In the world of working women, time management is a hot topic. With only 24 hours in each day, how can women juggle all the responsibilities of a job, a marriage, and a family, and still find time to care of ourselves – sleep, and maybe exercise? With so much crammed into one day, it’s easy for our time with God to slip to the bottom of the list.
Some time management strategies are tried and true: sleep eight hours each night, learn to say “no,” and focus on one task at a time. But is managing our time well simply a matter of being disciplined? Or does time management look different in different seasons of our lives? And how can we truly honor God with the way we spend our time?
Find what works for you.
Over many years, I have honed my schedule and learned what works for me and my family as I attempt to manage my time and be the best boss, coworker, wife, mother, and friend as possible, all while making time to invest in my relationship with God by reading His Word, praying, and serving. I’m far from perfect, and there have been months and years when my schedule spiraled out of control. But I have learned a few tips about managing time well – honoring our careers, our families, our bodies, and our faith.
For as long as I can remember, I have started my day with two non-negotiables: prayer and exercise. Each morning, my husband Chris and I pray together before we get out of bed. When we are apart, I make sure to still pray on my own. This hasn’t changed throughout any season, no matter how chaotic, and is the key to staying grounded in the Lord and setting the tone for my day.
Exercise, on the other hand, has looked differently in each season, though I still try to make this a priority first thing in the morning. I used to run for 30 minutes with Chris each morning, until I turned 50 and my knees gave out. Now I use the elliptical each morning. While I always enjoyed exercising with my husband, this time on the elliptical has become precious to me as I can spend 30 minutes reading the Bible followed by 60 minutes of work each morning, all during a 90-minute workout. But keep in mind – this has only been possible in a season when my work schedule allows for a longer workout and my kids no longer need my help getting ready for the day and dropped off at school. Take heart, mamas with young children! Your current season will come and go, and you honor God by nurturing your children in their young years.
Be firm with your priorities.
I have always made it a priority to be home by 6:00 so we could have dinner as a family. That left the hours between 8:30 and 5:45 each day to devote to work, whether at an office or at home. I have always strived to focus solely on work during work hours, and be fully present at home after 6:00. Devoting work hours to focus on my work has set me up for professional success while protecting the hours I have at home with my family.
However, I too have had seasons where taking care of my children had to come first. Since my daughter, Annie, was diagnosed with Gasto Paresis in 2012, I had to often set aside hours during the work day to care for her or take her to an appointment. For several months, I had to devote hours in the evenings or on weekends to make up for lost time at work. Trusting the Lord to heal Annie and provide what we needed help me stay focused during that season. Since 2014, my work with 4word has given me a much more flexible schedule, which God knew I needed to help care for my daughter. Remember that the Lord knows what we need, and will bless us abundantly as we seek to honor him with the way we prioritize our time.
Do your best.
Looking back, I am so thankful that I put everything I could into using the gifts God has given me throughout my career. You never know when a season will hit where you don’t have the same opportunity to pour all your energy into your work because family matters or health issues have to take priority. Because I focused on work when my family was healthy, I was blessed to have the financial means to care for Annie and run 4word without a salary. If I have learned anything throughout these seasons, it is that the Lord always provides!
But how can we know if the Lord is pleased with the way we are spending our time in the season we are in? This is one reason starting each day with prayer is so important. I pray about how I spend each day, week, and year. I trust that God is leading me and will redirect me if I get off track. Colossians 3:17 tells us, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” By doing everything in His name, I can trust that God is leading me and will show me how He wants me to manage my time.
This approach has allowed me to have no regrets about how I have spent my time in one season or another. God asks us to do the best we can with what He has trusted us with. In the parable of the talents we read about in Matthew 25, a man entrusts his servants with his property while he was away. One servant received five talents, and another two talents, but both were able to double what they had been entrusted with while their master was gone. A third servant, who received one talent, buried it in the ground, afraid of losing it and making his master angry. Upon his return, the master was pleased with the first two servants, and furious that the third didn’t at least invest the talent and earn interest while he was away. This story reminds me that God has entrusted each of us, and our job is to steward His gifts and resources to the best of our ability. By doing this, we can ensure God is pleased with how we have spent our time.
Know when you need to readjust.
While I have no regrets about the way I have managed my time each season, I too know what it feels like to be “off track” in our time management and priorities. Regularly assessing how we spend our time, holding our schedules against what we know the Lord has called us to and entrusted us with, can help us adjust course and navigate differently in another season. Only God, ourselves and our husband matter in making decisions about how we spend our time. God reminds us to “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Don’t be afraid to approach the Lord and ask Him how you should be spending your time. He will direct your steps.
Above all else, don’t let a busy season keep you from spending time in God’s Word. This has been important to me in every season, but it wasn’t until 2009 when I finally put words into daily practice. Prayer is just as critical, too. Building in a regular prayer time to your day, whether it is in the morning like I do or another time that work with your schedule, is critical to ensuring prayer doesn’t fall through the cracks. I also talk with God constantly throughout my day. Recently, I went to our 4word mailbox and received a “surprise” check. I immediately stopped and thanked God for the gift. This ongoing conversation with the Lord keeps me grounded throughout the day and reminds me of what really matters when a sudden conflict or crisis emerges.
Seeing other “giants” in my professional career find a way to balance busy schedules while properly prioritizing their families and faiths has helped encourage me in difficult seasons. My boss, Mike Lafitte, at Trammell Crow Company and CBRE had a very big job, but he knew how to put God first, his family second, and his work third. Find an example of someone in your life who has found a great rhythm for work, relationships, faith, and boundaries, and be encouraged by them.
And what should you do when you’re exhausted and at the end of your rope? Stop and pray. My go-to prayer is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” I always stop to thank God at the end of the day and on Friday, which helps me keep a healthy perspective on what had transpired that day or week. I am still learning how to properly rest and take a true Sabbath. I grew up on our family farm, and each family member had to work hard and contribute. We took Sundays to worship and rest most of the year, but once harvest started, we worked around the clock, even on Sundays. Today, I make it a priority to go to church and spend time with my family on Sundays. I’m still learning how to fully rest on my days off while still feeding and caring for my husband and children. Remember that as long as you are setting aside time to intentionally rest and spend with the Lord and your family, God will bless your Sabbath.
Managing our time in a way that honors God isn’t easy, and each new season brings a new learning curve. First and foremost, seek after the Lord’s heart for you in how you spend your time. Honor him with your gifts and talents, pouring yourself into work during work hours and being present at home with your family outside of work. Find time to pray daily, seeking God’s wisdom for how you spend your time each day. Remember that each season will look a little different, but by putting God first, family second and your career third, God will bless how you spend your time. Do your best with what you’ve been entrusted with, and look to other examples of people you respect who manage their time well. One day, you will find you were an encouragement to a young woman trying to figure out how to manage her work, family, friends and faith well.
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