Cultivating Your Time: Making Your Days Count

By Jonathan Teague

 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” —Psalm 90:12

The Scripture tells us that Psalm 90 is a psalm of Moses. This is interesting to note given all that Moses endured and experienced in his life. Few men who have ever lived could more adeptly testify to the importance of numbering their days. Moses was a veteran leader who had to courageously trust God by faith time and again. No doubt there were more than a few “tough days” that stood out in his mind! From that overflow of experiences comes this profound exhortation in Psalm 90, challenging us as leaders to make our days count. There are really two aspects to numbering our days. First, when we number our days, we are reminded of the fact that we are only allotted a certain number of days in this life. Second, because our time on this earth is brief (measured against the scale of eternity), we need to live and lead with a sense of urgency by capturing and redeeming every moment God gives us. Jesus reinforces this principle in fullness when He reminds His disciples that following Him and pursuing His kingdom mission in our lives always demands a cost (see Luke 14:28–35). But we shouldn’t look at the cost of following Jesus as some kind of loss. Rather, we should celebrate the opportunity to sacrifice for the work of Christ in our day.

Most leaders I know would agree that one of the costs in leadership and ministry comes in the area of our time—specifically, how much time we expend on our various areas of responsibility. As a leader, the expense of time will either exhaust me or energize me. It really comes down to perspective—do I see my time as a commodity to be traded or a gift that I give? When I see my time as a commodity, or something I own, I often will approach how I use my time with a guarded view. Now, I am not arguing that we shouldn’t guard our time and protect ourselves from burnout. Healthy boundaries and rhythms should characterize the life of every wise leader. But time that’s too closely guarded and too rarely shared may point to a deeper spiritual issue in my life and my leadership. We must guard against being selfish with our time!

The longer we lead, the more likely we are to discover that there are always things that will fight and compete for our time. Most of us combat these “time killers” through shrewd time-management systems. Let’s be clear; time management is an important skill every leader must possess and develop. But if we zoom in more closely to the meaning of Psalm 90:12, we find an important truth: Time management is the skill I develop to help me accomplish my daily goals, but the management of my time flows from what I value. Before you can manage your time (which allows you to number your days), you have to place clarity around what it is you value. Wise leaders can cultivate the flow of their time and influence by solidifying their leadership values in the following ways:

1 – Identify Your Motivation

A simple exercise to help you identify your motivation is to write down in one sentence what you believe your purpose is at your church or organization. Ask yourself questions such as “What has God called me to accomplish?” or “What challenges and opportunities surround me, and how can I meet them?” By writing down the answers to these questions, you will clarify the purpose and motivation God has given you, which will inform you on how to go about fulfilling that mission. Additionally, it will force you to identify the demands and distractions that are sure to accompany your work and distract you from your purpose.

2 – Maintain an Intentional Mindset

Effective leaders know that “attitude is everything” and that my attitude can’t merely be dictated by my circumstances. This is much easier said than done! Far too often, the circumstances around me can move the dial of my attitude just like the thermostat that heats and cools my home. I must approach everything I do with an intentional mindset. This can be true with people I lead or people who lead me. If I neglect this principle, my time can become a source of bitterness in my life. I can become bitter at the things I have to do and whom I have to work with to get them done. This is why simply committing to time management is not enough. I can be incredibly skilled at getting things done while simultaneously despising what I am doing and subsequently missing out on the blessing of giving my time away for the glory of God!

3 – Utilize Impactful Methods

Being committed to the values behind how I use my time is the on-ramp to how I manage my time. It is one thing to say, “I am passionate about this problem” or “I am excited to tackle this new initiative.” Many young leaders can get very enthusiastic by all the different ways God is going to use them to change the world! This is a good thing and points to the principle above about identifying your motivation. However, wise leaders who have learned to number their days will commit not only to time-tested methods of execution but also be open to new ideas. They take the time to sit down, pray, plan, think, ask questions, survey others, and discover best practices to solve problems.

The apostle Paul encourages us not to grow weary in doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13). Paul knew, just as Moses did, that serving the Lord is a joy, not a burden. He knew that doing good can make you tired, but it doesn’t have to make you weary. He had seen firsthand the value of numbering your days and making them count by living intentionally and placing values around why you expend your time, not just how you expend it. Leaders, we are not merely called to manage time for time management’s sake or to be busy just to say we are busy. God’s best for every leader is to flourish within the span of days He’s given us by making every day, every moment, count.

Jonathan Teague serves as Married Adult Minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Teague.

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