Many of us are familiar with the first part of Ecclesiastes 3. It tells us that there is a time to give birth, and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to uproot…. And on and on it goes.
I used to think that this was a passage that reminds us merely that there are various season of life that come and go. However, when we read the passage in context, I see something different. At the conclusion of this section, the preacher asks, "What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?" This is not a rhetorical question. The overall tone in the book of Ecclesiastes is ironic. The author seems to highlight the limits of traditional wisdom and the general meaninglessness of much of what humans do. The opening of the book portrays the endless cycle of life that goes on and on and on in weariness. There is a circular view of time with little meaning to it. Sure, there is a time for everything. So what?
There is a larger point. We all use the time we have. But to what end? There are many demands placed on our time. By what criteria do we determine how we allocate it? If I do not give this any prior thought, then my time will probably be hijacked by every perceived emergency or desire of the dominant people in my life. Whether it is a neighbor, friend, boss, or something else, my time may be up for grabs to whoever is the most dominant, demanding or loudest.
Time is the most valuable resource God has given me. Like my bank account, I need to budget my time according to what is truly important. It has to begin with prayer and it needs to be honest. Stephen Covey has some useful time management tools that can be found easily online. I like table below. Every task and demand of my time will fall in one of the four quadrants, and each quadrant has instruction on how to handle it. It is beneficial to spend some time with this reflecting on your use of time.
. Urgent Not Urgent Important 1 - DO NOW
Subject to confirming the importance and the urgency of these tasks, do these tasks now. Prioritize according to their relative urgency.
2 - PLAN TO DO
Critical to success: planning, deciding direction and aims, etc. Plan time-slots and personal space for these tasks.
Not Important 3 - REJECT AND EXPLAIN
Scrutinize and probe demands. Help originators to re-assess. Wherever possible reject and avoid these tasks sensitively and immediately.
4 - RESIST AND CEASE
Habitual 'comforters' not true tasks. Non-productive, de-motivational. Minimize or cease altogether. Plan to avoid them.