One of the essential building blocks of any budget is knowing what you have. This is one of the fundamental problems when it comes to time. We are fantastically capable of measuring it, but clueless as to how much of it we actually have. We need to live and plan as if only old age will claim us should the Lord tarry, all the while acknowledging that our next breath might be our last. Not knowing our actual supply of time in this life is part of what makes every moment a precious commodity.
What if we lived an average lifespan? For Americans, this is approximately 79 years which works out to be 948 months; 28,855 days; 692,514 hours; 41,550,840 minutes; and 3,324,067,200 heartbeats. Following are some of the ways we spend that time.
- 26 years sleeping (nearly a third of our potential lives).
- 13 years working.
- 11 years of screen time (8 years watching TV, 3 years on social media).
- 5 years eating.
- 33 years exercising.
- 1 year on romance.
- 1 year socializing.
- 334 days in school (primary and secondary – we spend twelve years doing what could potentially be done in less than a year!).
- 235 days waiting in line.
When we look at these numbers blocked together as the pieces of a lifetime, it is a bit daunting. If we could study while standing in line, we could possibly earn an associates degree. If we spent the time we invest in social media into actual socializing, our lives would be richer.
We don’t know how much time we have, but we can find out how we spend it. When I was eighteen, my mentors challenged me on my financial discipline. One of them suggested I keep track of every penny I spent. For weeks, I carried around a pocket spiral notepad and wrote down every cent I spent and what I spent it on. At the end of the day, I would log these expenses down on a paper spreadsheet. It didn’t take long for wasteful patterns to emerge. One of the first things I cut out was buying lunch. I started packing a lunch and carrying it with me. To this day, nearly forty years later, buying lunch out is the rare exception.
When I first became serious about managing my time, I went to the bookstore and bought a couple of how-to guides. What was one of the first things the authors of these works suggested? Surprise, surprise, they wanted me to write down how I spent my time. For weeks, I carried a small spiral notebook in my pocket and wrote down every time expenditure greater than five minutes. As you might guess, not only did wasteful expenditure patterns appear, wrong costing assumptions were also exposed. Certain tasks consistently cost more time than I thought they did.
Flash forward several decades and come into my office. Throughout my working day, I keep a spreadsheet file open on my computer. It is my time log. Should you come into my office for a planned or impromptu meeting, I’ll clock you in. When we are done, I’ll clock you out and catalog my next action on the following row. Management in modern business can leave one exhausted without knowing why. When I grew tired of not being sure how to answer my wife’s daily question of “what did you do today at work,” I remembered the lessons of my youth and started keeping track. This simple discipline has kept me from being discouraged at my perceived lack of production—some days get “spent” in meetings talking about tasks instead of doing them—as well as defining for me the actual work time expenditure. As a salaried employee, it is easy to lose track of how much time is spent at work. When I wake up tired on a Saturday, it’s helpful to know that I’ve just put in a 55 hour work week.
Though as Americans we work on average 2 months more than most Europeans, the average work week (once time off is taken into account) is 36.5 hours. It must be all the part-timers and those with four weeks of vacation that are making the rest of us wear ourselves out on overtime!
Our culture has even made play fretful. Commenting on what he calls “speed sickness,” Marshall Cook has this observation on our leisure time:
“‘Leisure’ no longer rhymes with ‘pleasure’ as we race through life, checking the ‘fun’ items off the to-do list. Even our play has become purposeful (physical conditioning or enforced ‘relaxation’) and competitive (who plays golf without keeping score?). I even read recently about a birdwatching competition. Birdwatching? Competition?”
Our harried pace of life has also affected our sleep patterns. In the 1850’s, the average American got 9.5 hours of sleep a night. By 1950, we were down to 8 hours. Currently, the average sleep per night is 7. Though the amount of sleep actually needed may vary with each person, we do need sleep. Adam slept while he was yet perfect. And the perfect man, the Lord Jesus Christ, was known to take naps! Sleeplessness is not a badge of spirituality!
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. ESV
Method and Motive – then Activity
How we do things is more important than what we do. One man may be the president of a Fortune 500 company and the other a janitor. If the janitor works heartily as unto the Lord but the CEO works for himself, it’s the janitor who receives eternal rewards.
Jesus focused much of His teaching on the how of life versus the what of life.
- The Parable of the Talents – “Faithful in little is faithful in much.” Matt 25:14-30. The Master focused on their faithfulness (method) not their activity (i.e. what they actually did to make more money).
- “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Matt. 7:1-2
- “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt. 22:39
Jesus judges our motives. Motives speak to the why of the things we choose to do, good or bad. We can do the right things for the wrong reasons and receive no reward.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. KJV
In her talk entitled “The God of the Overloaded,” Shelley Hendry makes a profound observation on motivation and overload:
“If we don’t relinquish our expectations to God and trust His sovereignty, we can get so bent out of shape in spiritual matters that we wind up doing the work of God in the spirit of the devil.”
Thoughts and intents are the first things the Lord places in the scales. He probes our hearts to prompt us to take an honest and enlightened look at why we are doing things. If our motive isn’t love, all our actions will be to no profit. His desire is to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Well done means the right motives were followed to the right actions. Rest assured, all of our actions will be judged as well.
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. KJV
 https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/10/18/weve-broken-down-your-entire-life-into-years-spent-doing-tasks_a_23248153/ accessed on November 29, 2018.
 Marshall J. Cook, Time Management: Proven Techniques for Making the Most of Your Valuable Time, Adams Media Corporation, Holbrook, 1998, p. 24.
 Richard A. Swenson, M. D., The Overload Syndrome: Learning to Live Within Your Limits, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, 1998, p. 172.
 Cook, p. 5.
 Swenson, p. 126.
 Dru Scott Decker, Finding More Time in Your Life, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, , p. 115-116.
 Matt. 6:1, 5; 7:22-23.