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Time Wasters! - The truth about time (By addressing some of the lies)

By Mary Carney - Simple Living Workshops


Encouraging simplicity, order and frugality for Christian families (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)

Managing Your Time Wisely

Let me start out in this article by tell you what it is NOT about. It is  not about the one right way to order your day. The Scriptures give us plenty of commands about wise use of time, but you will not find the
Biblical Housekeeping Schedule within these pages. This article is not written to convince you to spend your time like I do. I have four children, you may have eight, or one, or none. We live in a ten room, older house in a town of only 400 people. You may live in a condo, on a ranch or in the suburbs of some great city. It is not my design to turn you into Super Mom, either. You know, days filled with endless, often worthwhile activities, with no time to enjoy a sunset or a toddler's hug because there isn't time in the schedule.  

Instead, let's uncover some truths about time and our claims upon it. We'll look at goals, and how they determine the best use of our time. Finally, we'll look at how to deal with time-wasters, and discuss some
all-purpose skills for using time wisely. I think the reason so many of us feel defeated about our use (or mis-use) of time is because we have believed society's lies. Let's expose and examine the four biggies.

The Lie of Feminism

This pervasive lie is the foundational reason so many women have abandoned their homes and families in favor of careerism. This lie says, "There is no value in being a keeper at home." Well just because the  feminists refuse to recognize the eternal importance of homemaking, doesn't mean it lacks value. God places eternal value and heavy responsibility on women and their roles as wives and mothers. Most of the Bible's leading heroes have stories recorded about their mothers. Those stories are not there to fill up space and make your Bible heavier. They are there as lessons and examples to us. If homemaking is not important, then why are cleaning ladies in my area paid 3-4 times as much per hour as day-care providers? Remember what Jesus said about serving the least of His children being service to Him.

The Lie of Selfishness

This lie (one of my personal favorites, by the way) tells us, "I'm entitled to some time for myself, to spend however I want. I've earned it." Oh really? I cannot find one single instance of God endorsing the four-hour work week in Scripture. Instead He gave one day in seven, which we squander by shopping, dining out and attending sporting events. Then we whine about never getting any time to rest!

The Lie of TV

This lie says, "You CAN have it all." After all the nice ladies on TV have spotless homes, fabulously decorated, new cars, nice clothing and jewelry - and you never hear THEM worry about credit card bills and the like. Seldom do you see them grocery shopping or sitting up at night with a sick child. Even less frequently do you see them cooking a meal. I have NEVER seen anyone clean a bathroom on TV, except in scrubbing bubble commercials. Ladies, someone, in real life, does all of those things. But they never show them on camera. Only in Hollywood fairy tales can you have it all.

The Lie of Busyness

This is a favorite lie of the compulsive volunteer. It chants, "If I don't do it, it won't get done." This is the mom who is so busy with meetings and activities, she forgot why she came home. Let me tell you, even a good activity can be used of Satan for evil if it crowds out participating in one's true-calling. Besides, if you do everything, others never have a chance to serve. Moderation is the key. View yourself as a vessel to be used of God, rather than an indispensable cog which will cause civilization to come to a grinding halt if it fails. Sometimes you just have to say no.


I communicate with women all the time who want to "have a ministry." I ask them if they are caught up on doing the laundry, is the house clean and neat, and are they serving nutritious meals at regular times every day? Usually, the answer is no, but they want to know what this has to do with ministry?

Don't you see, if you are a keeper at home, all of these things are part of your ministry to your family. If God has blessed you with a husband, home, or children - you have been already given a ministry uniquely
suited to your gifts and abilities.

If you want to serve the Lord, serve your family. If he has other more public ministry plans for you, He will let you know.

It is a humbling thing to realize that we can best be used of God within the confines of those souls of our family. We all want some public recognition for our 'sacrifice' for the Lord, much like the Israelite in the Temple. No one wants to be the widow casting her mite into the treasury with no fanfare. But who did Jesus praise?

There is only one surefire way to become that aged women spoken of in Titus Chapter Two - have birthdays! And fill the time between birthdays serving those whom God has entrusted to your care. No shortcuts, no magic formulas. Just birthdays and hard work.


Goals determine our day to day activities. What? You say you've never set goals? You're probably not accomplishing much, are you? You probably have lots of days where you may be busy all day, but you have nothing to show for it. Goals, property set, prayed over and approved by your husband, can give direction and structure to your days. (Please note, all of us have those days when the cat decides to have kittens, toddlers find the markers and the washer dies with a load of diapers in it.)

Write your goals down.

Determine their appropriateness by sharing them with your husband praying over them and searching the Scriptures. Honestly assess your gifts, talents, and weaknesses as well. For example, I could set some
goals about becoming a gospel music star. Well, I can't sing. I have small children at home, and I'm not at all impressed with the 'faith' and ministry of many of the so-called stars.

