FAIL Month: Time Management Fail

June 2, 2010

Summer vacation starts this week.

And, to be honest, I have mixed feelings about it.

I go through this every year.  When I was a kid, I loved summer vacation.  Nothing to do but sleep in, play video games, explore the creek, and blow up action figures with firecrackers. 

As an adult, as soon as I don’t have anything to do, I get kind of queasy.  I’m really afraid of “wasting” my day.  I literally feel that if I haven’t accomplished anything by 10 am, the day is a wash, and I have failed as a human being. 

The truth is I have plenty to do this summer.  I won’t be wasting my time…well not all of it.  But I’m afraid to waste time.  Maybe you’re like that too.  Maybe you’re like that and you just don’t know it.  Because I think more and more Christians today feel like failures for the simple reason that they feel they’ve wasted their day. 

I think I know why.  See if any of these fit you.

Jesus hates wasted time.

Now that we’re adults, a lot of us get on a big guilt trip over how we spend out time.  I think it carries over from our days in school.  Back when we were students, we had to try to at least look like we were working, or the teacher would come over and get on our cases. 

Now that we’re adults, we have to stay busy, or at least look really busy so Jesus won’t think we’re slacking.  I think the goal is either to try to do enough that Jesus will like us, or stay busy enough that Jesus won’t bother us or give us more work because we’re already busy. 

Either way, it’s no fun.  I’ve met Christians who boast that they don’t take vacations.  Some Christians feel guilty if they don’t do so many good deeds in a day, or tell so many people about Jesus by the end of the day. 

Why?  Because deep down, we think that Jesus doesn’t really like us.  We think our biggest sin is wasting time, and we don’t think he died for the sin of wasted time.  We think that now that we’ve been given the free gift of grace, we’d better get cracking on paying it back, or else there will be hell to pay.  We wonder how much fun is too much for killjoy Jesus before he wants us to punch the clock again.  And it all makes us feel like failures, because we all know there’s never enough time in the day to do everything we should.

No one else is wasting time.

It’s all in perception.  When you ask a friend how they’ve been lately, they tell you the most exciting parts of their lives.  They tell you how they sponsored some youth trip, or helped out a neighbor.  They don’t tell you that the last three weeks solid, they came home from work and fell asleep while watching Dancing with the Stars with a half-eaten bologna sandwich on a paper plate.  If people were honest, they’d tell you they don’t have a bit of time because they work too much, and have no energy when it’s all over to do anything else. 

This is something where the internet isn’t too helpful.  No one is going to tell you how much time they wasted on YouTube or Farmville.  Not only is the internet a huge source of ways to waste time (hopefully your company’s time.)  But as a blog-reader, you are exposed to a higher than average number of people: authors, pastors, speakers, people who have an above average amount of “free” time because they don’t work jobs with regular hours.  These people are usually blogging about something awesome they will be doing in a third-world country next month.  Chances are, if you write a blog, you aspire to write a book, quit your job, and use your “free” time to do something “truly” important too.  But until then, everyone else seems to be accomplishing so much more, and you feel like a failure.

We want to matter.

Let’s say you have two friends, and I’m one of them (lucky you.)  You ask your other, inferior friend what he’s been up to lately.  He says he just worked, did some overtime, earned some extra money.  No big deal, nothing to brag about.

You turn to me to ask what I’ve been doing.  I tell you that on my morning prayer walk a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a nest of tiny, helpless birds that had fallen out of a tree.  With no mother bird in sight, I managed to regurgitate my breakfast of scrambled eggs and nourish the little foundlings before taking them home and raising them as my own children until they were old enough to fly away.  I named the birds Blinky, Sarah Jessica Parker, and PacMan.

Who sounds more important?  Surely nursing baby birds to health is more important to God than writing computer programs in a cubicle.  No matter that the birds, once old enough to fly went absolutely beserk in my house and one lodged himself deep in my heating duct, never to be freed.  Plus I came down with bird flu from all that mouth to mouth feeding.  It was still important.

The fact is, many of us rarely believe that what we’re doing with out lives is what God wants us to be doing.  We want to do something that really blows everyone away.  We want our eulogies to make everyone else feel like they’ve wasted their time.  Just like we envy someone else’s money or someone’s car, we envy how another person is able to spend their time.  We envy it like a status symbol, because we just can’t believe that what we’re doing is all that important.  And we better get it in gear before Jesus finds out we’re not really working on the assignment, or we’re toast.

