In Sonja Corbitt’s fantastic book Fearless: Conquer Your Demons and Love with Abandon (go get it!) she writes, “I’m no prophet but I have learned through discerning patterns that, when I see or hear something two or more times, I can be sure God is at work somehow. I know to pay attention to what happens next and be in prayer about the people and circumstances around me, because they are being used by the Holy Spirit to teach me something (John 5:19).”
Wise words. Yet how often do we, when this reality unfolds in our lives, shrug off similar occurrences simply as mere coincidence to toss out and never ponder?
There’s a synergistic idea being presented to me. I’m bracing for impact as what I’m about to embark on may cause, at least initially, a bit of discomfort. But discomfort is often a good thing as it can open doors of opportunity.
You have likely read something that deeply resonated with you, words you pondered long after the first read. In January of this year, I read such a blog post by Dr. Tom Neal titled Frittered away by detail. In the post, Dr. Neal details his New Year’s resolution: to cut away the fat, excess, frivolous, or directionless investments of his time and energy. He used the phrase “Keeping first things first,” and Joel and I now keep that one-liner in the forefront of our decision-making. To set about intentionally keeping first things first, Dr. Neal engaged in a week-long time audit.
“… if you want to know a man’s priorities, follow the check ledger and follow the clock. Where your time is, there is your treasure, and where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – as quoted by Dr. Tom Neal
For one week, Dr. Neal tracked and categorized how he used his time into nine categories:
- Focused time for prayer
- Focused time with spouse
- Focused time with children
- Eating with others
- Eating alone
- Personal leisure
He also used a separate spreadsheet to examine the time, how much and when, he spent looking at any screens and the purpose of viewing. (Yikes!)
In Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World, Bob Goff writes, “The battle for happiness is fought on the pages of our calendars.” A time audit could certainly cut to the heart of the matter.
After my read of Dr. Neal’s post, I walked away very curious about the practice of a time audit but had no desire to engage in one myself. I filed away the idea as an interesting tidbit from his life … but there are many! :)
Now here comes the synergy. A few weeks ago I see the following blog post on LinkedIn: This 3-minute habit changed my life. A life-changing habit in only 3-minutes?! Click bait! I clicked over and was introduced to Laura Vanderkam, a working mom to four who engaged in a similar time audit. Get this, she completed her audit for 1,100 straight days (that’s 26,400 hours!), recording all activities completed in a twenty-four hour period, organized into half-hour increments. She kept tracking and tracking and tracking … the Forrest Gump of time auditing! Laura shares her testimony about the experience here, and I find it all quite enlightening.
“Knowing where the time goes allows you to redeploy time from the mundane to the meaningful, and from the forgettable to the memorable.” – Laura Vanderkam
In other words, she’s keeping first things first. Coming full circle, I hear Sonja’s words ringing in my ears:
“…when I see or hear something two or more times, I can be sure God is at work somehow.” – Sonja Corbitt
This notion of tracking time resonates. When I diligently track other things such as the foods I eat through MyFitnessPal, I choose healthier foods and eat fewer calories. When I stop tracking, I easily pick up mindless eating habits. This brings to mind Benjamin Franklin. In pursuit to adopt more virtuous habits, he drew up a list of thirteen virtues and created a chart in his journal to track progress. Each week he would focus on one virtue while also keeping track of the others. He would then move to the next virtue and so on. When he failed to live up to the virtues on a particular day, he placed a mark on the chart. When Franklin started his program, he found himself putting marks in the book more often than he wanted. As time went by, the marks diminished.
As an at-home mom, there are days Joel comes home from work and I embarrassingly mutter something like I didn’t get a dang thing done today. One, that’s really not true. Two, I do know, however, there are distractions keeping me from putting first things first and enjoying virtuous activities such as praying, managing the home, reading, playing with kids, exercise, etc. As the idea of a time audit has twice been presented now, I feel a tug to embark on one myself. I bet I’ll discover some interesting patterns of how I spend my time that can instead be dedicated toward prayer, work, rest, and play.
We are soon headed to Conception Abbey for a retreat with the Des Moines diaconate community. Our retreat leader is none other than Dr. Tom Neal, the author of that great post who first planted the seed. Not sure if I should hug him when I see him, but I’ll certainly ask him to pray for me as I set forth with my time audit.
Have you completed a similar time audit? Any pearls of wisdom or kernels of truth to share?