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The Best Time Management Advice I Ever Received

Guest post from Jamie of

About ten years ago, I was really struggling with managing my time.

My job required extra hours. I enjoyed going out with friends often, and I wanted to get involved at my new church, too! So I said “yes” to everything: concerts, movies, overtime, dinners, a Sunday School class, home visitation team, two weekly prayer meetings, and singing in the choir… all around the same time.

Needless to say, I took on too much. I was overwhelmed and stressed out. I was eating poorly and not exercising, and the stress was taking its toll.

Then one day, someone gave me the best time management advice I’ve ever received:

“Write down your life’s priorities, in order of importance. Then say no to everything that doesn’t support those priorities in that order.”

It sounded good, so I tried it out. This is the list of priorities I came up with for my life:

    1. One-on-one time with God in prayer and personal study.
    2. My health and my husband. (I wasn’t married yet, but I was thinking long-term and couldn’t choose between health and husband.) 🙂
    3. My family.
    4. My job.
    5. Church work.
    6. My social life.

When I drafted this list, I realized that my choices were way out of order. I was spending time on low priorities and neglecting high priorities. My life was topsy-turvy, and I hadn’t even realized it.

So I started changing things. For example, I stopped volunteering for things at church that I wasn’t gifted to do. It was hard to say “no” to enthusiastic recruiters, but it really helped my stress level. I also had to stop going out with friends so much, and I used that time to hit the gym after work instead.

Ten years later, I still use this same priority list to manage my time. I definitely don’t have it perfect, but I’m convinced that knowing my priorities has saved my sanity more than once.

Do you feel like I did? Are you overwhelmed, stressed out, and pulled in ten different directions at the same time? If so, making a list of your life priorities might really help you too. Here’s how:

1. Separate yourself from your current reality for a moment.

Priorities are partly driven by necessity, and partly by choice. Most of us are great at putting out fires — the necessities — but maybe not so good at choices. So, I encourage you to forget about the fires you have burning right now: the kids’ soccer, the grocery list, the laundry pile, etc. and instead, think about your ideal world instead.

2. Let yourself dream.

What does your ideal life look like? In your dream world, are you healthier? More social? An entrepreneur?

Then ask yourself this question: “If nothing in your life has changed in five years, would that be okay?”

If you said “no” to that question, then you’re ready to proceed to the next step:

3. Based on your ideal world, what do your priorities need to be?

Make a list of the various priorities in your life, and then list them in order of importance.

I really encourage you to write your list as deliberately as you can. Decide what your priorities will be, based on what you know is right for you and your family — not based on outside pressure, or on what other people think you should do.


4. Look at your schedule, and revise your calendar to match your new priorities.

This may be tough, but you can do it! Look closely at your time:

  • Are you taking the kids to a different activity every day after school? If so, could you change that by having them pick just one sport or lesson each year?
  • Are you watching a lot of TV? If so, could you turn the TV off a few hours each week, and make time for reading or exercise?
  • Are you doing anything you’re not called to do just to please people? If so, consider letting them know that you’re sorry, but you just won’t be able to help anymore. 🙂 (And breathe a sigh of relief!)

Time management is challenging for everyone. But, if you will make a list of your life’s priorities, and set your calendar based on those priorities, you will find time and peace of mind that you never knew existed.

What are your priorities? What could you work on this week to move yourself closer to your dream life? 

Jamie Rohrbaugh is a wife, financial analyst, Sunday School teacher, musician, and unlikely worship leader from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her passion is to encourage and equip people to live powerful lives and to function in their gifts. She blogs at about how to live ordinary life in God’s manifest presence.

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  • Melissa says:

    Thank you for the advice! This is so timely. My husband and I are both struggling with time management and finding time to spend together. This weekend we’re sitting down to map out a schedule which will be even more important in the coming months because I’m going to be a first time homeschooler and I need to continue to work my freelance jobs from home.

