The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘time

The devil on time management

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I loathe this kind of thing from David Murray, largely because it reads more like a self-portrait than anything else.

As one who natively tends toward the Sidney Carton school of work, being more the jackal than the lion, these prods and prompts from a devilology of time are painful and necessary.

So remember Satan’s three rules of time management: squander it, stretch it, and squeeze it.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 24 March 2011 at 19:46

Interruptions and providences

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A good reminder from C.J. Mahaney that we should plan our time, and make a careful assessment of those ‘interruptions’ that would derail our plans.  At the same time, we should not forget that the heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps (Prv 16.9).  Mahaney quotes C. S. Lewis to remind us of this:

The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s “own,” or “real” life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s “real life” is a phantom of one’s own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it’s hard to remember it all the time.

A difficult balance to strike, but a necessary principle to remember.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 12 March 2009 at 08:30


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Yesterday a friend was discussing earnestness with me, along the lines of this post.  We spoke of those things of which we must be aware and convinced if we are to be productive men of principle.  I mentioned John Wesley’s habit of assessing his use of each five minute period as to whether or not it was fruitful.  Taking a line through this, he pointed out the following:

clockAssume that you sleep for about eight hours each night.  That gives you a waking day of about 16 hours.  16 hours is 960 minutes, so your waking day is approximately 1000 minutes long.  Every ten minute period is 1% of your waking day.  Every time ten minutes passes on your clock, 1% of your day passes.  (On further reflection, assume an eight hour work day and you simply double the percentages in considering your deliberately productive hours.)

Now, some calculations and questions which cut both ways:

  • One hour pointlessly browsing the internet is 6% of your waking day, 12% of your working day (one tenth of your productive hours).
  • A daily commute of one hour each way is 12% of your waking day.
  • Thirty chatty minutes on the phone is 3% of your waking day, 6% of your working day.
  • A lazily extended lunch hour (90 minutes?) is 9% of your waking day, 18% (almost one fifth) of your working day).
  • Two hours of television in the evening would be 12% of your waking day.
  • sleeperAn extra ten minutes in bed is 1% of your waking day. An extra hour is 6%.
  • One rugby or football match is 10% of your waking day.
  • One feature film could be 10-15% of your waking day.
  • One hour in church on Sunday is only 6% of your waking day given to God – not even a tithe of your time on the day that belongs to him and which he has given you to enjoy him! Presume two ninety-minute services and you still only get to 18% of your waking day dedicated to God.
  • That agonisingly long sermon that lasts a whole forty-five minutes? That’s barely 5% of your waking day learning about God.
  • If you only pray for five minutes in the morning, you expect to get through 99.5% of your waking day without speaking to God.
  • If you read your Bible for ten minutes, you spend only 1% of your waking day reading the Word of God.
  • What percentage of your last waking day did you spend profitably and what percentage pointlessly?
  • Is your family’s spiritual health worth 2 or 3% of your waking day around the Word of God?
  • Is your own spiritual health worth 2 or 3% of your waking day in considering God’s truth?

I could go on.  Now, there are days of rest and times of recreation and relaxation, and there is no need for false guilt.  You must eat and wash and sleep and use the bathroom and pause now and then.  But how many wasted moments have there been in my last few days?  How many in yours?

I have now spent 2% of my day working on this post.  Is it time well spent?  For me?  For you?

Incidentally, my friend also pointed out that 80% of people don’t understand percentages (this is only partly a joke, apparently).  Even so, those ten minute periods tick away very quickly.  How productive are your percentages?  Will the minutes you have spent reading this contribute to your productive use of time today?

The clock is ticking . . .

Work while it is day.


Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 21 February 2009 at 09:42

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Redeeming the time

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A gentleman by the name of Mike Elgan posts a fierce and forthright piece on Work Ethic 2.0: Attention Control.  Some key quotes follow.

On the deliberate distractions of the interweb:

Columnist David Brooks, commenting in the Dec. 16th New York Times about Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book called “Outliers,” made a statement as profound as it was accurate: “Control of attention is the ultimate individual power,” he wrote. “People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them.”

But why is that truer now than ten or twenty years ago? Why will it be truer still ten or twenty years from now? As I wrote in May, Internet distractions evolve to become ever more “distracting” all the time — like a virus. Distractions now “seek you out.”

Distractions mask the toll they take on productivity. Everyone finishes up their work days exhausted, but how much of that exhaustion is from real work, how much from the mental effort of fighting off distractions and how much from the indulgence of distractions?

On the need for diligent focus:

The need for “attention,” rather than “hard work,” as the centerpiece of the new work ethic has arisen along with the rise of distractions carried on the wings of Internet protocol. In one generation, we’ve gone from a total separation of “work” from “non-work” to one in which both work and play are always sitting right in front of us.

