You Can't Cram for What Matters Most
"Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts." Psalm 90:12 (HCSB)
I checked my watch as I sat down to study. Twelve hours until my test. Pouring a cup of coffee, I added sugar, stirred, tasted and added another teaspoon of sugar. I was going to need it to prepare for the all-nighter before me.
Oh, there were many reasons I could have given you for waiting until the night before to study: my part-time jobs, other demanding classes and a boyfriend who I was sure would be my husband one day. They were good excuses ... but underneath all the superficial reasons was the truth: I hadn't done a good job of studying.
Rather than tackling a little bit each day when I had free time, I used that time for other things ... things I felt I deserved for working so hard! Plus, I was counting on an adrenaline surge the night before the test and laser focus due to the pressure.
Well, that didn't happen. Around 3 a.m. I couldn't keep my eyes open, slept a few hours, showed up to the test sleep-deprived and bombed it. But I did learn an important life-lesson: Cramming isn't a good approach to what matters most.
One would think that lesson would be engrained in my habits, and I would never again wait until the last minute to tackle an important assignment. If only that were true. Unfortunately, it was easy for cramming to become a way of life, with bursts of effort interspersed between bouts of exhaustion.
My husband (the boy I blamed for the cramming) and I used to joke that nothing would get done if it weren't for the last minute.
Unfortunately, that's a pretty hectic way to live. And while you might get by for a time cramming for important events, that kind of random effort doesn't have a cumulative positive effect. In fact, it's hindered me in what matters most.
Whether it's planning family gatherings, tackling clutter, losing weight, adding exercise or achieving goals, random effort makes little difference.
I tend to think large blocks of time are needed to make important things happen. But my days fill up quickly and large blocks of free time are rare. So I procrastinate and end up being stressed, rushed and disappointed.
However, I've discovered a different approach that has proven successful. It's actually less complicated and more peaceful, but it takes intentional effort. When I apply two simple habits, I see a difference:
1) Value small blocks of time. There is great value in small bits of time. I don't need hours to start something or make a difference in an area of my life. Fifteen or 30 minutes spent on something every day, week or month, adds up. Consistent effort really makes a difference.
2) Ask the Lord daily for my assignment. When I spend a few minutes seeking God's direction for my day, important things get done. Not everything — but what's most important. The key is to do this before answering emails, doing laundry, sitting in meetings or cleaning up after children, etc. Otherwise, the current of the day sweeps me away, and I'm back to my habit of procrastination.
The Bible teaches us there's wisdom in valuing our days and looking to God for direction. Verse 12 in Psalm 90, a prayer attributed to Moses, says, "Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts."
I need God's wisdom when it comes to managing my time. Without God's wise direction, I can spend all kinds of time on things that aren't my priorities. Then, the things that matter most, get the least amount of my time. And then I get all crazy trying to make it right. Whew!
But that's not God's way and Jesus is our perfect example. He knew His priorities, made the most of every moment and sought His Father's will before His day began (Mark 1:35).
Jesus didn't take any day, or hour, for granted. He didn't put off trips, conversations or teachings until life got easier or He had more time. Jesus was intentional in all areas of His life. Every day.
What a purposeful, peaceful way to live. No cramming. No regrets. Just faithful obedience on a daily basis. That is my prayer. And with God teaching me to number my days, and giving me a wiser heart, it is possible.
Father, every day You give me is a gift. Help me to value and make the most of each moment to serve You and to love others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Luke 12:35, "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning." (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Purchase a journal or small notebook. In it, list what you would say are your top 10 priorities in life.
Then, each day look over the list and ask God for wisdom on what you need to do that day to live out those priorities.