You know that famous saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun?” Well, in my experience, that’s just not the case. Time flies regardless of whether I am enjoying myself or not. Finding a way to accomplish every line item on my to-do list and trying to keep my calendar in order day in and day out can be quite a challenge. Perhaps that’s true for you as well.
Like most people, I am always working to accomplish one thing: balance. Don’t get me wrong, work is central to a Christ-follower’s calling. Even in the garden, God intended Adam and Eve to work—not just sit back lazily and watch the flowers grow. There is something in us that loves productivity and longs to create things with our hands and conceive of things with our minds.
None of this is wrong. In fact, it’s very good for Christians to want to engage in their places of work and broader communities!
Unfortunately, in most cases, too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing. There are times when my work encroaches upon my time with my family. I must seek to keep all spheres in balance—my personal devotion time, my work time, and my family and friend time.
How am I—how are we—stewarding our time? God has given us 24 hours each day and calls us to find ways to use that time effectively and to his ultimate glory.
Although I don’t have it perfected, I’ve thought this through a bit. I’m not an example, here, since I’m not doing well in every area (like excercise), but I’ve also found some ways to maximize work to keep a balance with family.
So, here are some tips I have found helpful as I seek to steward my time well.
First, always do your best to be effective with the time you do have to get things done.
Free time on the road? Make some phone calls. Find yourself sitting at the gate waiting for takeoff? Time to crank out some work. I always bring two devices on the plane—my iPad for during takeoff and landing and my laptop for once we’ve reached 10,000 feet. Being efficient with our time during commutes and elsewhere is key to ensuring that time spent at home with loved ones isn’t consumed by leftover work that wasn’t completed between the 9-5 hours.
Additionally, when spending time completing tasks at work, make sure they’re truly purposeful. Don’t waste time holding meetings when the issue at hand could have been settled through a simple email. This doesn’t mean human interaction and times of collaboration aren’t important—we just need to be wise in when and where this happens.
Second, be willing to say “no.”
Not surprisingly, too many of us cannot say this little two-letter word. Everything seems worthy of our attention. But for me—as a husband, father, and disciple of Christ—the reality is I just don’t have time to say “yes” to everything that others might ask of me. While saying no might be particularly challenging given the pressure we feel to please and accommodate, we simply cannot allow others to dictate and decide how we manage our time.
On the bright side, saying no to some opportunities also means getting to say yes to others. When I turn down a speaking engagement, for example, I might do so because I can instead attend my daughter’s dance recital or spend more time with Donna, my wife. Organizing a calendar is not always a zero-sum game so long as you learn to prioritize the things in life that matter most and better manage engagement in activities of lesser importance.
Third, don’t let other people tell you what to value most.
The culture we live in is one of infinite dissatisfaction. Don’t have that bigger house yet? Better spend more hours in the office. Still don’t have a perfect physique? Hit up the gym. Only 300 followers on Twitter? Better make more friends, and fast.
We live in an achievement-based culture that all too often focuses solely on the material and temporal. They’ll tell you that a better job, shinier car, and whiter teeth will satisfy you, but here’s the secret: those things never do.
As Christians, we can’t allow the world around us to decide what matters most. While everyone else is busy hustling and bustling their way around in order to get ahead, Christ asks us to take up his yoke. Only then can we discover the lightness and freedom of a heart that’s been freed from earthly burdens.
My experience is that we can find ways to maximize work, so we can balance it with the priorities of life. From the outside, it looks like I work all the time (and people often ask me how I get so much done). I don’t work all the time— and I have a great team that makes it possible to get a lot done.
For some, they need to work harder. They need to work smarter. They need to make work, well, work.
For others, they need to rest more. They need to find more time for family, friends, and more.
But, for all, we need to find that balance that makes it all work. And this starts with understanding our priorities and what God is calling us to do. Perhaps the first step is to stop working, spend some time with God, and seek understanding as to what he is saying about your work. After all, he is our model; he is the one who calls us to work hard and to enjoy rest.
What is he saying to you?
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.