on what had made him attractive and outwardly successful in his twenties. His gifts and natural charm would not enable him to be successful over the long haul of life.

He had to learn discipline.

MacDonald writes, "There came a time in my own life when I wanted to make sound decisions about the budgeting of my time, and I wanted to be free of that frantic pitch of daily life in which one is always playing catch-up." 

He learned nine symptoms of disorganization that characterize his life when disorder rules: 

1.  My desk takes on a cluttered appearance. 

2.  The symptoms tend to show themselves in the condition of my car.

3.  I become aware of a diminution in my self-esteem.

4.  There are a series of forgotten appointments, messages to which I failed to respond, and deadlines I have begun to miss.

5.  I tend to invest my energies in unproductive tasks.

6.  Disorganized people feel poorly about their work.

7.  Disorganized Christians rarely enjoy intimacy with God.

8.  The quality of my personal relationships usually reveals it. I may become irritable.

9. When we are disorganized in our control of time, we don’t like ourselves, our jobs, or much else about our worlds.

That first year of college I read Charles Hummel's book 
The Tyranny of the Urgent, digesting the concept that the use of our time will always include two conflicting needs fighting to become our master. Those two conflicts are important things versus urgent things. 

The disciplined person learns to get important things done. The undisciplined person is always a slave to urgent matters.


MacDonald’s Laws of Unmanaged Time

Macdonald writes, "Time must be budgeted!  We must resolve to seize control of our time.  The disorganized person must have a budgeting perspective of time."

In his chapter on time management, he shares four laws about unmanaged time.


Law #1:          

Unmanaged time flows toward my weaknesses.

Law #2:          

Unmanaged time comes under the influence of dominant people in my world.      

Law #3:          

Unmanaged time surrenders to the demands of all emergencies.

Law #4:          

Unmanaged time gets invested in things that gain public acclamation.

The struggle of wisely investing our time knows no age limit. I recommend MacDonald's book to anyone.  I read it again every two to three years. But I especially commend it to anyone age twenty-five to thirty-five. 

May we heed the warning of Hummel, who said, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.”

And may we be found faithful with our time, echoing the words of J. H. Jewett: “The disciple of Christ is to be an expert merchant in the commodity of time.”

Pictures courtesy of Pixabay.


No comments:

Post a Comment