Time Management – Part 4: Creating a Life Plan

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In case you missed them:
Time Management Part 1
Time Management Part 2
Time Management Part 3

Last week, I introduced the concept of holistic time management.  What that means is this: when you see problems in your life such as busyness, procrastination, and lack of motivation, you are looking at symptoms of a larger problem.  We can focus on symptoms if we want, but it would be better to try to go back and deal with the root causes of our time management problems. 

Remember that every day, you choose to do a subset of tasks from a very large pool of options.  The choices you make do not come from a vacuum.  They come from your goals, your priorities, and ultimately, from what you believe about life and your role in it.  Here is a diagram that demonstrates what I mean:
Today, I want to start at the top and talk about your life plan.  Again, I am referring to your deepest values and what you ultimately want out of life.  It is important to get this right because as you can see from the chart above, your life plan eventually influences how you actually spend your time.

Most of us have never taken the time to formally write out a life plan.  You can still have a meaningful life if you don’t; many have a plan that guides their life but it is just engrained on the brain.  But taking the time to actually write it out is a meaningful activity that gives you a chance to really think.

I wrote out a life plan about ten years ago.  I was just starting my business and struggling to balance those demands in my life, and someone recommended that I read The E-Myth Revisited.  That book resonated with me, and I followed its recommended course of action.  Step 1 was writing out a life plan.

It is very interesting to look at that life plan ten years later.  I wrote a series of bullet points about how I wanted my life to look.  Many of them have come true.  Some have not, but looking back, I can see that my desires have changed since then and I would no longer want some of them to come true.  

A few of the things I wrote down led to some new opportunities.  For example, I was playing the piano very little ten years ago.  But for some reason, I felt impressed to include a bullet point that said this: I will become very proficient on the piano. As I later began to implement my life plan, that bullet point led me to find a piano teacher and start practicing again.  And those particular actions led me down a path that I never would have predicted ten years ago.

If you are looking for ideas on what your life should look like, consider Ecclesiastes.  Especially read chapter 2, where Solomon discusses his search for meaning in life.  You quickly realize that he tried it all.  But in the end of the chapter, he says this:

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his work. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?

At the end of the book, we have this famous verse:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

The concept of fearing God and keeping his commandments may seem big.  But remember how Jesus summarized the commandments in Matt. 22:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

In other words, Solomon could have said that in the end of the day, our duty is to love God and love people.

If Solomon had written a life plan, what big ideas would have been represented? Based on these passages, this is what I suspect:

1) Work should be meaningful, fulfilling and enjoyable
2) Temporal things do not bring meaning to life
3) Life should be about God and other people.

I want to encourage you to write out a life plan and make it focused on the right things.  We will talk in coming weeks about how your life plan can then guide the decisions you make about your time, but laying this foundation is important.

When you write out your plan, here are some guidelines to follow:

* Be specific, understanding that we as humans need specific goals for motivation.
* Be flexible, understanding that God is ultimately in control and our desires may change.
* Always be shifting your focus from the trivial to important.
* Use the Solomon principles we just discussed as a guide.

We will continue on to the topic of priorities next week.