Once you understand you can't manage time, there are many tools available to help you work effectively in available time. First, however, it's crucial you appreciate the role goals and plans play in daily activities. Goals represent God’s destination for you. What He wants you to do; where He wants you to go—that's where you need to be. Next, a plan is the steps needed to get to His goals. A goal without a plan is like a hockey game without a puck! Combine devotion to Jesus with a passion for His goal, and you will be unstoppable. Ask Him!
That said, in Managing God's time, we developed several tools we refer to collectively as the Attitude Sack Tools. With a vibrant relationship with Jesus as the foundation, these personal effectiveness tools will help you reach goals on time and in budget, while giving glory to our Lord. Essentially, the Attitude Sack tools are invaluable techniques to apply daily to relieve stress and improve your effectiveness.
By applying these tools to specific situations consistently, they will become habitual and instinctive. Observe each meticulously. I (Michel Bell) have practiced these traits daily and by the grace of God, they have become innate.
Attitude Sack Tools
- One Touch Principle
- Reserve Time
- Border Patrol
- Selective Neglect
The One-Touch Principle
will determine how much time a project will need—an essential technique to apply to every task. It’s an attitude of attempting always to minimize the following:
- The number of times you handle a specific item
- The number of steps to complete a task
- The pathway between two points in a journey
You do all of the above within predefined parameters, priorities and principles of the P-Squares Decision Process.
The one-touch approach does not permit short cuts that dishonor God, that disrespect your wife or husband, that skip time with your kids, and so on. You must implement it with the care and compassion of Jesus.
How many times do you handle the same piece of paper-mail or read the same email before you deal with it? Do you have an email snooze
system (function) to handle your emails? Do you have a filing system geared towards quick retrieval? Many individuals wouldn’t think of developing a simple filing system—paper and or electronic. Yet, they spend many hours searching for items they misplace: in a drawer, a box or other place.
Many of us can relate to receiving a bill, losing it, finding it, then eventually paying it. Bill payment can be frustrating, depressing, and time-consuming for many: It doesn't have to be so. Develop the one-touch attitude of minimizing the number of times you handle a specific item; the number of steps to complete a task; and the pathway between two points in a journey.
Usually, I am early for appointments. I concluded after two ulcers and always rushing up the down escalator that I was more effective and relaxed when not continually running from one meeting to another. When I have an appointment at the doctor, dentist, hospital, or another place where I usually wait, I cherish the waiting time. It’s time away from phones in the office to do things I planned. Indeed, I recall several visits to the doctor where I wasn’t ready when my turn came because I was in the middle of an activity, and invited someone to go ahead. Usually, their expression said this: What’s with you? What are you doing that’s so interesting?
Typically, on these occasions I have my computer and other electronic devices with me and either I write a poem, write notes for my next blog, manage my e-mail messages, read my Bible, or perform an activity I planned previously for such a time as this.
are those available times you can use to slow down, think, feel, hear your surroundings. It's the hidden time, often about which we complain. When you feel inconvenienced because you have to wait, transform this into reserve time.
Use these reserves for activities to reflect, pray, catch up on work, to read a book or other activity. When you are at the doctor, stuck in traffic, waiting on the subway, at airports, and so on, are gifts—accept them as presents from God!
Dr. Richard Swensen, in his book Margin,
uses the term margin, as the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is the amount held in reserve for contingencies or anticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion. As well, the space between breathing freely and suffocating. It is the leeway we once had between ourselves and our limits. Margin is the opposite of overload. We need to slow down. Let's use reserve time to help us slow down.
Your border is your emotional fence that’s part of your identity, allowing you to feel, think, and perform as God intended without anyone’s intrusion.
Dorothy dreaded going to work. Everyone took advantage of her gentle and kind personality. Always asking her to do stuff they were capable and available to do: making a quick photocopy, helping to format a document, and so on—each task was small, but each needed time. She worked late most evenings merely to stay on top of her job. She did not know how to say no and became ill from the enormous stress of this extra work.
In their book, Boundaries,
Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, mention Boundaries as “…anything that helps to differentiate you from someone else, or shows where you begin and end." The most common boundary-setting word is “no,” they say. It lets others know that you exist apart from them and that you are in control of you.
Cloud and Townsend contrast Galatians 6:2 which says: Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ,
with Galatians 6:5 that says: Each one should carry his own load.
They describe burdens as boulders—weighing us down—that can crush us: we need help to carry them. Loads, on the other hand, are our knapsacks each of us must carry daily.