Share your goals with your husband.

Ask him to help make you accountable for working toward your goals. Ask for his prayers and those of your children.

Make sure your goals are specific and measurable.

Take my music goal. Just to say, "I want to be a gospel music star" is not specific enough. How will I know when I've reached it or if I should abandon that particular goal? Now if I worded it, "By December 1997, I want to have a recording contract with a recording company" - I would have a realistic measurable goal. Come December 1997, I can either have that contract in my hand, or not. If not, it's time to move on.

Don't carve your goals in stone, unless they are of eternal value. I have a goal to remain physically and mentally faithful to my husband until death do us part. I will never change that goal. Nor should I. But temporal things, can, and sometimes should be modified. Change isn't always negative you know.


One of the reasons the British had trouble during the War for independence with the American colonists was because, for the most part, the Americans refused to wear uniforms. They would hide behind trees and
rocks, and jump out when least expected. The British, on the other hand, fought in orderly ranks, and even wore red uniforms with big white X's across the chest. Talk about a good target! It is much easier to eliminate the enemy if you can identify him.

When I worked in CCU, the hospital was looking at ways to make more effective use of the nurses' time. They hired a man to sit in our CCU and write down everything we did for an entire 12 hour shift. From that data, they could tell exactly how the staff was spending their time.

Here's an exercise I think would be very helpful. For one day, carry three things in your pocket: a timer set to ring every 15 minutes, a pencil and a sheet of paper. Whenever the time rings, take a second to write down what you are doing. At the end of the day, you'll have a crystal clear picture of where your time goes. See if you recognize any of your problems in my Top Ten List of Time-Wasters.

1. Passive Entertainment - TV, radio and reading fiction can take up hours of your day. When people ask me my secret of getting a lot done when I have to, I tell them the truth. I don't spend the last three or four hours of my day parked in front of the television. Solution: stick post-it note on your TV, radio or bookshelf that says, "Would I invite Jesus to join me in this activity?"

2. Telephone - I know women who spend hours every day on the phone, mostly lamenting about how busy they are! I think that excessive use of the telephone is a modern version of "wandering from house to
house," idly engaged in gossip. The recent proliferation of cellular phones has made it possible to intrude into someone's grocery shopping, driving or church service. Solution: Don't answer it! My family knows the local police department's number if there were a real emergency. (We don't have an answering machine.) Be considerate of your friends too. Don't call homeschooling moms during school time, and keep your calls brief if you are both pressed for time.

3. Procrastination - A friend once told me she really needed to vacuum her house, but she didn't have the time. I asked her how much time it took to vacuum her home, which was similar to mine. She thought the job took 'at least an hour,' and so kept putting it off. Just for fun, I asked her to time herself when she actually did the job. To her utter amazement, it took 14 minutes. We usually blow things we are afraid of or don't want to do all out of proportion, making them look even larger than they really are. Solution: I set conditions for myself. For example, I can't read the evening newspaper until the kitchen is cleaned up. Or as soon as that hall closet is cleaned out, I can take the children to the apple orchard.

4. Laziness - It's true, I would much rather take a nap than mop floors or weed the garden. This is perhaps my hardest area to overcome. But I feel much better inside when I've completed some big jot that needs to be done, rather than some insignificant, selfish thing. I think laziness is firmly rooted in selfishness. I only want to expend energy on the things I want to do, the things that will satisfy and fulfill me. Meanwhile, our poor families are left in the lurch. Solution: Confess this sin, and pray about it. Don't continue to lie to yourself that you 'just don't have the time' for a job when it's really just laziness.

5. Outside Activities - We've already discussed how 'good' can squeeze out the 'best.' Ponder that for a while. Solution: Call a family meeting and realistically discuss how much is too much. If your children are too in softball leagues, for example, how about dad organizing an every Saturday afternoon neighborhood game? Your children still get to play, and YOU are in control - not the league.

6. Unproductive Hobbies and Recreational Shopping - Relaxation is not wrong, nor are hobbies. But don't let them become monuments to what we didn't do to serve our families. As for shopping, when we lived in the Chicago suburbs, our back door was adjacent to a huge shopping mall's parking lot. Let me just say there's shopping because we need to make a purchase of a needed item for our family, and then there's
wasting time and lusting over things we can't and shouldn't have. Solution: If you don't have a legitimate need, don't shop! Evaluate your hobbies in the light of eternity, and of their value in bringing your family closer together.

