1. Take an honest look at how you spend your time
2. List your time-stealers.
3. Clearly distinguish between rest and relaxation (we all
need it!) and bad habits
4. If possible, once you put a face on your time stealer,
reduce or completely eliminate it for seven days or longer.
5. When you finish the "to-do's" of your day, reward
yourself! Rather than cramming in more tasks, use the free
moments to enjoy things that you love or need, like:
Sit in the floor and play with your child.
Talk to your teen.
Take a ten-minute walk. If you have children, ask them to
walk with you and check out the sights together.
Ask your husband to give you a back rub or surprise him and
give him one!
Take a bubble bath and read a chapter of a good novel
6. Recognize every moment as a possibility.
Suzie's Web site
By T. Suzanne Eller
Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.
I hummed the lyrics to this seventies song as I attempted to finish
a chapter of my new book. I was slightly behind schedule and felt
the pressure of a looming deadline.
I glanced at the laundered clothes stacked on our bed. My house was clean,
sort of. Like a rook in a chess game, I moved clutter from room to room
and chair to chair, always staying one step ahead of an outright mess.
A small voice of discontentment nagged at me and I couldn't quite put
my finger on it. One day I sat in front of my TV munching kettle corn
and without warning God interrupted my vision of Judge Judy hammering
a hapless defendant. He whispered his own verdict as I realized that I
had allowed some bad habits to slip into my life.
I tried to defend myself. Like a perky realtor, I dragged God from room
to room in my life trying to persuade him that I was the epitome of efficiency.
Unfortunately, just as annoying as it is when you move your refrigerator
to let the repairman get to the plumbing, my tour revealed a lot of goo
that had accumulated in the corners and nooks of my day. I finally confessed
that I had allowed time stealers to rob me and create disorganization
in my life.
As I knelt in prayer, I let God direct the tour this time.
I operated at a spastic level -- writing for 30 minutes, playing
computer games for 30 minutes, throwing a load of laundry in the washer,
watching a half hour of TV, then writing for another half hour. I
had convinced myself that I had so much to do that I would never catch
up. Having three kids in college at the same time meant that there
was a ream of financial aid paperwork to complete each year. I speak
to teens and women and travel. I teach a Discipleship class for teens
every Sunday morning and volunteer as a youth staff member. But an
honest examination showed me that these were all things that I loved.
They weren't the problem. It was the time stealers that had crept
into my day that caused my time to slip, slip away.
I talked with some of my friends and quickly discovered that I was not
alone. Though our schedules and family situations varied greatly and we
were in different seasons of our lives, we all knew what it was to struggle
with the issue of time. The deeper we traveled in our conversation, we
discovered that many of us were challenged with time stealers.
One friend, Kathryn Lay, a working mother, confessed that over-commitment
used to rob her of valuable family time. "I used to say yes to
so many things," she said, "and then I decided to do something
about it." Kathryn marked one day each month on her calendar
as a family day and then planned an all-day or overnight trip that
had nothing to do with work, school, or ministry. Phones and e-mail
were banned. Today, their monthly family day is a treasured tradition.
"We might take photos or just enjoy nature or visit antique shops,"
she says. "Our goal is just to have fun and relax."
Kathryn can look through the stacks of photos of her family trips
and see the value of the time devoted to her family. She says she
learned a valuable lesson as she traipsed through shops and parks.
"I don't have to say yes to everything, and I don't have to be
a part of leadership of everything," she said. For Kathryn Lay,
learning to say no reclaimed precious family time.
Another friend, RaNaile Nickell, is a single working mom who commutes
two hours each day to work. She shared that television was a major
time stealer for her. "I'm not into the Word," she confessed.
"At least, not like I want to be. I realize that I'm not receiving
what I need for wherever God wants to take me next. I want more than
Another friend, Louise, shared her solution. She taped one or two of
her favorite shows. "I watch them on Saturday morning," she
said. "My children are older and sleep in, so I get up early and
walk and then I snuggle in with a café latte and watch my shows."
This eliminated the habit of watching several shows in a row. Also, knowing
that she would have down time later in the week motivated Louise to spend
the couple of hours she had each night with either her family or doing
activities that she loved.
Technology, touted to make our lives simpler, was a chief time stealer
among the women. Brandy Brow started two online support groups as
a ministry and they quickly consumed chunks of her time. She found
herself stopping to respond to "just one more e-mail" and
before she knew it, other things were pushed to the side. Brandy decided
to combat this time-stealer by reserving a specific time each day
to read and respond to e-mail. "Since I've instituted this self-ban,
my priorities have straightened out tremendously," she says.
I felt silly admitting that playing computer games was my biggest
time-stealer. It started out as a diversion. I had begun to stay up
a few minutes longer than I should have to play "one more"
game instead of going to bed. I had to admit that computer games stole
at least an hour of valuable time each day. It kept me from writing.
It pulled at me to remain in front of a blinking, impersonal computer
when a live, warm, much-loved husband was nearby.
The more we talked, the more I realized how distracted I had become
by all of this. A friend of mine calls this "hummingbird head"
syndrome, flitting from one activity to the next but accomplishing
After our discussion, I decided to tackle this problem head on. The
first step was completed. I had put a face on my time stealers.
Step two was to list my losses: Time stealers blurred my focus. They
distorted the reality of the time I had each day to fulfill God's
purpose for my life. All the times that I said, "I have no time,"
I was spinning away precious moments.
I was ready to tackle these pesky time stealers. Checking my e-mail
at a certain hour was a perfect solution. I realized within a couple
of days that most of the e-mails I received could be handled by checking
them early in the morning and then again at night.
Turning off the television wasn't such a big deal. But when it came
to computer games, I quickly learned that we don't know how entrenched
a habit is until we cut it out of our life.
I decided to fast my time stealers. Instead of giving up food, I
would eliminate things that robbed precious moments for thirty days.
I would check my e-mail only twice a day.
Was it easy? No, but as the fast dwindled down, I looked at what
I had gained. I had reclaimed seven hours a week simply by eliminating
one silly spades computer game.
I rediscovered pockets of precious moments. I spent a portion of
my morning reading my Bible and talking with my Savior-instead of
running to check e-mail. I took long walks with my husband in the
evening or worked outside with our horses -- instead of playing spades
or watching television. At the end of the day, my writing projects
were complete. I no longer used the phrases "too much to do"
or "not enough time".
I came to the conclusion that God had more for me -- not a legalistic
list of tasks to perform, but a new way of thinking. The hours of
my day were opportunities. Each moment was a possibility. It is evident
that Nathaniel Emmons had shared a truth when he said, "A habit
is either the best of servants or the worst of masters."
Suzanne Eller is a speaker and author of Real Teens, Real Stories,
Real Life. Her second book, Real Teens, Real Issues - What Teens
Say They Need from Parents in Today's World will be released in
2004. You can find out more about Suzie at http://daretobelieve.org
or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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