By: Eric Beck
If we in business are going to "number our days to present a heart of wisdom" then we have to start taking a strategic view of the manner in which we work. In my work with clients all across America, the number one thing that deters excellence in performance--regardless of role, age, gender, sector, or experience--has to be the phenomenon I call "time debt." Time debt is the chronic bleeding away of energy and focus due to un-calendared, strategy-less work. And, believe it or not, technology like Microsoft's Outlook 2003 can make a significant difference.
Called in Time
Just like a soldier, you have a post...a place to stand guard over, a garden to tend. Your post includes three key areas: Time, treasure, and people priority. 1 Thess. 4:11 says, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business." Your post is "your business," and it is your responsibility to take care of it. It takes diligent strategy and faith.
Simply put, "your post" is the context in which you work out your calling. Your calling is that transcendent aspect of your life in Christ...it's the expression of your true identity "chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world."
Although your calling--what you are made to be and the commiserate expression of it--is eternal, your post can change. But just like with a soldier, your post changes only upon orders. We must obey God. "My food," said Jesus in John 4:34, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." Note that he didn't say, "my work." This is key. Truly no one can serve two masters. Your work doesn't come from your boss or your customers. It comes from God Almighty.
But with your post also come your enemies. And the ugly part is that all these enemies produce one thing: Unending Time Debt.
Debt, whether in terms of time or money, can have the same debilitating, crippling effects. But all is not lost. Let's look at what time debt does and how we can reverse it to the glory of Him who for freedom set us free.
Jack was a salesman for a large manufacturing company. With increasing pressure to move operations overseas, the atmosphere of work was grim and rumors were on everyone's lips. Jack and all the others in sales were working their fingers to the bone to make their quotas.
Jack rolled into his office on Monday and he saw his unforgiving time debt for the hundredth time. He simply sat there at his desk and stared at the mountain of unfiled papers, the 325 unread emails, and a monitor covered in sticky notes. He could hear his heart speed up. He pitifully looked down at his well-worn to-do list and as soon as he could force his eyes away, he'd already seen at least 40 things he was supposed to have done last week.
So Jack, a believer, tries to do his best. But while he's gathering his courage to face another day in such unbearable debt, his boss barges in and...well, you can guess the outcome...the list just got longer.
When Jack first came to work, he had energy, focus, and hope. Now, all that had been plucked from him and exchanged for fear and guilt--fear of life without a paycheck and the guilt of knowing that this was not what he was destined for. So, after a long moment of despair, Jack tries again to just start at the top of the list.
You can finish this story. Let's be honest here, we've all be Jack at one time or another. Somehow we've not seen that our life in Christ really must be totally integrated. For the believer there are no false divisions called sacred and secular. And because of division, we've used technologies that simply don't serve us. And one of those is the task list. They don't ever allow us to see the big picture and, worst of all, because there is always more work to be done, they keep us in perpetual time debt.
So what is Jack to do? What technology can he use? How can he get out of time debt, hear God, and have that life of freedom Jesus supposedly set us free for? How can Jack stay on his post and win?
He can start by taking the task list and doing something that borders on insanity: He can go through it item by item and estimate the time each task will take! Now, I've had many clients who I've walked through this process and the response is generally the same: "God help me! I have 86 hours of work to do on my task list!" To which I reply, "Has God authorized all that work? Has God authorized you to be stressed out and anxious?"
What nasty questions, I know. But obedience is really the only relevant issue.
The next painful step is to actually take a program like Outlook's calendar and put every single task into it. If you want to be present to your life, slow down internally enough to hear what work God is authorizing, and actually get the work done, then you've got to get out of time debt.
The problem with the task list is that it is resides in the back of your mind as stuff you need to do, but haven't done yet...subtly stalking you day and night. You are documenting and reinforcing a sense of constantly being behind in keeping up.
But, there is hope. Sometimes technology that is really effective is really simple. This is certainly the case here. The beauty of this performance management technology is that all you have to do is follow orders all day long. And when you're done...you're truly done. Task lists usually tempt us into doing the items that are easiest first. Result: More and more time debt...feeling behind, overwhelmed, running at the speed of light with our hair on fire. And, frankly, working just like the world!
So here's how to make the task list work to your advantage: 1) Take all your tasks and estimate the time each will take. 2) Schedule all the tasks...in other words transform the tasks into appointments. Now at the beginning of each day, pray over your calendar asking God to show you what work He is "in" for the day. Ask Him what work He is authorizing for the day. If something needs to move, or the order needs to change, do so. But, discipline is required. Once the tasks become appointments and the appointments become "authorized work", the rush of freedom begins...you start to feel the time debt melting away. You no longer have 45 things to do...you have just one thing to do. Freedom at last!
Just open your calendar and honor the appointments. Why? Because you believe that they are authorized. You've abandoned the time debt and red-faced running around the world offers in return for your blood, sweat, and tears...stealing you away from the "eternal now" in which your heavenly Father has designed you to dwell.
You may think this plan is crazy. But I've seen the freedom first hand and it is real. It lets you be done with work when work is over.
After all you aren't working for the boss, you are working for The Boss! And He has called you to a light yoke and an easy burden. How is that possible you ask! One way: Do only the work He authorizes. How can you do that? Get rid of your time debt and take your orders from Him.
If we in business are going to "number our days to present a heart of wisdom" and be "salt and light" in the earth, then we have to start taking a strategic view of the manner in which we work. The technology is there in any basic calendaring system. Use it to hear God, stay on your post, and bring value to every minute of your day. Now that's real performance management!
About the author:
Eric Beck is a contributing author for ChristianBusinessDaily.com -- The Online Network for Christians in Business. Your source for news, articles, and commentary from a biblical perspective.
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