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How to Get Control of Your Time

Updated on September 9, 2014

Definition: Busyness

Busyness really means having a lack of control over your time. Busy people are pushed and pulled by outside influences:

  • Other people's schedules
  • Other people's expectations
  • Reactive communication (email, cell phones, texting demanding instant responses)

The end result is that we feel like we don't have enough time to get everything done that we "need to."

Busyness is NOT Your Problem

Most people assume that their lives are just too busy to (choose all that apply)

  • read
  • study
  • pray
  • serve others
  • spend time with loved ones
  • think about life
  • dream
  • etc., etc., etc.

But busyness is not often the real problem.

The real problem is overload.

And this is actually good news! Because busyness just happens to us - we can't really control it. Busyness makes us a victim of our circumstances.

But overload is something that can be conquered! The secret is to use the virtue of prudence to plan the use of your time, and to build margin into your life.

The Margin Mind Shift

The biggest difference between the concept of busyness and the concept of margin is that busyness is a mind set of victimhood. People who claim they're busy are really making the claim that they have no control over their lives. People who define their problem as overload and their goal as margin see their time as something they control. It's not always easy to avoid overload and to build margin, but it is possible.

If you're eating lunch standing up, you suffer from busyness!
If you're eating lunch standing up, you suffer from busyness!

How to Build Margin

Here are some specific ways to build margin in your life

1. Clarify your priorities and become determined to live by them

2. Take an assessment of the demands on your life, ranking them according to how necessary they are

3. Schedule your activity for the day based on your priorities - schedule activities that align with your priorities first

4. Say no to activities that are too demanding and that don't align with your priorities - even if they are good things to do.

The Catholic Vision of Time Management

Most time management solutions out there focus on very materialistic and self-centered goals. You control your time to get more done, make more money, realize your dreams, and avoid stress. Unfortunately, these priorities add to the problem. Even if we get really good at time management skills such as pre-planning, planned focus, goal setting and tracking, and daily reflection, we still end up feeling like we haven't done enough. We feel like we're spinning our wheels and not making any real progress. Why? Because we are still not ordered toward true fulfillment.

Catholic spirituality can embrace the strategies of time management, but there are some key underlying concepts that inform those strategies. These concepts make all the difference.

  • Put first things first - If we want true fulfillment, we need to set our priorities according to the true human heart. What makes us happy? True happiness can only be found in a relationship with God. Why? There are two main reason. First, God is the source of everything else that is good. So a relationship with God gives us all other things that contribute to our happiness. But the best reason is that God himself is perfectly loving and perfectly lovable. God himself meets and quiets all of our desires. Aside from God, true happiness is found in relationships. Relationships appeal to our spiritual and physical nature, to our social needs, and to our desire for "transcendent goods" that can only be fully enjoyed in relationship with others. So our highest priorities should be our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Catholic time management would teach us to put these things first in our everyday lives.

  • Focus on what is truly good - Because most time management systems come from a materialistic mindset, they are focused on the attainment of more - more time, more money, more possessions, more success. Catholic time management is different here too. The focus for a Catholic should be on attaining what is better rather than attaining more. The goal we focus on is authentic human development - feeding the spirit as well as the body.

  • Plan your life and your destiny - One concept that Catholic time management does share with other time management models is the need to plan your life and your destiny. Human beings are not created to be victims. As Saint Paul tells us, we are not made for slavery but for freedom. Catholic time management has the goal of freeing us from the "rat race" of materialistic life enough so we can freely choose what kind of life we live and what kind of person we become.

These are three foundational concepts that make Catholic time management unique from other models. Again, we can make use of the strategies that work from other models. But we apply them for different reasons. And that makes all the difference.

Time Management for Catholics

Time Management for Catholics: Make the Most of Every Second by Putting Christ First
Time Management for Catholics: Make the Most of Every Second by Putting Christ First

Dave Durand gets the problem and solution absolutely right. His time management system is all about putting the important things first. He also gives some masterful strategies for getting your life under control.


The Prudence Power Framework

1. Clarify Your Priorities

2. Create Goals That Align With Your Priorities

3. Schedule Actions That Help You Meet Your Goals

4. Establish Habits That Move You Toward Your Goals & Priorities

What do you do to manage overload in your life?

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