Over the last several months, a number of readers have written asking for my time management tips. I’ve resisted this for several reasons. First, I wasn’t sure what they are. Second, I’m not sure how to do that without sounding condescending. You see, I’m a little warped on the subject.
When I was very young — elementary age or younger — we had a visiting preacher who preached on time management. He went so far as to urge the congregation to keep plastic writing boards in their showers with grease pencils to write down great thoughts that come in the shower. And me, being very young, and seeing these great truths expounded from the pulpit, figured this life-changing lesson came from the word of God. And so I begged my mother for my own writing board and grease pencil, figuring God wants me to write down my great thoughts — the ones that come in the shower.
My mother reminded me that I didn’t take showers but rather played with toy boats in the bathtub. She suggested that this was not God’s word from On High, but simply the suggestions of a preacher who was wound a little too tightly.
This is a theological sort of blog. Readers expect theology. These tips are not theology, Bible, or required. In fact, they are entirely personal and not necessarily even recommended. They are certainly not recommended for everyone.
But here’s how I generate enough time to type on this blog —
Cancel the newspaper. My wife and I canceled our subscription to the local paper. I used to take two. I now take zero. I read it on the Internet in Google Reader. It’s free and it’s much quicker. I rarely get past the headlines, because few stories really matter.
But I used to read the paper front to back, sitting in my easy chair. I read all the comics. Now I subscribe to service that email me Dilbert and Calvin and Hobbes comic every day. It’s better than the whole comic page put together.
I get sports the same way, reading several Alabama sports pages and blogs via Google Reader. I’m better informed and don’t waste time reading about teams I care nothing about (like Auburn).
Cancel magazines. This was a tough choice, but I canceled Sports Illustrated and Time. Sports Illustrated just isn’t as good as it used to be, and it’s never timely. I have the news on Saturday’s game via the Internet on, you know, Saturday — Sunday at the latest. Sports Illustrated comes on Thursday.
Time has some decent articles, but I get all the political news I need from other sources. And I don’t need much. To know who to vote for, I don’t need to be an expert in the Afghan war or whatever– and so I’ll not try to be an expert on that, or on the Wisconsin labor troubles, or California’s budget crisis. Got enough problems of my own. No need to pay money to read about someone else’s. I refuse to be duped into becoming a political voyeaur.
I do subscribe to Discover (a science magazine) and Biblical Archaeological Review. And the Christian Standard, which is excellent.
I subscribed to the Spiritual Sword to prepare for the GraceConversation.com dialogue a couple of years ago. I doubt I’ll renew it. This month’s edition is on the value of preaching. Does anyone who reads SS doubt the value of preaching?
I read the Gospel Advocate. I just feel the need to know the trends in conservative Church of Christ thought.
DVR. Except for sports, I never watch a TV show live. I’ll always wait at least 20 minutes after it starts, to skip the commercials. Especially during the political season. It also helps my blood pressure.
TV. I try to watch no more than an hour of TV per day. Sometimes I watch more — but that usually means I’m sick. Of course, Alabama football and basketball are exceptions. I don’t watch any other basketball until SEC and NCAA tournament time. I watch other SEC football (sometimes) and might watch Boise State if they play a halfway decent team. So that’s about every ten years. And if it’s not Alabama, I’m probably reading or typing during the game. I enjoy it, but it doesn’t hold my attention.
No baseball. Not since the Braves gave up the greatest group of pitchers in all of baseball to earn higher profits. No soccer. No hockey. No NBA. I mean, the finals are going on and its 100 degrees outside! This is not basketball season!
And no betting. You see, if you bet even 50 cents on some unimportant game, the game becomes interesting to you and you watch. A lot of people bet just to have a reason to watch. I don’t bet in order to have no reason to watch.
Oh, and I don’t watch the NFL — except for the playoffs and SuperBowl. I might occasionally have a game on in the background while I’m reading or writing. But I really just don’t care about the NFL. I’m a big college football fan. Don’t care about the pros. (I heard about the lockout, but I just don’t care. People who quibble over 1% of billions don’t get my sympathy.)