Have you wasted your time?  Are you content with what you’re doing, or are you afraid that it isn’t important enough?

17 responses to FAIL Month: Time Management Fail

  1. Funny you should write this today. I had a very distracted day today that involved a bit of time wasting. I’ve had and still got essay deadlines coming up so it gets easy to feel guilty about wasting time. Doesn’t mean I don’t do it though.

  2. I can identify with all the scenerios, however, at this point in my life, I just can’t get everything done I want done in a day’s time. Some of it others would say is wasting time. And maybe it is, but it’s time doing things I love or feel is important. I don’t feel guilty about “down time” because God rested a whole day (or thousands of years whichever your belief). I guess my biggest downfall is being frustrated at people who say they are bored. Bored? What’s that? No time left over to be bored. God bless. Love your blog.

  3. I’m always wishing I did something bigger and better in life. I usually finish all my work by 10 or 11am and the rest of the day I piddle away. At 4pm I’m like, “Dang it, I could have written a month’s worth of blogs or something” (although sometimes I do write the rest of the week or the next weeks). But I guess it comes down to, no matter what I do, I could always do more and that’s dangerous.

    With kids though, I always have this conversation in my head. “I need to spend time with them, but I do need to get things done like change our oil and cut the grass.” And I always go to the extreme. Either spend all my time with my family and neglect the housework or spend the whole weekend doing housework and neglecting my family. What a bind. I always pray that I can spend adequate time on each. My wife is good though, she tells me it’s okay I’m not in the kids face 24/7 because the bathroom does need scrubbing. When she tells me that, I calmly ask her, “How’d you get out of the kitchen?!” j/k

    Great post and here’s a shameless plug. My blog this morning was on spending too much time watching tv and what we can do instead. It’s found here: http://nicodemusatnite.blogspot.com/2010/06/things-you-can-do-instead-of-watching.html

  4. Well, you won’t find me nursing baby birds back to health. My biggest waste of time is commuting into Boston. What would normally be a 12 minute ride is 55 minutes or more. They also make me stick around for an hour lunch break when I can wolf down a roast beef sandwich in 45 seconds. I try to write my blog then – but the environment is just not as a spiritual as sitting at my home PC in underwaer rocking out to Casting Crowns.

    I am the one that is too busy for a regular prayer walk – those come in between flipping off directional-less drivers on the Mass Pike. I quit worship team and home group – it’s just too much.

    But I have a plan to quit my job and do something really important – missions! Just as soon as I can get my kids to by their own toilet paper.

    You can read about my commute on http://www.fireandgrace.com

    • Oh of course, blog writing is best done while in the deep state of spirituality, in your underwear.

      • I see that you have done this! I am most spiritual after a cup of coffee, and before the morning shower. David took this to the extreme dancing before the Lord – but he was probably better looking in his Calvin Kleins than I am.

        I guess the real question is how anointed are boxers compared to other styles. Probably every denomination has an opinion. ;o)

  5. In college, my group of friends had a list of varying degrees of the “forget its” (well, they used a different “f” word, but you get the idea). I was never clear on the exact levels, but it was the idea that “I’ve got so much to do that I’m not going to do anything productive and play computer games (or whatever) instead.”

    I still have trouble with the “forget its.” For instance – right now I need to unload/load the dishwasher and clean innumerable other things. And yet I sit, playing on the computer.

    I think it has to do more with perfectionism than anything though. I can’t get it _all_ done, so I just won’t do any of it. Or the flip-side – “What if I _DO_ get it all done? _THEN_ what will I do?” I think I like to always have some unfinished task hanging over my head so that I have guilt to motivate me to keep working.

    Not that it’s working at the moment.

  6. This must be a hot topic right now. Here’s a quote from my current blog post: “Sometimes I think we Christians take life too seriously—we think that if there isn’t an overtly spiritual reason to do something, it’s a waste of time.”

    Yes, God gives us work to do, and we are to rest as well. But we also need to leave enough slack in our schedules to allow for the spontaneous prompting of the Spirit. I hate being so busy that I am deaf to God’s leading.

    As you said, we all want to matter, to be important. If we’re busy, at least we can convince ourselves that God needs us. But many of the most influential people in the Bible spent most of their time not doing anything “significant” for God, at least from their perspective. Moses spent years tending sheep; Sarah followed Abraham around for a lifetime and then raised a child in her old age.

