A Time for Every Purpose

Perhaps an author of bygone days was permitted the leisure of penning a work and leaving all else to publishing people. Today’s author must also be given to social media engagement, marketing, writers conferences, blogging—where is the time to write?

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven …
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NKJV)

My time-management skills are far from perfected. But as a homeschooling mom and lay minister with precious few hours to write, I’m motivated to faithfully put into practice three things I’ve learned so far.

Time needs to be ORDERED. A no-brainer, right? Ordering time begins with a calendar and then goes on to account for the items without an entry. Household chores, down time, and fitness for both soul (Bible-reading & prayer) and body (exercise) can get pushed aside if time is not allotted for them. Omitting them on occasion is unavoidable. Missing them regularly may overtake us with a vengeance.

Time needs to be RESPONSIVE. You can only call it flexible if you’ve ordered your time and then have something to flex from. Responsive time allows me to be sensitive to the needs of others and cultivate healthy relationships. (Some of the most important conversations I have shift something else.) Perhaps most importantly, responsive time helps me accept God making a change to the schedule He owns anyway.

Time needs to be PURPOSEFUL. Urgency and deadlines do motivate a person to focus on the task at hand. But unless I’ve defined with God what His purpose for my life is, and I keep my eye on that goal, my less-focused hours are easily wasted on activities which undermine my true purpose. Like money and seo services, time impulsively spent on the wrong thing makes it unavailable for the right thing.

The writer’s soul longs to produce something bigger than itself. Our art is transformation of ideas from abstract to concrete, leaving our stamp upon the world. Words are our medium—words of purpose purchased with time.

… What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?
I have seen the God-given task
with which the sons of men are to be occupied.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Also He has put eternity in their hearts …
~ Ecclesiastes (3:9-11)

The rest of us are dying to know! What’s your own best time-management tip?

33 Replies to “A Time for Every Purpose”

  1. I keep a “job jar” of ten-minute tasks (tie up rapidly growing vines, sew on a button) that are perfect when waiting for dinner to cook. And, of course, that old standard: lists, lists, lists.

    1. Susan, I love the idea of a job jar! I hate it when I have a few minutes and can’t think of a single thing I need to do. I’m a list maker but I tend to only put the big things on the list. I’ll have to try this!

  2. As far as meeting writing goals, I’m still in the process of what works best for me to stay on task with nursing part-time, family… etc. What I’ve found is that per day I need to do 1500 words, one blog post, and one marketing related task. Baby steps….

  3. When I am interupted while doing a task, I take care of the interruption and then make sure I go back and complete what I was doing before being interrupted. This ensures that the original task is done. And as someone else said, LISTS!

    1. I WISH I never got interruption-induced ADD, Edwina! I suppose part of the problem is that after the original interruption is followed by a couple of more, I start to forget the original goal. : / I’ll have to make it a point to mark my brain with the original task. Thanks!

  4. My best time management tip is this: be prepared to take advantage of small bits of time that normally get wasted. I have found that even in a tiny ten minute span I can often accomplish an entire task that I thought would take longer – straightening up the kitchen, making a grocery list, sorting a basket of laundry, adding to a chapter of my book – or editing and polishing. I tend to think that I must have a large block of time to complete a task, when the reality is that any progress made toward a goal – whether it’s completed or not – is that much less I have to do later. It also can help me break down a bigger task into smaller segments so I don’t feel like I’m spending my whole life on one thing. I keep a notebook in my purse to make lists, write down story ideas, names & numbers, and usually keep a book with me as well to read in down times like waiting in offices, etc. If I see something out of place at my house I snag it when I walk by and put it where it belongs. So much quicker to put up one thing than to let everything go for a week and put up twenty. Am I always this disciplined? Nah! I tend to go in cycles with this – everything from extremely efficient to completely slothful. 🙂 I don’t think this should become another source for guilt – we have enough of those already. I try to remember that we all need some lazy, down time. I think it helps fuel our creativity, and rest is important for many things. When I am this disciplined, though, it’s a great thing!

    1. Love this advice, Sherri. Taking advantage of the little time blocks really adds up. Sort of like how saving a little bit of money here and there adds up as well!

  5. For me, it’s all about discipline and keeping true to my writing time. I try to keep sacred an hour of time each morning before my son wakes up. When I stick to this, the rest of the day goes better too.

  6. What a pleasure this post is, especially since I know you to be one who not only “talks this talk” but “walks this walk”. 🙂 Thanks for the timely and very important reminder that God orders not only our lives, but our very days–a timely message for me.

    May He bless you richly today, Anne!

