Resolution. . .Get Organized in 2015!
As you approached 2015 were you thinking about changes you wanted to make in your life? Was one of the changes to become more organized? Perhaps frustration immobilized this resolution because you didn’t know where to start. Perhaps you have already abandoned it. Did you know that being organized is closely related to how we use our time? I have learned that the use of my time must begin with a spiritual focus rather than stategic management.
Though difficult to believe, the challenge is not the amount of time we have, but rather whether or not we commit it to the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2), chose to be a good steward of it (Luke 17:19), and trust Him to multiply it (Phil. 4:13). Scripture teaches us some basic facts about time.
First, everyone has the same amount (Gen. 1:3-5). My gracious heavenly Father does not show favoritism by giving me only a small amount of time to complete the earthly tasks He assigned to me while giving someone else a different quantity.
Secondly, God gives us all the time we need (Phil. 4:19). If we are pressured by time, it means either we are doing the wrong things or we doing the right things the wrong way (Prov. 3:5-6). The only way that we can intervene in this pressure-cycle that makes us feel like “the hurrieder we go the behinder we get” is to STOP and evaluate our priorities.
Priorities—More Than A “To Do List”
The word priority implies that some things come before or prior to some others—not instead of. They assist us in being well organized. Early in my professional career, observation taught me that strong women have effective organization skills while weak women only have wishes. If our lives are going to significantly impact the Kingdom of God we must prayerfully establish priorities associated with the use of our time. Proverbs 16:9 teaches that that we should make plans, counting on God to provide direction while Proverbs 23:23 encourages us to get the facts and hold on tightly to all the wisdom we can get. While there’s no “one size fits all” list for us to prioritize our lives by, there are some tactics that assist us in allocating our time:
- Prayer—it is the most necessary, yet habitually the most neglected tactic, in the quest to sort our priorities. Scripture teaches that God has promised to provide all our strength and all of our needs (Phil. 4:13, 19), that without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5), and with God, all things are possible (Luke 1:37)! Taking the time to petition our heavenly Father helps us prioritize our responsibilities and multiplies our time along with reducing our stress (1 Peter 5:7-8). I can attest to the fact that the times I have jumped into a commitment without preceding it with prayer was equivalent to jumping off a bridge and then praying that I would not get hurt when I hit the ground! Since my heavenly Father loves me He has allowed me to feel the impact of my willful decision. Though sometimes I regress, usually prayer is my first-reflex reaction when faced with the decision of how to prioritize my time – it has made all the difference!
- Dovetailing or Bunching—this strategy requires creativity since we are combining two or more activities and completing them simultaneously. For example, I often wash a load of laundry while doing a cleaning task close to the laundry area. When I have a variety of errands to run I plan the route before I leave home. Traveling the farthest distance first and then working my way back home saves time and fuel. If the grocery store is on the list of errands I make certain that I have cold packs and insulated bags in my car so that the food does not spoil while I am completing my errands. If the weather is warm I plan to shop during the coolest part of the day. As well, I organize my grocery shopping list so that I do not walk extra steps in the store. Placing all of the heavy, non-perishable items in the bottom of the cart, then adding produce, and finally the bakery, dairy, and frozen products insures that I do not damage delicate items or decrease the temperature of items needing colder temperatures.
- Discern between the immediate and the urgent. There are many immediate but few urgent things. As I was working on this blog article I was faced with the implementation of this tactic. I planned to complete some closet reorganization at the conclusion of my Christmas break. However, the edited blog article was due on Monday. The blog article was the urgent priority. The closet reorganization was not. You are reading this post because I chose the urgent. Next weekend the closet gets the priority unless the Lord has other priorities for me.
- Distinguish between planning and control. A highly organized person can make things happen. When they are organizing they can be tempted to trust their organizational skills rather remaining dependent on God—that is why prayer must precede planning (Prov. 16:3). I frequently ask myself, “Am I well organized or controlling?” My symptoms of assuming the controlling mode include being manipulative, insisting on my way, failing to provide adequate information to those needing help with the task, withholding affirmation or encouragement, neglecting to express gratitude, and being critical and demanding of others. By God’s grace each year of my life I become more like Ruth who followed Naomi’s advice and waited (Ruth 3:11) rather than Sarah who took the timing of God’s promise into her own hands (Gen. 15:1-18:15, 21:1-7).
- Set aside time to plan. The time that we save far exceeds the time that we spend in planning. I must consistently remember during my planning sessions to refuse to allow the immediate to take the place of the important in my life. Since I normally have more “think time” on the weekend, I take a portion of it to sketch out the week. I seek to commit my plans to the Lord and record them in “sand rather than stone” (i.e. I must remain flexible). The day of the week I use for planning is really unimportant. What is important is that I humbly place my plans in the hands of my heavenly Father and trust Him for their implementation (Jer. 29:11-14). Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that there are consequences for needing to ask forgiveness rather than initially seeking permission when establishing the week’s priorities. Trust me – the consequences are not worth the impulsive action!
Set Yourself Up for Success
Our time is a tool to allow us to fulfill the purposes that God has called us to—not our best friend’s or next-door-neighbor’s. We must not compare our organizational skills or our priorities with others. However, neglecting their management depletes our energy and victimizes our time, because we expend efforts moving in the wrong direction. Lord-willing, if we choose to implement the strategies suggested here, on December 31, 2015 we will be able to say with gratitude, “I achieved my resolution and was more organized in 2015!” (Eph. 5:15-20; 1. Thess. 5:16-18).