Balanced Life

The Arrogance of Time Management

In Ready for Anything, David Allen (author of Getting Things Done) has the following to say:

And get yourself organized enough so that when a staff meeting is late to start, you’re processing your in-basket or cranking down your FYI-to-read stack. Or when you’re waiting for your spouse to get ready (like, actually ready), you’re checking to see if there’s a phone call you could make.

I pictured myself sitting on the couch and tapping my toe – waiting on my wife who is several minutes late in getting ready. As an inherently impatient person, that scene has been a reality more times than I’d care to think about.

I had told myself to just relax. Sit on the couch and chill out. It’s just a few minutes – not a big deal.

Is This Arrogant?

So when I read David Allen’s comments, they came across as really quite arrogant. People who are constantly staring at their watch and sighing because they have to wait in line – those people seem, frankly, to be jerks.

It may do a little better job of helping me cross things off of my to-do list, but making a phone call while I huff and puff about my wife running late is not the way I want to be.

Then, I was browsing the archives of Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next Blog (which I would wholeheartedly encourage you to check out), when he referenced comments that John Piper made about productivity. When describing an ideal leader, Piper says:

He sees ways to use time to the full and shapes his schedule to maximize his usefulness. He saves himself large blocks of time for his major productive activities. He uses little pieces of time lest they go to waste. (For example, what do you do while you are brushing your teeth? Could you set a magazine on the towel rack and read an article?)

I think those words highlight a dilemma I felt at one time. It was clear to me that some people were so concerned about productivity that it was a negative. Yet at the same time, Piper advocates an attitude highly geared towards productivity – and it seems like a positive thing.

So What’s the Difference?

At first, it would seem that the answer lies in respecting people. Godly productivity understands that people are a priority. They aren’t interruptions or obstacles that you have to deal with.

That’s a good rule of thumb. But I think that view is limited. I think there’s a better way to look at this dilemma:

Am I concerned about my time or God’s time?

It really came down to my pride. Is it about what I am going to accomplish? Is it a statement about my value? Or am I simply being an obedient servant, zealously concerned with using my resources for the Master’s glory?

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