As I grow older, I am more aware that my time here is growing shorter. As a believer in eternity, I also look forward to the promise of paradise forever. Especially during grim times such as we are in the center of now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, eternity is looking better and better. Heaven is a promise of paradise. I live in the desert in California where the air quality is poor due to the smoke from fires west of us and we are just completing one of the hottest summers on record. A little bit of paradise right now would go an exceedingly long way.

Through the years I have learned a good deal about what we humans call “managing time”. I have taught it, written about it, practiced it, and tried to improve my time management. The fact is, you and I don’t manage time at all. We can only manage what we do during a given period. Time doesn’t change, wait, slow down or speed up (as far as I know) so the best we can do is make the most of the time we have.

Leonardo Da Vinci once said that “Time stays long enough for those who use it.” I think I understand what that brilliant man meant by that. I think he meant to use what is given to us productively and wisely. Or, in other words, don’t waste it on non-productive or non-beneficial activities. Perhaps he would tell us to stay off the couch on Sunday and go out to breathe in some air and get some exercise that we enjoy. I’m not sure, but I do know that I “waste” time on occasion because I am lazy or apathetic. What do you think?

There are three things that I have incorporated into my life that I believe are helpful. There are three words that sum up those three things: Simplify, Prioritize, and Plan. I believe that all three are essential. When I stumble, I am leaving one of them out of the equation. It is like building a room in your house where nails and sheetrock are not enough. You also need wood. Maybe not a completely accurate description but I’ll bet you know what I mean.

The times in my life that I struggle the most are when clutter encroaches me. It distracts me and leads me away from my purpose. It is sometimes amusing or fun, but it also leads me down paths that are off track and not supporting my purposeful direction. A few years ago, I read the book, Simplify by Bill Hybels. It opened my eyes to living life differently than I had known for years. Do you ever feel like you are running a race every day? If you have, I can empathize because that is how I felt, and still do from time to time. Only now I recognize it immediately and change my approach. I try to remove the clutter, be it material, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual from my life. With less in my way (obstacles really), I can focus on what is important. What is important is that which will take me in the direction of my target or my purpose.

Focusing on what is important requires prioritizing. How do you accomplish that? How do you sort through all the “To Do’s” coming at you and stick with getting to the high priority things that provide you with the most benefit? It isn’t easy is it? Minutia has a way of building itself into a mountain if we allow it. One of the most difficult things to do is eliminate that which is easy, and we enjoy for something more beneficial that we may not enjoy. Some people do not like to cook. Since they need to eat, they must make a choice, cook, or buy something prepared. Fast food, processed food, and even some restaurant food is often less healthy than a home-cooked meal. So, the choice becomes doing something we prefer or something that is good for us. Now that is a genuine distraction!

It takes both thought and energy to prioritize and do that which is important to you, right for you, and good for you. How do you get that energy? Discover your passion and set your priorities accordingly. There may be steps along the way that aren’t to your liking (such as cooking), but if you focus on your passion you will find the energy to do that which is necessary. People without passion, have no energy. And they probably eat a lot at their favorite pizza joint instead of making it at home. But if your passion is to be healthy, eating at home will become a priority for you.

And lastly, planning helps move the needle toward making the most of your time. Instead of allowing the day to manage you, try managing the day. It’s all you have. Plan long term (1 year), short term (weekly), and daily to accomplish those things which are of highest priority to you. The plan will be the guardrails of your highway. They will be like a GPS getting you from here to there. Execute the plan by looking at it and adjusting it and thinking about it. Don’t be a “To Do” list person. Be a planner with a focus on top priorities. You will be much better able to manage your time, so it won’t be so likely to manage you. It will someday cease as we know it today, so why not get more out of it now?