Our time is a precious gift from God — here’s how to use it well
We begin every summer with visions of all the things we would like to do: hikes, home improvement projects, barbecues. And we end every summer having done only some of those things. We don’t regret this much, as long we did what really mattered: spending time with the people we love. No one gets everything done. That’s impossible. What is possible, and very important, is using God’s precious gift of time well. This requires the virtue of prudence.
In the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas described prudence as “right reason with respect to action.” It’s the ability to choose the good, to follow God’s commandment to “Choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19) Exercising the virtue of prudence, we do the right thing at the right time. This lets us spend our time well, getting the right things done at work and enjoying time with the people we love.
Prudent scheduling is the all-too-rare key to smart time management. Far too frequently, our calendars don’t work for us. If we manage our schedules passively, using them only to record meetings or appointments that come to us, we leave how we spend our time to chance. This might be why we find ourselves exhausted at the end of the day, wondering where all the time went. Instead of directing our precious time to what matters most, passive scheduling concedes our time to interruptions and low priorities.
Prudent scheduling is very different. It is intentional. It understands our calendar as an expression of what is most important to us. The things we care about most should have a privileged place with time reserved for them. The people we love should own part of our calendar, as should the tasks that matter most. Scheduling this way does more than budget our time. It lets us decide how we use the precious hours God has given us so that we can become the person we are meant to be.
Start each day with prayer. Morning prayer starts us moving in the right direction. Consider praying the
Liturgy of the Hours — the texts are available free at www.divineoffice.org. You can also learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours at the Archbishop Brunett Retreat Center at the Palisades November 2–4.
Set priorities on Sunday. After Mass our heads and hearts should be in the right place, so it’s a great time to sit down with the family and set aside time for one another on our schedule.
Set aside time for the people we love. We should give the people we love a privileged position on our calendar by scheduling time with them and honoring our commitment. It’s also a good idea to gather as a family, perhaps over mealtimes, to make sure that our calendar reflects our commitments to one another.
Schedule a time to go home from work. Most of us work faster with a deadline. If we give ourselves a deadline for when we go home from work, we will work smarter and get home earlier.
At work, schedule time for top priorities. Our calendar at work should include specific time set aside to work on our most important and most time-sensitive projects. This will prevent interruptions and low priorities from derailing us and let us produce results on time.
Schedule two or three time blocks for email. Email makes it easier to communicate, but if we let it interrupt our work flow throughout the day, it can become a distraction. If we schedule two or three half-hour blocks of time each day and use those to decisively tackle our inbox, we will have more time for higher priorities.
“One hour in the morning is worth two in the afternoon.” At a recent retreat, Msgr. Brian Bransfield used this wise saying to remind us that we are sharper in the morning, and we should save those valuable morning hours for tasks that require more focus.
End each day with prayer. At night we give thanks to God because each day is a gift from him.
Northwest Catholic - September 2015
Deacon Eric Paige is the Archdiocese of Seattle's executive director for evangelization, formation and discipleship. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
El Diácono Eric Paige es el Director para el Matrimonio, la Vida familiar y Formación en la Arquidiócesis de Seattle. Pueden contactarle en: email@example.com.