    We need to obey God and let Him decide what’s significant and what’s a “waste” of time.

  7. I agree that this seems to be a hot topic right now. I am still recovering from the guilt of having the laziest Memorial Day of all time. I probably could have found something to do like yard work, or someone to hang out with, but instead I sat on my lazy butt and played video games for far longer than I feel comfortable admitting. Now this week I just don’t feel like doing anything with anyone.

    I don’t think it’s that we feel guilty for being lazy. I think it’s that when we’re lazy, we put ourselves in a lazy state of mind that’s sort of like a depression, and it’s hard to get out of that funk.

    As for work, although I am a computer programmer, I love what I do because it pays the bills and allows me to invest in my community/church. It’s a tent-maker job right here in Silicon Valley, and it doesn’t hurt that I also enjoy getting to know my co-workers. My goal is to live intentionally no matter where God sends me.

  8. I can totally relate to the “No one else is wasting time” (as I sit here at work commenting instead of working). I get all jealous and envious of the full-time writers who I view as having a much better, much easier, much more productive life than I do, because I have to work and raise kids and run a household. So then I fall prey to sinning AND wasting time. It’s really a fun cycle.

    Oh, and I’m at work AND laughing out loud over your bird-rescuing story.

    Love this!

  9. Being a teacher like Matt, I too live a life that is regimented down to the second (My students know that the class is over when I walk to the door. I have our schedule timed down to the second, so I open the door as the bell is ringing!), I’m terrified of summer for the exact same reason: two months is too short of a time to waste it all doing nothing!

    OK, so I’m taking a couple of college classes, have the FIFA World Cup to watch my way through, working backstage and on stage for our church’s big drama production at the end of the summer, and maybe (Just maybe! Oh I pray so!) getting ready to teach at a new school next year, but I’m still squeamish about “wasting my time” when I’m off because I don’t like the throught of “wasting time.” I guess it’s my OCD/German/Teaching/Wound-up-too-tightly tendencies getting to me, but when I’m sitting around doing nothing, I sure feel down on myself for not doing something productive.

  10. I waste a lot of time procrastinating on papers and other coursework. I’m essentially getting my degree in creative ways to waste time, with a minor in pulling all-nighters at the last minute…

  11. I LOLed at the bird names.

    Oh man. You’ve been reading my mind. I’ve just embarked on my last summer vacation ever, and I’ve been feeling oddly anxious/guilty for not being “productive” because this is my first full-fledged summer vacation (no job, summer classes, or mission trips) in like 5 years. Friends in similar positions have told me that they’ve been having some great “Jesus time” since graduation, so I naturally respond “ME TOO!” even though I’ve been solidly slacking in that department, in spite of having zero excuse, so then I feel even more guilty. I’m a creature of habit, and this lack of scheduling is messing with me.

    I wanted to volunteer or something, but that is proving harder to figure out than it seemed.

    So I’ve been cleaning, working on paintings, reading, thinking about working out, occasionally actually working out, and baking. And watching Arrested Development. And going to lots of weddings. I actually had a few opportunities to go on mission trips, (one being in Kingston, Jamaica, so that’s not an option any more) but I don’t feel called to go on the other two.

    I think the issue of wanting to seem important is key. If I didn’t think I had to supply an interesting and kingdom-glorifying answer to every person who asks what I’m doing this summer, I probably wouldn’t be so bothered about the whole situation. Hmmm pride. Oh snap.

  12. First of all, ewww on the birds. LOL.

    I don’t freak out over how I spend my time. Our old pastor used to tell his wife no when she wanted to work a ministry because she tended to get her hands and feet into alot of ministries. She liked busy and she loved people.

    I tell myself no.

    I space out my weeks so the activity is not taking up every calendar day. I have time to write every week. I have time to read every week. I have time to watch television, work out, and just be every week.

    I like having nothing to do once in a while so I have the option to do something if I feel like it. Without free time, my husband and I wouldn’t have time to explore God’s creation on foot, admire some deer grazing in the wilds, or simply sit and contempilate.

    Works doesn’t get you to heaven. Why do we keep trying?

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Firehouse Geek » FAIL Month: Time Management Fail | The Church of No People - June 3, 2010

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  2. Summer is for reading. « Wandering and Wondering… - June 11, 2010

    […] On another note, I came across this blog a few days ago that addressed some of the things I’ve been thinking about this summer.  Just thought I’d share.  http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com/2010/06/fail-month-time-management-fail/ […]