I remember talking about stewardship in a small group at church when I brought up a concept I’m passionate about: (surprise!) time stewardship. One gentleman in particular, a middle-aged professional, perked up his ears.
He was a mature believer, a Sunday School teacher, and a manager at his workplace. He seemed to have had a fair amount of experience with time management concepts, not only in managing himself but also in teaching others at his workplace how to manage their time.
And the questions he asked showed a common misunderstanding that many people have about time stewardship.
“So how do you do that? What system do you use? Do you schedule your day out with a day-timer?”
He was focusing where most people focus: the methods. The systems. The techniques. The tips and the tricks. What calendar to use and how to use it and where to file what.
We Are Drawn to Turnkey Methods
It’s understandable. We want a clear how-to list whenever we tackle a new skill or concept. We want an expert making all the decisions and working out the variables for us.
When starting weight loss, I like diets which tell me what to eat and what not to eat. I like exercise programs that tell me how many reps to finish and what exercises to do. When starting to invest, I like personal investing systems that tell me how much to invest and what to invest in.
And for those just starting time management, it’s great to concentrate on the systems and techniques. For experts, talking about techniques and tricks is still worthwhile. That’s why you’ll see Life of a Steward talk often about various systems and approaches.
But yet, being a good steward is not about following a certain system.
Think about the area of financial stewardship: Does it matter what budgeting method you use? Does it matter if you put cash in a set of envelopes for the month, if you input your receipts daily into Quicken, or if you let each spouse handle their own set of categories? Each one is an acceptable system, as long as it works for you.
Really, any system is an acceptable system as long as it works for you.
It’s the same with time stewardship. It doesn’t matter whether you use GTD, Covey’s materials, or the Pomodoro technique. It doesn’t matter if you use an iPhone, Outlook on a desktop, or paper to-do lists and calendars.
As long as it works for you, it works.
The Secret Isn’t the Method – It’s the Mindset
The system used isn’t the key to effective time stewardship. The real secret to success is developing and maintaining the mindset of a steward.
We develop this mindset when we realize that our time is entrusted to us by God and that we need to manage it well. When we understand this, every decision about how to spend our time becomes a spiritual decision.
Then, the true test comes: living moment-by-moment with this mindset. Maintaining this mindset as much as you can – even up to every single second of the day – this is the absolute most powerful thing you can do to be an effective steward of your time.
The secret is regularly thinking to yourself, “What is the best use of my time right now?” It’s avoiding distracting diversions and working with focus because you want to bring as much glory as possible to God. It’s following the biblical models of work and rest because you want to be obedient.
Going over systems and techniques is a great way to hone our stewardship even further, but we can’t put the cart before the horse.
To live the life of a steward, we first need the mindset of a steward.
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