Now, we find ourselves with absolutely nothing standing between us and a universe of distractions — nothing except our own abilities to control attention. Porn, gambling, funny videos, flirting, socializing, playing games, shopping — it’s all literally one click away. Making matters worse, indulging these distractions looks just like work. And it’s easy to work and play at the same time — and call it work. These new, increasingly compelling distractions get piled on to older ones — office pop-ins, e-mail, IM, text messages, meetings and others.

On true productivity:

A person who works six hours a day but with total focus has an enormous advantage over a 12-hour-per-day workaholic who’s “multi-tasking” all day, answering every phone call, constantly checking Facebook and Twitter, and indulging every interruption.

It’s time we upgraded our work ethic for the age we’re living in, not our grandparents’ age. Hard work is still a virtue, but now takes a distant second place to the new determinant of success or failure in the age of Internet distractions: Control of attention.

I think it was John Wesley who essentially divided his day into five minute sections, and asked at the end of each of them whether he had used it wisely.  Our Bibles issue a similarly forthright command: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5.15-16).

So, how long have you just spent browsing the internet?  How long did it take you to read this post?  What will you do next?


Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 21 January 2009 at 10:57

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The Christian virtue of punctuality

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Further to a previous post on this topic, the Journeymen reproduce some counsel from Elisabeth Elliot’s father:

Some are habitually on time, others are habitually late; no one can be on time all the time, and no one needs to be always late.  If five people have agreed to meet at a certain time and place, and one if fifteen minutes late, he has used up one hour in terms of manpower, for he has taken away fifteen minutes from each of the others against their will.  If they are wise, they will spend that time in reading or in some other useful way, but the latecomer ought not to presume on their good will if he can possibly help it.  He might have the boldness to think – or to say – that they need to learn patience, that they are to be anxious in nothing – all of which is true, but he is not the man to tell them that.  What he needs to remember, long before the appointment, is ‘rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way’ (Rom. 14:13); that he has no right to waste others’ time.

Of course, no one can keep the phone or the doorbell from ringing just before he leaves home, nor can he prophesy what will happen on the way; but it is always a good rule to start just a little earlier than you think you need to.

Every Christian worker can discipline himself to be habitually on time, by careful management and foresight.  It relives other people of much anxiety, helps them not to waste time and thus makes life easier for them.  It is a matter of common honesty and Christian courtesy, and is in line with the injunction to ‘let all thing be done decently and in order’ (I Cor. 14:40).

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 27 November 2008 at 09:43


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The preacher has begun.  He has opened the service.  A psalm is being read, and Sister Sluggish suddenly – if such an undignified word could ever be so unfairly employed of her – slides in at the door, laden with baggage and drawing the attention of all to her entrance.  Brother Boorish then compounds his rudeness by taking advantage of the fact that we are singing the hymn to loudly excuse himself to the middle of a row, depriving everyone in it and many around it of their concentration as they praise God.  Mother Missit tries to have her brood in place for the beginning of the service, but – having only arrived at rather than just before the appointed hour – quickly discovers that Master Munch Missit has developed an overwhelming hunger since leaving home, and the little Misses Missit, having only used the bathroom four times so far this morning, are now in dire need of a further visit to the little room.  Brother Bother, meanwhile, had much to do before the service began.  So much, in fact, that he is still doing it when the service begins, and can be heard completing his tasks outside the hall, before coming in (in something of a lather) once things have fairly begun.  Fortunately, this does make him on hand to open the door for the friends mentioned above as they pass in and out of the room where those who were on time are seeking to worship God with minimal distraction.

A lack of punctuality, a disregard for timeliness, tends to be an issue in every sphere of life.  The brothers and sisters sketched above do not reserve their unpunctuality for the church, but manifest it with largesse in every aspect of their existence.  It just so happens that it tends to impact on me as friend, preacher and pastor, at home and abroad.

One of the particular irritations of lack of timeliness is the fact that it tends to breed lateness in others, both in attitude and in activity.  For example, you will probably have friends who are always reliably late.  Do you not find that you soon give up the practice of punctuality with them, confident that your timeliness will only lead to greater waste through their lack of it?  Does that not begin to overflow into other appointments and engagements?  Unpunctuality also breeds lateness in that it sets others back, stealing time and attention and patience from others.  Once you have made others late for the first of a series of something, or at the beginning of the day, they are consequently late for everything that follows, and can spend subsequent frantic hours seeking to catch up.

