When scripture says, “Teach us to number our days,” it put its finger on a simple but profound truth. Our time is limited and therefore how we spend our time is important. In fact, time is one of the only things that one cannot get more of. Money comes and goes but time simply goes. Every day is one day closer to eternity and a day that we cannot get back.
Think of how often you consider your financial investments or how carefully you think through purchases since for most of us, money is in limited supply. If that is true with money that fluctuates over the years, how much more true it is of time which cannot be reclaimed. Wise individuals budget their money, prioritizing their spending. Wise leaders likewise budget their time and prioritize their allocation of that time.
For leaders, time is the most precious commodity and every time we say yes to something we alternatively say no to something else. That means that if we agree to something that is good but not essential we have eliminated the opportunity to give time to the essential. Leaders cannot overestimate the value of their time and the importance of evaluating the choices they have given their limited hours.
Because we do not think of time like money, we often do not think carefully about time we give away. After all, someone needs a piece of us, or they want us at a meeting, or it would be nice to have us at a conference. All good things, perhaps, but if we were being asked for money we would not quickly say yes but would want to think about it, pray about it and consider because our money is limited and we only want to invest it in important things. So with our time: thinking of time like money makes one realize that every hour, every meeting, every trip, every day we give away is an investment and given the nature of time, an expensive one.
I had this very conversation with a ministry leader I coach last week. Like many leaders he is constantly trying to figure out how to fit in all the commitments he has. So I asked him about his upcoming schedule. He had a trip to Europe scheduled and had given away five days to one ministry leader there. I asked how much time it would take to actually get done what he needed to get done and he said, two days. I pointed out that he had just given away one fourth of his month. Then I shocked him by suggesting that every day he gives away is equivalent to $5,000 dollars and that he had just given away $25,000 worth of time. Not that he gets paid that much but his time is valuable and if one put a cost to each of his days, he is worth at least that. It was a different way of thinking and it got his attention, and a modification to his trip.
Time is precious and often, the very fact that leaders are not disciplined in their use of time at work compromises their ability to be present with their wives, families or friends or to be with people when they really need us. To say nothing about what our schedules often do to time we spend with Jesus, whom all of our energy is dedicated in the first place. Never underestimate the implications of choices we make about how we spend our time. For people of deep influence it matters.