Have you noticed how hard it is to teach something you do not really know yourself?! Many of us struggle with time management ourselves, so how can we hope to teach our children to “do as we say, not as we do”? The good news is, we can learn along with them!
Acknowledging some truths about time and time management must become our first steps. Truth #1: We do not own time nor did we create it; we are stewards of the time God gives us. Truth #2: Time is not evil, even though we sometimes feel it is a cruel master, squeezing us and forcing us into difficult positions. God created time and pronounced it good! Truth #3: As stewards, we are called to handle well what is in our charge until the master returns. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything and as stewards we must discover how to use this resource wisely. Truth #4: Using time well requires balance. A corollary is that balance is much easier to maintain when things are not upside down! Truth #5: Being a good steward of time means being realistic; even the best time manager in the world cannot manufacture more hours for each day. (I have learned the hard way that too much of a good thing is not “too good,” it is just “too much”!)
How do we learn to respect time, make wise intentional choices, find balance, and become realistic enough to say “no” to good things? We PRAY, PLAN, PROVIDE, and MODEL.
First we PRAY. We earnestly seek God’s wisdom, not just asking, “Please, please, please help me get it all done!” We need to sit with Him, asking Him to show us what is important to Him and what is not. God gives us time to do all He calls us to do; if we do not have enough time, we are clearly taking on things He did not call us to! When we take on things others call us to—or things we call ourselves to—we make problems such as busyness that leads to crabbiness, crises that could have been avoided, too little sleep, too much caffeine, loss of joy, and loss of witness to God’s power.
Secondly, we PLAN. The simpler our plans are, the more likely they are to be accomplished. When we get too specific, things go astray very easily—it does not take much to derail a detailed plan! Start your plan with an outline of what you need to accomplish. List your spheres of responsibility: home, school, church, self, and then add some of your most basic goals. These will provide the framework for all the choices you make with your time. Let me say that there can be one problem with planning, for those of us who love to plan: “planning” can become an excuse to avoid “doing.” Remember, the purpose of a plan is to implement a strategy, not to hide our lack of actual progress!
Thirdly, we PROVIDE. We need to provide some guidance for ourselves when we first attempt to get a handle on our time. We will need to schedule in some margin or “white space” that we deem equally as important as our commitments to others. We will need to erect some boundaries, perhaps, for others accustomed to having us as answers to all voiced needs. We will need to provide some resources, such as other people (“many hands make light work”) or the right tools to get the job done.
Fourthly, we use a MODEL. We need to find mentors or models of good time management; we need encouragers who will understand our quest for margin, balance, wholeness, and sanity. We need prayer partners who will journey with us. We need each others help to say “no” to good things, and we need people who will not make us feel guilty for making choices that fit our family values, but may disappoint others.
To do these things with our children is the next challenge! PRAY for them and with them about the use of their time. They need to understand that this is an important issue to confront and master. PLAN with them; assessing your own personality and your child’s personality, lay out clear expectations. Be reasonable about what needs to be accomplished; do not overestimate your time, resources, interests, and ability to motivate. PROVIDE guidance, support, resources, and encouragement. Early on we may need to supply lots of the goals and plans, too! MODEL good management skills for your children; they need an example to follow, not one to avoid.
Naturally, this journey towards good time management is a process, learned a little at a time. As nurturing parents, we talk about it, model it, demonstrate it, and help them do it, and then we stand back and let them go. When they are ready for independence, hopefully they are READY for independence!