5 Key Time Management Principles for Christian Students
Time management starts with understanding the math. There are 168 hours in a week. Ideally, we should be spending at least 49 of those hours sleeping. That leaves 119 hours for everything else. How will you spend those hours?
Time management is a subject of many business and education blogs. In simple terms, time management is the controlling of your time resources in order to meet goals. This often results in more efficient work, steady progress toward goals, and reduced stress. These are all good reasons to learn some time management strategies. However, Scripture offers us deeper, or more eternal, reasons for considering how we use our time.
Our Time is Not Our Own
In Psalm 90, Moses prayed, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (v. 12, NLT). Moses pointed out the limited number of years that are given to us on the Earth. We grow wise as we realize our real life is not here at all but is “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). Moses concludes the psalm by saying, “And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful” (v. 17). These efforts are the byproduct of a life lived with eternity in mind.
Moses isn’t the only one who talks about the importance of understanding that our time is limited:
- “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4 ESV).
- “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil “ (Eph. 5:15-16).
- “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” (Col. 4:5).
Clearly, our time is not our own. As a child, I had to memorize the Heidelberg Catechism. Through the years, the first question and answer have stuck with me:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I am not my own,
body and soul,
in life and in death,
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
My life is not my own. My time is not my own. I belong to Jesus. My real life is hidden with him. This is what motivates me to use my time wisely. It is a gift from God that he has made me a steward of. He gives us time so that we can know him and make him known.
For this moment in time, God has called me to work in student success at Briercrest. What this means is that I work to help equip college students with the tools and resources they need to be successful academically. I see this work as kingdom work. I get to encourage and come alongside young men and women as they prepare for lives of service in the church and the world. Perhaps not surprising, one thing that I talk with students about is time management.
Our Time is a Gift from God, So...
We all only have about 119 hours each week to do the work that God has given us to do. For students, that work is learning. Learning requires intentional time spent on tasks like reading, listening, studying, and writing. By setting aside special time each day, those tasks can be accomplished and even enjoyed. Managing time also gives space for other things like worship, friends, and service.
When I teach academic time management, I stress five key principles that extend from the foundation of time being a gift from God. Students quickly realize that these principles are not just about time management in higher education but have applicability to life.
We manage our time so that we can reach goals. These goals can be academic, professional, personal, or spiritual.
Start with the Big Picture
Take stock of everything that is going on in your life in a set time period. For students, this includes major assignments and events. Write it all down in a calendar.
Identify the 'Events' that will Require Advanced Planning
Events could be a research paper or an away game. Start planning backward so that you will be ready for the event/due date. It will help you to avoid procrastination and be better situated to handle any last-minute surprises.
Make a Weekly Schedule
Start with the items that are immovable like classes, small groups, church activities, and practices. In the remaining space, set aside time to complete necessary work.
One tip that Dr. Saundra McGuire gives students is to make appointments with yourself to get coursework done. That way if a friend asks, “Are you free?”, you can respond by saying, “I have an appointment, but I might be able to change it.” This places value on work time as well as leaves the option open for a break.
Both working hard and resting are activities that honour God. We need to have a healthy balance of those in our lives. If we manage our time well, there will be time for both activities.
As Solomon wisely tells us, “There is a time for everything” (Ecc. 3: 3, NIV). May God give us wisdom to use that time for his glory.
If you are interested in seeing more of the tips that Erin shares with students, you can check out her 4-part time management series that was made available to the general public through a partnership with the Palliser Regional Library.