Sunday, January 17, 2016

7 Power Tips to Plan This Week with Purpose

What's the greatest source of stress in your life today? Stress often stems from feeling overloaded with responsibility at home, work, school, church, or all of the above.  With a bit of planning, we can relieve some of that stress - really!

January is one of the familiar points in our year when we think, “Things will settle down soon! I can get back on track when ______ (the holidays are over, when the kids go back to school, when the kids get out of school, when this budget project ends).  

We believe control is just around the corner and we’ll soon feel more together.    

It’s comfortable to set new goals when we can imagine a solid, achievable routine. We have high hopes, but when we look back at transitional seasons like these, it’s rare that we see genuine improvement... even after  _____ (fill in the blank) happens.

It’s a disappointing but repetitive truth.  Because we can’t seem to get a handle on our schedules or task lists, we live with a sense of constant overload which makes us default to thoughts like,  

“I’ll do that when I get around to it.”

“As soon as I find the time, I’ll ___.” 

“I’m sure it will happen someday.” 

Before we know it, we’ve allowed passivity to take over. We settle for mediocrity in our routines rather than pursuing God’s best with purpose and passion.   

If you’re struggling to incorporate the changes you hoped to see this year, don’t give up yet! Before settling for mediocre, consider this with me:

The Lord gives us work to do.

We see this truth repeated in Scripture:  Ephesians 2:10, John 17:4, 1 Chronicles 28:10 and many others passages.  

God created us with His purpose and His plan in mind. We’re on this earth to accomplish what He directs.  Each of us has a calling.  Yes, you.  And me too. We’re chosen for specific work.  

Sometimes we lack an understanding of clear direction and calling.  More often, however, we know our calling.  In our heart of hearts we know what the Lord created us to do. It burns within us, yet we wonder HOW we can accomplish so much when there are so many distractions and urgent needs surrounding us. 

Doing is not always easy, but it is possible. It requires planning, sacrifice, and other methods of intentional effort that are uncomfortable but necessary. Often, the only thing that prevents us from fulfilling our calling is our daily routine.  When we attack our daily schedule - our practices, our disciplines, our habits - on purpose and with deliberate intent, we’re capable of accomplishing far more than we imagined. 

A while back I wrote a post about the freedom I found through planning.  If you'd like to read it, click here.  As a follow up to that post, today I’ll share 7 of my best tips on how to become better stewards of the precious resource of time.  

Let’s look at how to schedule our time on purpose - with the caveat that we allow the Lord to interrupt our plans any time He wishes.  Remember, a man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9).  A plan is a great tool and is Biblical (see Proverbs 21:5, Isaiah 32:8 and 1 Corinthians 14:40), but we can't allow a plan to supersede the Spirit's leading each day. 

OK, here we go:

7 Power Tips to Plan with Purpose

1) Commit to Self Examination.  

Give one week to complete honesty to track how you spend your time. This may seem counter-productive as we remain in our old schedules to find the pitfalls.  But this will provide valuable information.  Until we identify our struggles and temptations, we can’t work toward overcoming them.

If you identify that television (or some other unnecessary distraction) consumes hours of your schedule each week, are you willing to give it up to accomplish the work that the Lord has given you? If something drains your time, fix it. If you can’t fix it, limit it.

2) Set Goals and Write Them Down. 

You’ve heard this before:  written goals are achieved 40% more often.  When we write them down AND enlist the accountability of a friend, our success increases to nearly 80%.  I consider that significant - and quite worth the effort! 

Divide your goals into tasks that you’ll accomplish daily, weekly and this month, then create your to do list.  

3) Stop Multitasking.

I can almost hear you groan…  We take pride in our ability to multitask, don’t we?  But when we try to focus on more than one thing at a time, the quality of our work diminishes and takes longer. Multitasking it’s a bad habit that grows beyond our to do list.  Soon we begin to multitask with people. We believe we can check our phone while still giving someone our full attention, then we miss important details. Break the habit. Whenever possible, do one thing at a time, do it well, and then move on.

4) Schedule Ways to Stay Sharp.  

As you consider your schedule, plan time to rest, play, observe sabbath, and take care of YOU.  It’s important to have our own cups filled as we strive to serve and bless others. We can’t give of ourselves if we’re always running on empty.

5) Discover Your Peak Time of Day

Are you a morning person or do you like to work into the wee hours?  When do you do your best thinking? When are you most productive? When do you have the most energy?  Schedule your high priority projects during that time and take advantage of your best mental clarity.  

6) Do the Hard Things First. 

Brian Tracy wrote a book called Eat That Frog which recommends doing your hardest, most difficult activity first thing in your day. When we stick to it and do the worst first, everything throughout the rest of the day will seem easy!

7) Know your Priorities. 

To you, what constitutes time well spent?  List your top 5 activities then consider how often you’ve actually done these things in the past several weeks. Knowing what’s important help us focus on high priority activities without letting the urgent overtake the important. 

My best advice to serving the Lord as a good steward of our time is:  make a plan then execute.  I hope these 7 power tips will help and encourage you as they have me.

God has a purpose for our lives and He has chosen each of us to do good work.  We can accomplish much for Him during 2016, especially when we use our time with purpose and intentionality.  

Realize the Lord has chosen you to do this work. Be strong and do it!  (From 1 Chronicles 28:10).

Your Turn:

What are your time traps?  What activities distract you most?  

What can you give up in order to accomplish your calling?

Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or chiming in on Facebook or Twitter!  I can’t wait to hear from you. 

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,

Psalm 119:28

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