In light of my recent post on biblical illiteracy, I wanted to give some practical suggestions for being a better steward of the time God gives us each day, especially for making time for the study of God's Word.
I encourage you to keep track of how you spend your time for one week. You can use this time management sheet (PDF) to keep track of everything you do in a day, but most specifically what you do with your discretionary time.
For example, write down time spent:
Eating (will be easy to keep track of on a day you fast!)
Talking with spouse
Playing with kids
Reading to kids
Working around house
Small talk (phone or together) with friends
Reading books (designate which)
Email reading and responding
Television, and break down time spent in terms of:
- Sports—football, etc. (be specific, which games, etc., and the total time for each so you can add up)
- Regular programming (probably helpful to break it down: e.g. Lost, 1 hour; Rerun of 24, 1 hour; Star Trek reruns, 2 hours, etc.)
- Movies (on TV, or DVD, video), 4 hours; name the movie as a reminder
Be able to add up your specifics to a total in each category, rather than just estimating a total (because we always underestimate). Of course, you can sometimes do two things at once. For example, listen to the radio (or Scripture audio) while driving, or exercise while reading (I often do this on my stationary bike) or watching TV. In that case, just note you did two things at once and credit the time spent to both of them.
When we keep track of how we spend our time, it makes us better stewards because we become aware of what we otherwise don't really know. For example, people normally watch far more TV than they think. Becoming aware is the first step of stewardship, which puts us in a position to decide, "I want to spend more time reading some great books and God's Word, and talking with my wife and reading to my kids, and to steward this time I can reduce my television watching by 10 hours each week." Again, we won't do this without a clear picture of how we're currently spending our time.
When I was talking to my wife Nanci about this, she reminded me that when she had food allergy issues, she was supposed to write down each and every thing she ate for several weeks. She found this very helpful. As with eating, when it comes to how you spend your time, simply knowing what you're actually doing makes a huge difference in your ability to evaluate and make positive, God-glorifying changes.
I admit sometimes I really do struggle with how quickly time runs out each day. I try to focus on the Lord and His Word and figure out the few things in life He really wants me to do. Every day—including this one—offers me a hundred distractions, not just bad things, but good things. I tell myself that I must say no to the vast majority of good things that I might be able to say yes to those very few things God really has for me. Jesus says to Martha in Luke 10: “Few things are necessary, really only one. Mary has chosen the better portion and it will not be taken from her.”