Start right with being sure that God—and your personal time with Him—is the priority in your life. Even the Lord Jesus said “no” to some “good” requests for His time. He was committed to the Father’s overall plan and submitted to that plan not because He had to do so, but because He “delighted” to do the will of the Father (Luke 4:42-43; John 17:4). Preacher Manuel Scott said, “If you don’t let God drive, He won’t ride.” In other words, the Lord’s enabling presence in your life is dependent upon His being your GPS, planning your route through life. If He is first (Mt 6:33), He prepares the way for all that comes after, and He is waiting to walk through even the most difficult terrain at your side—and He leaves no one behind! He is there to the finish line!
Dottie’s Dictum—Create your plan for spending time with the Lord. I am working toward a short block of time for reading my Bible while I am waiting on the oatmeal to cook. If I prepare the table the night before, I can quickly finish breakfast prep the next morning, leaving myself with 15-20 minutes before my husband is ready for our breakfast.
Plan your daily schedule, with the determination to evaluate your work habits critically and creatively and to improve how you are doing things. In high school I devised my first calendar or agenda using notebook paper and a pencil. I entered time segments for the day and recorded how I spent my time. I delighted in finding ways to become more efficient! I still use daily, weekly, and monthly calendars to consider all these timeframes! Use your time wisely as you walk through the day; look at the day to come and move to the next day what you do not complete; you consider the goals for your week, month, and even year. These various perspectives inform how you are progressing on what is really important!
Dottie’s Dictum—My father-in-love had a wonderful secretary who introduced me to the concept of having a file inventory—a genius idea in which you spend some time on the front-end to save you hours of time and much energy in managing files throughout your life. She had an alphabetical index of every file in the cabinets. When she began to assign items for filing, she would pull out that index and be sure that she was using the right designation and not creating multiple folders for one subject! That worked wonderfully for me for years as I did my own filing. Then I began to let others do that mundane task to free me for other things, and slowly the system slipped away. I now see why it is so important, and this year we are bringing it back!
Never stop learning and improving! Stay on course with whatever task or project you are doing as well as keeping the end goal in view.
Dottie’s Dictum—Here are some ways I have used to become better organized and more efficient:
- Take time to think about where you will be using your resources. Put like things together and close to where you will use them. For example, I have a prayer basket, as did my mother (read about it in my Handbook for Ministry Wives), a series of correspondence folders (letters to write, responses to dictate, etc.), portfolios or boxes or notebooks set up according to projects, publications (editing, articles/chapters/manuscripts/dissertation), travel (current arrangements for domestic/international trips), classroom responsibilities (lectures, syllabus, bibliography, tests), family (gifts, celebrations, holidays), and “ask the president” (assignments from my husband). This enables me to move forward quickly to use what little time I have.
- Organize these tools so that you can immediately find what you need. My granddaughters, like their mother, are wonderful organizers. They are whizzes on the computer and geniuses with labeling. They have organized in our small suite all the hospitality and kitchen equipment in creative ways—and I simply go to the inventory to locate what I need. They have also organized my huge collection of scarves by color. With color photos of each drawer, I can quickly locate what I need to accessorize my ensemble.
- Handle papers only once. Pens/pencils/highlighters/stapler/paper clips, rubber bands, scissors are strategically placed throughout the house to enable me to grab a few minutes anywhere for handling mail or papers.
- Delegate tasks you do not have to do to children, helpers, or friends in order to keep yourself focused on the main goals of life. This discipline is especially essential for me my life’s last quarter. With physical challenges and a dramatically increasing work load, I find that my only path to productivity is to pick the tasks I must do personally and then assign others to willing co-laborers so that we may reach the finish line. For example, others open my mail, update the file inventory, keep the public areas of our house clean and ready to receive guests, etc. When my children were young, I practiced this as we prepared for the holidays. My nieces have reminded me of the weeks before Christmas when we set up tables in the living room to bake dozens of cookies while watching Christmas movies! We all worked hard and yet we had fun!
- Regularly prune your entire household—perhaps the most difficult thing I do! Drawer by drawer and cabinet by cabinet, with a little time each day and perhaps a block of time on the weekend, I must persevere. In the summer, my helpers and I tackled the attic, ending up with little more than half of that with which we started! Shelves have been installed; bins have been purchased and filled; inventory has been done. In the process we found many “missing in action” items as well as much that we have not used nor ever will use!
How do you get started on such an undertaking of streamlining your life and possessions—using your time and resources with wisdom and creativity—and accomplishing something worthwhile? Start with the right priorities and then use minutes—don’t wait for an hour or a day or a week to give yourself to such an important and time-consuming task! Start where you are with what you have and give it your best!