I returned to school at the age of 35 when I enrolled in a Bible college. One of my professors that first semester often made a statement that has remained with me for 35 years: You get done what you spend time doing. It’s a statement that has enabled me to accomplish far more than I would have ever thought possible. It has helped keep me focused on the most important things in my life, and it has helped me maintain a measure of balance in my life.
Each of us are given 24 hours in a day. What we accomplish during those 24 hours depends on whether we give priority to the most important things we need to accomplish that day or if we allow others to set our schedules. Believe me, if we do not take charge of our calendars, others will, and they will seldom have the same priorities for our lives that we have.
There are few things more frustrating than to end the day realizing that you’ve accomplished almost nothing you had planned. Sometimes that cannot be helped. Emergencies do occur. But most of the time we do not accomplish much during a day because we did not plan the day well or we allowed others to interfere with our plans. Just because someone believes they have an emergency does not make it one.
So many things rob us of the time we need to spend on truly important activities. Social media, responding to endless e-mails, unnecessary meetings, people who stop by because they have nothing else to do can fill up a day and keep us from accomplishing the important tasks we need to do.
The only way around this is to take personal charge of your time. As much as possible, you set the agenda for your day. Control your calendar and make sure it addresses your priorities. Schedule certain times of the day to check emails and social media so you’re not stopping every time you hear a ding. Remind yourself you do not have to answer the phone every time it rings. Let voice mail answer your calls. If they think it’s important the will leave a message, and if you think it is important you can return the call or save it for a time you’ve set aside to return all your calls.
I’m sure some people think I’m hard to reach, but I learned long ago how valuable my time is. If I want to accomplish the things I believe are the most important to me I have to set aside sufficient time to accomplish them. I’ve learned to say no to people who have asked me to participate in something I did not feel would be the best use of my time. There is seldom a day that goes by that I don’t remind myself that I will get done what I spend time doing, so I try to spend the majority of my time doing the most important things.
One last note. Do not schedule your calendar so full that you do not have time to respond to genuine emergencies or other events that need your time and attention. Build margin in your life. Block out chunks of time in your calendar each week so you’ll have the necessary margin available if it’s needed. If it’s not needed you can always find something to fill that time slot, but if it is needed it will be there for you.