Benjamin Franklin once asked, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for time is the stuff life is made of.”
As I have listened to people talk about their greatest regrets in life, I have been amazed at the number of regrets that center around the use of time:
- Too much time spent at work
- Time spent in an unfulfilling relationship
- Time spent worrying
- Time spent in the wrong vocation
- Time spent watching television
- Not enough time spent with children
Most of our regrets about time concern time unwisely spent. Regrets about time are especially painful because the time that is misspent can never be reclaimed. Although we speak of “saving time,” “making time,” and “borrowing time,” none of these actions are really possible. Time is a valuable and finite resource that must be carefully expended.
Important Principles About Time
Time Is Limited
Psalm 90:5–6 says, “We glide along the tides of time as swiftly as a racing river and vanish as quickly as a dream. We are like grass that is green in the morning but mowed down and withered before the evening shadows fall.” (The Living Bible)
Moses is saying that the river of life is swiftly carrying us to an appointed end—when we appear before God. That sobering realization should lead us to carefully portion the brief time God has given us here on earth. That is why Moses writes in Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” (The Living Bible)
We Are Responsible for Our Use of Time
Even though time seems to be our master, we are ultimately responsible for how we use time. In the familiar parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14–30), Jesus reminds us that we have each been entrusted with differing amounts of money, abilities, and time. One day we will give an account to the Master for how we have used all of those gifts, including our time.
It Is Possible to Redeem Time
Although you may regret wasting the last ten years of your life, you don’t have to waste the next ten. It is possible to make changes in your life right now that will help you more wisely invest your time in those life areas that matter most to you.
Guidelines For Redeeming Your Time
Learn the Lesson of the Big Rocks
If I were to fill a jar as full as possible with rocks, sand, gravel, and water, the best way to fill that jar is by placing the big rocks in first, then the rest will fill in the gaps. But if I try to fill the jar with sand, gravel, and water first, there is no way those big rocks will fit.
Most of our regrets about time have nothing to do with the sand, gravel, and water that fill up the jars of our lives. Instead, we regret those big rocks that never made it into the jar. If we are going to live without regrets, we must first identify the big rocks in our lives, like an intimate relationship with God, a fulfilling marriage, nurturing friendships, or good health.
Turn Your Dreams into Goals
All of the “big rocks” I suggested in the last section are called “objectives.” But those objectives will never turn into reality until we translate them into specific goals with accompanying steps of action.
Make Your Goals a Part of Your Daily Schedule
Like you, I want to live without regrets. And so I have tried every technique I know to ensure that every day is a productive day for me. While certain strategies have their benefits, I have found that the best strategy for managing time is to utilize that “big rock” principle.
Once the big rocks are put in (and what a satisfying feeling it is to know that you have allowed time to accomplish those things most important to you), I can then schedule those more mundane but necessary activities: staff meetings, dictation, trip to the dry cleaner, and so on.
And this is a biblical principle. The Phillips paraphrase of Ephesians 5:15–16 says, “Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days.” (J.B. Phillips)
Be Realistic in Your Time Management Goals
As you reflect on all the time you have squandered in past years, you may be tempted to set unrealistic goals for the future. If your time management plan is too rigid, not only will you fail at your plan, but you may give up trying to maintain any kind of discipline with your schedule. That is why any realistic time management program needs to allow for:
- Relaxation. God not only allows that we build relaxation into our schedule, He mandates it. We were not created to work seven days a week without times of refreshment.
- Bad days. Everyone has bad days. Expect them, use them to accomplish less strenuous tasks, and anticipate them by building them into your schedule.
- Interruptions. You may be ready to tackle the big rock when some unanticipated event sabotages your schedule. But what we view as interruptions may actually be a way that God redirects our plans.
Refuse to be Paralyzed by the Past
Maybe you have allowed the “locusts” of indecision, slothfulness, and purposelessness to consume your time. In one sense those years can never be regained.
Yet, God promises that when we resolve to follow His commands, He can restore those years to us. Instead of grieving over the past, admit your mistakes to God and begin following the biblical principles we have just talked about. When you do, you will be on the road to saying goodbye to time regrets.