1,440 minutes: the discipline of time (5/7)

How much time do you waste every day?

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I hate that question because, probably like most of you, my first response is defensive. I don’t waste time. My day is so jam-packed, I can’t afford to waste very many minutes. Too many of my days end with me being dead tired, collapsing into sleep, only to wake up and start all over again. There is no time to waste, I convince myself.

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Then I start looking at the hard data.

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Yikes.

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I’ve been reading a lot on this topic lately and it seems that my initial response is pretty typical of people. However, when the times are really tested and recorded, another picture evolves all together. Here are some of the big time wasters in my life, what about you?

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Facebook (Social media): On average, users are spending over an hour, each day, on their profiles, scanning the “news feed” and liking pictures of cats. How often do you just make a “quick check” of your facebook at work, home, in the car, and then spend the next 30 minutes commenting, liking, laughing, poking, messaging and friending? Facebook can be a great tool and connector, but Facebook can eat away lots of minutes.

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Instant messaging/texting: I can’t seem to find consistent numbers on this, but estimates range from 60-90% of all texts are simple chatter. I know most people will be quick to point out that their texts are important, but a quick scan of your text histories might reveal a different story. How often did you text when you could have talked? How often were you texting to just “pass the time” or “not be bored”. As a youth pastor for the past 16 years, I’ve seen the evolution of texting and how those 3-5second exchanges become hours of a child’s day. And not just kids anymore…how many of us adults stop everything we’re doing every time our phones chime a new text? Texting can be a real time killer.

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Multi-tasking: When asked, most people say they are very capable of doing multiple tasks at a time. It’s a badge of honor we like to wear. However, multiple studies have shown that multi-tasking is a waste of time and produces lower quality work. Focusing on single tasks for specific amounts of time produces better work, more efficiently. My friend Danny Ray has a great method he uses when he has much to do in a short amount of time. Instead of multi-tasking, he takes 15 minutes to work on one task. When the timer goes off, he switches to another task and works for 15 minutes. He then moves to the next task. After working on 4 or 5 tasks, each for 15 minutes, he returns to the first one, and continues this pattern until each of his assignments is completed. By focusing on one task for 15 minutes, he increases his production, improves his efficiency, and wastes much less time.

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Being busy: I can get real busy. When I’m at my busiest, I start losing details, forgetting important commitments and I spend a lot of time looking for things that “should be right here….” Busyness is a time killer. I think most often busyness kills time because we don’t organize our days sufficiently to be productive. Instead, we react all day, in stead of proact, and the result is a disastrous waste of time.

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Those are four big time wasters I have to be aware of, how about you? If you’re not convinced you waste time, take a week or two to measure your time. I try to do this at least once a year. Write down everything you do, every day. Don’t gloss over any minutes, and don’t round up/down to make it look better, just write down everything you do. You’ll probably be shocked at how many minutes you actually spend watching TV, Netflix or Hulu. You will be sure your math is wrong when you add up all the facebook minutes or time playing games. Those three second texts couldn’t possibly add up to that many hours, right? Did you really spend 30 minutes looking for a sticky note? Reality shows most of us that time isn’t the issue for our days — it’s how we manage the time we have.

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Here are three tools that have been huge in helping me manage my time better:

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  1. Start each day with a power 15, and a schedule: The first 15 minutes of the day is the most important for me, and it sets the course for what I plan to accomplish. Start your day right, and the rest of the minutes will fall into line.
  2. Discern the urgent from the important: Charles Hummel wrote, “Tyranny of the Urgent” to expose the trap that urgent matters can create. How many times do lose valuable minutes chasing after urgent “problems” while letting important issues remain unresolved? When urgent matters suddenly arise, I love to take a moment to pray and ask God whether or not this is His disruption or someone else’s. I don’t want to lose minutes because of a “crisis” that really doesn’t involve me!
  3. Disconnect for at least an hour: Each day I try to disconnect from technology for at least an hour. No phone, no iPad, no laptop. I use that time to be face-to-face with my friends and family or to enjoy reading a book. The point is, when I know I’m going to part from my gadgets, I’m forced to be more productive while I’m using them. That hour each day sometimes stretches into more, because when my productivity is up, I have more opportunity to be with others without feeling like I’m falling further behind.

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I want to encourage you to take an honest inventory of your time. Are you focusing your efforts on the Overboard Life God is calling you to live? Are you using your most precious gift wisely? God has given each of us 1,440 minutes, each day. No more, no less. Are you maximizing those minutes? If you have some other ideas for wasting less time, would you post those in the comments for others to read?

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Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

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