7. Gnats - Have you ever been at a picnic and had a flying gnat following you around? You can't do anything or enjoy yourself until that gnat is eliminated. I used to spend an inordinate amount of time picking up things that had 'missed' the trash can in the kitchen, or things that the babies decided shouldn't be thrown away at all! I finally realized what a waste of time this was, and bought a large (although ugly) trash can with a lid. Problem solved. Solution: Write down all the 'gnats' that are bothering you. Think about solutions. Ask your husband and family and friends for ideas if you keep drawing a blank. Implement a solution to each 'gnat,' even if it is less than the ideal answer.

8. Perfectionism - You know this one. The kitchen is a wreck, but the inside of the spice cabinet is perfect. I only get one load done of the mountain of laundry in the basement, but it is perfect. Sometimes quality can get in the way of quantity. Solution: There is no easy answer. Perfectionism is a complex problem, but remember that nothing is too big or too small for God to care about. Pray, and ask for help.

9. Not Doing the Job Right the First Time - This flip side of 8, reminds me of a story Gregg Harris tells. He was on his first day of a job cleaning stables. He was halfheartedly moving as little hay as possible, when the stable owner approached him. "Son," he said, "If you haven't got the time to do it right, you surely don't have the time to do it twice!" Solution: Study Scriptures related to diligence. Work heartily as unto the Lord.

10. The Pursuit of Unwise Goals - I know a single mom who spends hours a week at the health club, hair stylist and nail salon. Her children bear the sad effect of her choice of goals. She is sacrificing her family to the pursuit of a perfect body. Solution: Re-read the section on goals above. Write your goals down, and share them with your husband.


First and foremost, be grateful that you can work. Think of what a wonderful gift God has given you - a strong body, healthy mind and abilities just suited to the work He has planned for you. I heard an interesting quote not too long ago, "If you want to have all the time you need to do all God wants you to do, stop sinning!" Simple but profound. Sinning is the ultimate waste of God's gift of time. Something we as moms of little ones often neglect is getting enough rest. What, sleep more? I have things to do! Well, part of being a mom is being cheerful and loving around our children, and it's hard to be that way when you are chronically sleep-deprived. If you have little ones who still nap, you probably need to nap too. Maybe not sleep, but at least put your feet up and close your eyes. Go to bed at a decent hour. The world will not come to an end if you give up watching the late news. I find it extremely important to get up before the children are awake. It puts YOU in charge of the day, not them. Get dressed, including shoes, comb your hair and brush your teeth. Then you are ready for the morning rush, not just someone who is also caught up in the whirlwind of activity. OK, those were the general suggestions, here are some specific time-management skills. Many are gleaned from my years as a nurse (Having 12 hours to do 16 hours worth of work teaches you quite a few things.)

Prioritize your tasks. For example, I use the ABC system. On my list of things to do A means "I have to get this done today!," B is "I've got a few days on this one, but if I can squeeze it in now, great" and C is "This is something I'd like to do, but if I don't get to it for a while, it's still OK. When I am having a rushed day, if the A's get done, I know I've done the most important things.

Plan your work. If you need to make a list, fine. But have a plan for the day. Be sure you have the equipment you need before you start. For example, if you're planning to can tomatoes tomorrow, make sure tonight that you have enough jars, lids and such. You can waste an awful lot of time hunting around for the tools needed to do the days work.

Don't micro-manage. By this I mean (especially if you have little ones) don't set an unrealistically tight schedule. My day doesn't go down the drain if I take one of my little ones for an extra long walk after lunch. I schedule, but I schedule loosely.

Group like tasks. If I'm going to change diapers, I change both babies. If I have several phone calls to return, I do them all at once. Likewise for paying bills, ironing and mending.

Eliminate distractions. I have one child who cannot talk and work at the same time. So when it comes her turn to wash dishes, she washes them alone, with no radio or tapes playing. Don't try to do tasks which require concentration when your little ones need attention. Save those for when they are happily occupied elsewhere.

Have the right equipment. As I mentioned before, we have all hardwood and vinyl floors in our home. We muddled along for years with a sponge mop. Finally, I invested in one of those janitor-type rolling mop
buckets with a ringer attached. (It cost about $40.) The time required to mop was cut by about 75%! Please don't think this is license to go out and spend a lot of money. Be sure you are being faithful to the task with the equipment you have first. For example, I sell Bosch mixers and grain mills. I will not sell one to you if you are not already providing your family's meals faithfully with what you have to work with. No piece of equipment can give you motivation and desire.

Delegate when appropriate. This means assigning chores to your children. This could mean hiring help every now and then, if feasible. This does NOT mean trying to get your husband to do your work when he already has a full-time job.

Remember this - time is a gift of the Lord. He has given this gift in equal measure to all. And He gives you enough time to do the things He wants you to do. Use it wisely!