As we continue our time management series, Kenneth D. Litwak shares his thoughts. Like many of the topics we publish on, time management is an area that combines opportunities for practical growth and spiritual formation. Our goal is to encourage readers to steward the gift of time God has given us, using it to love God and others and live out Christ’s Kingdom. You can click here for the rest of the time management series.
It always starts with good intentions. I’ll sit down at my computer to work on a paper I’m presenting soon. I start BibleWorks because the paper is on the book of Acts and start MS Word, find my place, and prepare to read the next commentary on a passage. However, I remember that this morning I got a notification from FaceBook about someone’s birthday. So I go to FB—it will only take a minute. Someone wrote a post in an FB group I belong to that I want to read. It won’t take long. . . . I look at my email, which I saw an hour ago, to see if anything important has shown up and that leads me to look at the list of 21 notifications I have from Twitter. The glass at the front of my monitor, instead of being the way I view my paper, has become the event horizon of a black hole for time. I had two hours to spend on researching and writing, but by the time I’ve gotten myself out of social media and email, I have 35 minutes left. Falling into this black hole is easy. Getting out is another matter.
I’m a Stargate SG-1 fan and this repeated experience reminds me of the use of “time dilation” as a way to stop the Replicators (self-assembling, highly intelligent robots bent on human destruction). A time dilation bomb was set off on their planet to make their time be much slower than real time, e.g., one minute for them would be a year for everyone else. When I fall into the web black hole, it always seems like barely any time has passed even though time in the “real world” has sped on. I’ve been surfing the web for ninety minutes? Seriously??
Paul urges the believer to make the most of time or of an opportunity. Using the two hours to accomplish a task I have to get done, “taking advantage of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16 NET), like eating the right foods, getting enough exercise, practicing attentiveness, and spiritual disciplines, are all things that take self-discipline as well as good intentions. Surfing the web for some can be like a candy bar to a chocoholic. It takes no real effort or forethought. “Redeeming the time,” as the King James Version puts it, takes practice, habit, and planning to do it well. So what can I do? I decide how much time I can afford to use for surfing the web and set the timer on my watch to off. When the alarm goes off, I need to switch actives and work on my paper. This does not force me to change what I’m doing. I still have to exercise self-control and remember what I’m there for: get writing done. Telling myself I won’t ever look at email or FB is not going to work, but I can use my watch to remind me what my priorities are. Alarms aren’t just for waking up. Sometimes I rely on my “internal alarm clock,” but setting a real one can be a big help in “making the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:16 ESV).