Each of us must become border patrollers
by checking periodically that we have not allowed others to wittingly or unwittingly invade our borders—folks telling us negatives about us, or cunningly transferring their activities to us. Nevertheless, we must ensure we do not alienate ourselves by focusing on us and not being compassionate to others—this can be a fine line.
is proactively deciding daily which projects to defer
based on identified priorities, and whom to neglect,
to do specific goals in a stated time. It is based on the reality that available time is fixed, but available work isn’t, and we can’t do everything we initiate plus what others want from us, in the required timeframes—now. Thus, our conscious or unconscious neglect of things we promise to do but must delay will disappoint somebody. Equally, we will disappoint someone by delaying or canceling his or her appointment because of more important, often unexpected priorities.
Exodus 18: Jethro & Moses
When we grasp the Selective Neglect principle and start using it, we will be able to handle each day’s events stress free. We see an excellent example of its application in Exodus 18. In the process of working with God, Moses worked tirelessly day-and-night settling disputes among the Israelites. He might be burning out and robbing others from sharing in God’s work; however, he was content to keep going. Exodus 18:14-18 tells us that his father-in-law, Jethro, showed him he needed to do less, to start neglecting some of his tasks by delegating them, because it was impossible to do everything alone.
helps us manage the dilemma inherent in its two parts—neglecting someone and deferring projects. We choose consciously to disappoint someone because of a more crucial existing priority. And we choose consciously to defer specific tasks to complete other more important tasks, which may not necessarily disappoint another. Note the emphasis on important: It's not the urgent that drives us when we apply this principle, but the important. Most significantly, however, we must do these actions proactively to give affected parties time to input to our decisions and to rearrange their schedules. Thus, if I plan to disappoint my son by not taking him to the hockey game we planned to attend, in advance, I tell him of my changed plans to listen to his response. Maybe this is a special game, and I need to reassess my decision. Mainly, we must be compassionate and understand the other person's viewpoint as we decide.
Parameters, priorities, and principles of the P-Squares Decision Process provide the bases for our choices, which we implement early to alert affected persons. The daily limitation of 24 hours is implied in our choices.
The alternative is neglect and disappoint by default. We may work non-stop hoping to complete a project by day’s end. Eventually, we don’t finish it. The person awaiting the report is disappointed and frustrated because we didn’t call ahead with a progress report. It gets worse: working late on this project, results in disappointing someone with whom we had an appointment.
Before accepting additional tasks, consider what you must neglect and whom you will disappoint to complete the assignment. Daily, as you review your agenda items, decide what you will neglect and whom you will disappoint by your choices. Reality: we will always unwittingly disappoint someone even when we manage our priorities within our specific parameters.
Most people have a ToDo list; however, I practice a daily to neglect
list that I review on a rolling one-week basis: I look at the next seven days to see whether I will be able to do my commitments and where I think I might not, I respond accordingly. The issue is managing potential disappointments that ensue from everyday activities. Contact folks early to tell them you will not be able to attend the function, produce the report, and so on. This approach is particularly important when children are involved; where possible, we need to keep our promises. Practicing selective neglect has several advantages, two of which are these: First, you will avoid disappointing someone close to you at the last minute, merely by being proactive. Second, you will give someone you disappoint the opportunity to rearrange her schedule because you contacted her early with the disappointing news.
Practicing Selective Neglect
Selective Neglect is the most suitable tool to improve daily effectiveness and lower stress. Practice it daily, looking at your schedule seven days ahead. To summarize: These eight premises are its foundation:
- Daily, you can’t do everything you want to do, and others expect you to do.
- Don't try to do everything that comes your way.
- Aspire to be excellent in everything you do.
- Be on time always because each situation is an appointment to join Messiah at work.
- Learn when to say no, when to say yes, and when to say not now.
- You can’t be effective on your own; you must lean wholly on Holy Spirit.
- Make your Lord, and your spousepriorities: everybody and everything else should come after them.
- Have a weekly Sabbath rest (two to three hours of refreshing), and a weekly meeting-free day to recharge.
The Attitude Sack tools will become intuitive with practice. Daily, set goals congruent with life goals and other material goals. Patrol your borders while carrying your own load. Work with reserves, especially, seek out hidden ones. Apply the one-touch principle where appropriate and hunt for opportunities to minimize steps to complete tasks. Meanwhile, proactively implement selective neglect.
For more on the Attitude Sack, see Managing God’s Time, chapter six