    • That’s awesome, Melissa! My husband and I were at a similar point last year. We had been to a marriage conference and were challenged to write a vision for our family together, and goals to match. It really helped! Good luck this weekend for you and your hubby too!

  • Carol says:

    Thanks!!! I so needed this today. I was just thinking if I could make the world stop for one day, I could get caught up.

  • Jessica says:

    This is an excellent article and very thought provoking.


  • Bernie says:

    Wow! I just made a list of my priorities and here it is: husband, health, kids, house, family, blog, volunteering, social life/friends. I realized just as the author did that I’m spending way too much time on lower priority items and not enough on the high priority items. Thanks for the clarity!

  • Heather says:

    Thank you for this insight. Makes me realize that I need to realign myself too as I have been so stressed which leads me to be snappy at the ones who are really at the top of my list because I am trying to cater to the people/things at the bottom of my list. Not fair to them or myself.

  • Thanks for posting this! I am in a stage in life that I’ve had to say no to so many things. Sometimes I feel disconnected because we are not very busy like we used to be. But the downtime this year was important. We just moved to a new state and needed time to regroup and get closer as a family.

  • Karen says:

    Oooooo! Love it! I am So going to redo my list tonight~ I just redid it a couple days ago and haven’t gotten around to posting updates, so now I’ll post it as a combo~ updates I just did plus revisions based off your blog post!!!
    I’ll try to include a link-back, too 🙂

  • Anna says:

    Thanks for the advice! I’m trying to get a better grasp on my to-do lists, time management, priorities, etc., so this is a great reminder. 🙂

    A friend of mine once told me a quotation his friend told him that went something like “You have enough time to do the things Jesus wants you to do, no more and no less.” I thought that was kind of interesting, something I’m thinking about lately. 🙂

  • Diane says:

    Great article! My youngest child just graduated from college, and I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what I will do with my life as an Empty Nester. Your quote, “If nothing in your life has changed in 5 years, would that be okay?” really hit me hard. I need to see the upcoming years as an opportunity and an adventure, and not allow myself to be stuck in my routines of the past!

    • Diane, go for it! Now sounds like a golden opportunity for you! I hope these years are the best yet for you!

      And about the “5 years” question – that question is really emphasized in Dan Miller’s book, “48 Days to the Work You Love.” It’s a great, motivational book if you want to delve into that topic further. “Start” by Jon Acuff is a good one too that talks a lot about priorities, goals, dreams, and the importance of getting started (even in tiny increments).

  • Joy says:

    I’ve also come to the same conclusion about priorities after reading the book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam (Crystal had posted awhile back on this book). It changed my life! Another good one is Take The Stairs by Rory Vaden. I have a few of Rory’s quotes on Focus on my refrigerator: What is the most effective thing I can be doing right now with the time I have available? Creative avoidance: takes things that aren’t important and makes them urgent. Priority dilution: takes things that are urgent and inappropriately makes them important.

  • Some great advice here Jamie, saying no is very difficult as we are all brought up to be nice, and deep down we all want to help others.

    I tell people that ‘NO’ actually stands for Noble Objection, this is when we say No with an explanation, because it is the right thing to do for all parties, that way we don’t say yes to people and either let them down or stress ourselves trying to help others


    • I agree with you, Mike. When people tell me “no,” it always helps soften the blow if they explain a little bit… so I always try to offer at least a little bit of explanation too. I don’t always go into detail, but even saying something like, “That sounds like so much fun. I’m really sorry, I’d help out with it if I had time, but I’m so overcommitted that week already that I had better not.”

      That way, you don’t make the person feel bad who invited you to do something. A little explanation just seems to help keep everybody on friendly terms.

  • Are you doing anything you’re not called to do just to please people? – Oh this one is terribly hard! I always strive to please others and say yes to things I shouldnt.

    But then I realize I need to put my family first, they need to be pleased before anyone else.

    Thanks for posting!

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