You only get so much of it.
There’s an urgency to it, a scarcity.
If you want to get more out of your time, you are likely to look to time management hacks and tricks. Many of them will start with your calendar. They’ll tell you to schedule everything in your calendar, to put time limits on things, and to prioritize what’s most important first. All good tips.
But they don’t get to the real heart of the issue. Here’s why…
Following these tips is more like dieting than healthy living; short-term tactics, short-term mindset. It’s more about short-term results than a life-long solution.
Here’s what you should be asking yourself. What’s really at the heart of why you waste your time or use it poorly?
Here’s what I see. We often manage our time using tools like calendars, clocks, and efficiency. But deep down that’s not the objective.
The goal is to get more meaning out of your time, not just more time out of your time.
To use our time well is to make it more meaningful – not just to get more stuff done.
The wisdom books of the Bible talk about this principle, particularly in Proverbs. In this book, we find encouragement to avoid wasting time, how to be intentional with it, and the benefits of understanding how time works.
So, how do you get more meaning out of your time?
Here are 3 mindsets out of the book of Proverbs that you can apply today that will help you get more meaning out of your time. None of them mention your calendar. your calendar isn’t the key to using your time well
1. Choose meaning over meaning replacements
Proverbs talks about laziness versus contentment a lot. Here’s one example:
A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.Proverbs 13:4 NIV
It’s not that the lazy person isn’t doing anything, it’s that they choose things that don’t satisfy. They choose short-term pleasure to pacify a lack of life-long contentment.
When you feel your time is lacking meaning (or feeling empty), so often you choose pleasure in an attempt to increase meaning. Netflix, gaming, scrolling on TikTok … all of these are simply meaning replacements. Poor substitutes at best. your calendar isn’t the key to using your time well
Like a meal replacement, meaning replacements numb your hunger for meaning for a moment, but eventually, they leave you lacking.
You can’t live on meal replacements, and you can’t live on meaning replacements either.
They leave you hungry for meaning again. They may give you an endorphin rush or a chance to zone out for an hour, but they don’t leave you feeling like your heart is full after they are done. Meaning replacements don’t satisfy.
If you looked at what you do in your spare time, free time, or vacation time, is it meaningful? Does it truly satisfy, or are you just escaping, replacing, and zoning out?
What can you do to choose real meaning? Here are a few ideas:
Choose to write a thank you, or go for a walk, or call an old friend, over another binge-watching marathon.
Watching a movie with the kids instead of zoning out on your PS-5.
Send a photo of your kids to your parents to connect with them, instead of scrolling for an hour.
Go for a walk with your spouse instead of staring at your email for another half hour. It’ll be there afterward, I promise.
Over time these choices add up. Instead of a numbed out life looking for the next hit, you’ll slowly build a life of meaningful moments.
Choose to be intentional about building more meaning into your life, and cut out some of the meaning replacements. your calendar isn’t the key to using your time well
2. Choose diligence over distraction (the new lazy)
While this one looks simple on the surface, the key to this mindset may surprise you.
Having grown up around farms, I know that a good farmer doesn’t work one or two days a week. Farming is a lifestyle. If I could describe a good farmer in one word, it’s diligent. In every season they are working the land, tending crops or livestock, repairing equipment, preparing for the next season.
Diligence isn’t a burst of hard work, it’s intentional, incremental persistence.
Proverbs highlights the difference between a lazy and a diligent farmer.
“I walked by the field of a lazy person,Proverbs 24:30-34
the vineyard of one with no common sense.
I saw that it was overgrown with nettles.
It was covered with weeds,
and its walls were broken down.
Then, as I looked and thought about it,
I learned this lesson:
A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”
What you notice is that the lazy person isn’t lazy for a moment or a day, but they are lacking ongoing diligence. They spend a bit too much time distracted by this or distracted by that. Their life didn’t fall apart in a moment or in a day, it happened slowly over time. They missed the principle of diligence.
In our culture today, distraction is the new laziness.
We often lack meaning in our lives because we spend so much time distracted by the interruptions, the urgent over the important, the 15-second touch point online over the conversation right in front of us.
Diligence over distraction creates more meaning in your life.
You need to acknowledge your meaning replacements and choose to be diligent about where you focus your time. Like a farmer, cultivate your life one day at a time.
So, how do you fight distraction with diligence? your calendar isn’t the key to using your time well
Choose to be engaged over escaping. Lean in with your heart instead of shutting off your brain.
Choose deep conversation over shallow connections. Pick up your phone to call someone you love and avoid connection short-cuts like texting or messaging.
Choose to be present over perfect. Focus on the right relationships over the “right” life.
Choose to be productive over busy. Do the right things instead of doing everything.
Take the time to evaluate where you are distracted by what seems urgent or tempting, and focus on what brings real meaning to your life. Be diligent about cultivating a life of meaning daily. your calendar isn’t the key to using your time well
3. Don’t get stuck managing your calendar, but measure what energizes you and harness it.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”Proverbs 4:23
There’s something in each of our lives that energizes us, brings us life, fills us up. There are also things that drain our energy and pull us down.
Rather than managing your calendar like a puzzle, measure what brings you energy and gives you life. What fills you?
So often we get so busy working through our calendar that we don’t pay enough attention to how we feel. When we are the sharpest, the most excited, or when we are dragging.
I know that my energy is best in the morning. So I’m up early. At least once a week as early as 4:30 am. That’s when I want to focus on my most important work and the things that really need me to lock-in without distraction. That’s usually writing.
In the afternoon I tend to drag, so I schedule more meetings then. However, sometimes later at night, I can hit a 1-2 hour window where I get a second wind. In fact, I’m in that zone now as I write this at 10:13 pm. It’s not always that I get this wind, but when I do, I try to capitalize on it.
I’ve also learned that certain things give me energy – like a walk, a 20 minute nap, coffee with my wife, or a big drink of water. I use those to fill my energy tanks back up.
I try to structure my day around my energy. your calendar isn’t the key to using your time well
Here are a few questions for you as you think about your energy management vs. calendar management.
- How much time are you spending on things that are life-giving, compared to the time you spend on the things that drain you?
- What time of the day or week do you have more energy? What times do you have less energy?
- Are you doing the important, meaningful things when your energy is high?
Stop looking at your calendar as a puzzle of your time and look at it as an energy map. Then harness and cultivate that energy for meaning.
Tips and hacks can be helpful in the short-term but if you really want to find more meaning in your time, it takes a mindset change. your calendar isn’t the key to using your time well
Here’s what’s at stake. Don’t miss this.
When you look back on your life after a decade, do you want to see a list of stuff you got done or do you want to see a vineyard of meaning, a life cultivated out of diligence, and a legacy of life-change?
That’s the difference between building meaning with your time, and just getting more done.
If you’re looking for more on how to get more meaning out of your time, check out this message I shared during The Hangover series.