Movies. I don’t watch many. I don’t subscribe to Netflix. DirecTV just offered me 3 months of free HBO and Showtime. I turned them down. Not interested.
And I like movies. I enjoy Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars — that kind of stuff. My wife and I enjoy the Pixar animations. We really liked Tangled. But we’ll only see four movies or so a year. I usually take in a movie or two when my older kids come to town.
We have a bunch of movie DVDs at the house, and I’ll watch one if I’m sick at home. But I’ll go months between movies.
Therefore, I miss a lot of movie pop culture references. It’s a small price to pay …
Yardwork. God has blessed me with arthritis. I can’t do yardwork, and so we bought a house with a little yard and hire it out.
Empty nest. I have four sons, and the youngest is about to be a junior in college. I have no ball games to go to, no school plays to attend, and no homework to help with. It’s a huge life change, and blogging has helped with the transition.
Video Games. I’m an addict. I used to play Civilization for hours on end. Blogging has allowed me to quit cold turkey. It’s my methadone. If I have to be hooked on something, it needs to be something positive and productive. Videogames are not. Bible study and teaching are.
Facebook. I don’t play Facebook games (see “Video games”). I do read what’s going on with people I know. And I post blog entries on Facebook. But I don’t share what I had for breakfast or the cute thing my cat did. Of course, I don’t have a cat. But if I did, I wouldn’t write about the cat on Facebook. I don’t sign Facebook petitions — because they don’t accomplish anything. And, no, I don’t care to see how I’ll look when I’m old; I’m already old.
But I am trying to get better at interacting on Facebook. A little. So long as it’s not about cats. Or Auburn. Or politics.
Politics. I love politics. Well, I hate politics, but I love hating politics — if that makes any sense. I used to read a lot of magazines and online material about politics. I quit. It wasn’t productive. I just need to know enough to know for whom to vote. Beyond that, it’s just a way to get mad — and that’s not good for me. Some people enjoy getting mad, but I’ve decided there a better uses for my emotions. Yes, I have lots of opinions on matters political. And we could have fascinating discussions on Iraq, Libya, or whatever. It wouldn’t change anything. I’d rather spend my time on things that actually help people. Getting mad about the politicians doesn’t — unless I were willing to get deeply involved in politics, and I’m not.
Book reviews. A year or so ago, I found I could get free books in exchange for writing a book review. Bad idea. Most of the books are pretty bad, and the practice let the publishing industry drive the agenda. Reading bad books takes time. I’ve almost entirely stopped. Unless it’s a really good author.
iPhone. I love my iPhone. I read email and blog postings and news stories on it. It’s always with me, and so if I’m in line at a drive thru, I pull it out and catch up on the comments here or see what the national news headlines are. I have an app that lets me write replies to comments from the iPhone. If you see a reply from me during business hours, I’m likely somewhere bored — waiting on a client for a lunch meeting or in line somewhere.
Shopping. I don’t go to the mall. I buy on Amazon or other Internet venders if at all possible. Of course, I’m a male. I hate shopping.
Post ahead. My wife has been out of town all week. Therefore, I’ve written ahead for the next few weeks. I’ve done other stuff, too, but the best time to write is when no one else is around. The software lets me schedule posts well ahead.
Delegate. I’m an elder at church. I learned from men older and wiser than me to delegate as much as possible. And yet I have certain perfectionistic tendencies. It’s hard. But delegating keeps me from me overwhelmed, let’s others learn the lessons I learned when others delegated to me, and prepares another generation to do better than mine. I don’t always agree with the decisions others make, and sometimes I have to defend decisions I never would have made. But it’s better for the church to reflect the views and talents of a broader group of people.
I never sat down and made a list of how to save time. That’s not how I am. Rather, these are just choices I’ve made over the years.
And so, like I said, none of this is a recommendation. None of this makes me morally superior to anyone. In fact, you might get better results with a grease pencil in the shower.