  7. Appreciated your insights, Anne, and as I quote-lover, I also appreciated the quotes!
    I learned this time management tip from author Lisa Jordan, who also hangs around The Water Cooler (waving to LJ!): I use an online timer to monitor my writing time. (http://www.online-stopwatch.com/) I’ll usually set the timer for 30 minutes–and then get up and do other things: laundry or phone calls or exercise. Breaking up writing into timed increments helps me stay focused.

  8. What Wendy said! Your remarks about purpose are great–even in the most stressful moments of my publishing journey, I’m OK as long as I remember why I’m doing these things and where I draw the line based on my spiritual priorities.

  9. Anne, this is great insight. I am terrible with time management and I’m just really disorganized in general so I can often get into a panic over getting things done. I do have to write things down, especially once I started being asked for interviews and having to send out books to people. I just hope I didn’t forget anything along the way. Do you think it’s possible to retrain a scatterbrain like myself? I sure hope so!! 🙂

    1. Cathy, I’m still putting these things into practice myself. The internet is like a black hole for me—once I’m online, it’s hard to stay on task. (I like Beth & Lisa’s idea to use a timer!) You and I may never perfect our time management, but we can still work toward excellence!

  10. Anne, these three are great, and I love how you express that flexibility comes only with a schedule or planning in advance.

    My best time management tool so far appears to be going on a little less sleep that I really don’t require to live optimally.

    1. Yes, Eileen, I used to pride myself on flexibility, until someone pointed out that “flexibility” without structure behind is little more than familiar chaos. I managed on less sleep for a long time, and miss those days. I still hope to return my health to the place where I sleep less and recoup those highly produtive hours when everyone else is asleep.

  11. Thanks for those much needed reminders about time management, yet holding it loosely since it’s God’s agenda anyway. Blessings!

  12. My best tip is make a writing schedule. My work schedule is so demanding (2 day shifts, then evening, then a day again, and 2 evenings – up and down – sometimes 7 or 8 days in a row) that actually write my writing schedule on the work schedule that I printed up at work. I leave it on the fridge so I can see it. The writing, of course, comes in after the family schedule. I do a lot of writing on my days off.

    Loved this post.

  13. best use of my time management to me means always being a little bit ahead of where I should be, makes me feel good and gives me a cushion if something expected happens that would otherwise throw me back.

  14. best use of my time management to me means always being a little bit ahead of where I should be, makes me feel good and gives me a cushion if something expected happens that would otherwise throw me back.

  15. When I sit down to write, I try to focus only on writing…rather than tweeting, facebooking, emailing, etc. I try to squeeze social media in at other points here and there during the day, but when I have a good block of time (an hour or more), I put my nose to the grindstone and use it to put words on the screen.

  16. This might sound strange at first, but I use the tendency to procrastinate to my advantage. If I sit down to write a chapter, but suddenly feel inspired to write next week’s blog post (or vice verse), instead of forcing myself to go ahead with the “scheduled” task, I switch to the one that I’m fired up to write. When I do that, I find I get the “inspired” task done more quickly than I otherwise would have. I’m still getting everything done, but I’m working faster and enjoying it while I go.

  17. My husband suggested I do a Weekly Time Block Sheet. I allow a certain amount of time for each project (like writing, blogging, editing, researching, social networking, working on proposals, reading) so, at the end of the week, no one thing has fallen through the cracks. It’s helped some, but I still have the tendency to fill those time blocks with things that take twice as long!

  18. Great suggestions, Anne. I’m such a work-in-progress when it comes to time management. I really liked your points about being purposeful and yet responsive. One of my challenges is that I tend to put what I’m doing for others ahead of my own work. I have to be careful about what I take on for this reason.

  19. It may have already been said, but by far, my best time-saver is spending quality time with God in His Word and prayer…first! Sometimes I feel like diving into my project first, but that never pans out well. It’s like a plane taking off without the pilot…a big no-no! God’s anointing on my writing, and therefore my biggest time-saver, is starting each day with Him.

    1. Daphne, with whatever words it was said before, putting God first can never be over-emphasized. If He is not the Source to inspire our planning, thinking, writing–and EVERYthing else that that surrounds us–we plan, think, and write in vain. I’m most appreciative of your comment.

  20. Really liked that first quote. I first heard it last week, and I’ve been thinking on it every since. I could use so much help in the time-management arena. Thank you for the great insight and instruction.

  21. My best time management technique is remembering my priorities, not the world around me’s priorities. When I have prayerfully considered priorities, I am able to say no when I need to, live more simply, and end up with more time in my day.

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