Friend, do you realise that a lack of timeliness is rude?  Do you realise that by it you are stealing the time others would willingly give if it were necessary?  Do you realise that by it you may be stealing attention from those who ought to be focused on higher things?  Do you realise that by it you testify to a disregard for the worship of God?  Do you realise that by it you steal patience from those who have been kept waiting?  Do you realise that by it you further compromise your already-ebbing reputation for reliability, trustworthiness, and dependability?  Do you realise that by it you are establishing a bad habit that will blight your every day, and setting a bad example to your friends and family?

The friend who is occasionally late we gladly excuse.  The man who is always timely we know must have a good reason for not appearing at the appointed hour.  We have already dreamed up half-a-hundred good reasons why he simply must have been unusually detained, and excused him in our hearts.  No-one will berate the parents who are late for church once every three months because of the occasion on which Junior decided to overflow his nappy to a quite spectacular degree three minutes before leaving the house.  That is an aberration, and gladly overlooked (indeed, we heartily commend them for nobly sparing us the effects of Junior’s late eruption).  But the man or woman who is consistently late need only determine to be consistently early.  The family that is consistently five minutes late need only do everything that they normally do ten minutes earlier to start being consistently timely, to the relief, joy, and blessing of all with whom they are associated.

Here is Mr Spurgeon “On Being In Time”:

Punctuality is one of the minor moralities, but it is one which every young man should carefully cultivate. The very smallness of the virtue makes its opposite vice the less excusable. It is as easy to be in time as it is to be five minutes late when you once acquire the habit. Let it be acquired by all means, and never lost again. Upon that five minutes will depend a world of comfort to others, and every Christian should consider this to be a very weighty argument. We have no right to cause worry and aggravation to others, when a little thoughtfulness on our part would prevent it. If the engagement be for twelve o’clock, we have no authority to make it 12.5, and by doing so we shall promote nobody’s happiness. That odd five minutes may create discomfort for ourselves throughout the entire day, and this perhaps may touch the sluggard a little more keenly than any less selfish consideration. He who begins a little late in the morning will have to drive fast, will be constantly in a fever, and will scarcely overtake his business at night; whereas he who rises in proper time can enjoy the luxury of pursuing his calling with regularity, ending his work in fit season, and gaining a little portion of leisure. Late in the morning may mean puffing and blowing all the day long, whereas an early hour will make the pace an easy one. This is worth a man’s considering. Much evil comes of hurry, and hurry is the child of unpunctuality.

The waste of other people’s time ought to touch the late man’s conscience.  A gentleman, who was a member of a committee, rushed in fifteen minutes behind the appointed hour, and scarcely apologized, for to him the time seemed near enough; but a Quaker, who happened also to be on the committee, and had been compelled to wait, because a quorum could not be made up to proceed with the business, remarked to him, “Friend, thou hast wasted a full hour. It is not only thy quarter of an hour which thou hast lost, but the quarter of an hour of each of the other three; and hours are not so plentiful that we can afford to throw them away.” We once knew a brother whom we named “the late Mr. S____,” because he never came in time. A certain tart gentleman, who had been irritated by this brother’s unpunctuality, said that the sooner that name was literally true the better for the temper of those who had to wait for him. Many a man would much rather be fined than be kept waiting. If a man must injure me, let him rather plunder me of my cash than of my time. To keep a busy man waiting is an act of impudent robbery, and is also a constructive insult. It may not be so intended, but certainly if a man has proper respect for his friend, he will know the value of his time, and will not cause him to waste it. There is a cool contempt in unpunctuality, for it as good as says, “Let the fellow wait; who is he that I should keep my appointment with him?”

In this world matters are so linked together that you cannot disarrange one without throwing others out of gear; if one business is put out of time, another is delayed by the same means. The other day we were traveling to the Riviera, and the train after leaving Paris was detained for an hour and a half. This was bad enough, but the result was worse, for when we reached Marseilles the connecting train had gone, and we were not only detained for a considerable time, but were forced to proceed by a slow train, and so reached our destination six hours later than we ought to have done. All the subsequent delay was caused through the first stoppage. A merchant once said to us, “A. B. is a good fellow in many respects, but he is so frightfully slow that we cannot retain him in our office, because, as all the clerks work into each other’s hands, his delays are multiplied enormously, and cause intolerable inconvenience. He is a hindrance to the whole system, and he had better go where he can work alone.” The worst of it is that we cannot send unpunctual people where they can work alone. To whom or whither should they go? We cannot rig out a hermitage for each one, or that would be a great deliverance. If they prepared their own dinners, it would not matter that they dropped in after every dish had become cold. If they preached sermons to themselves, and had no other audience, it would not signify that they began consistently seven minutes behind the published hour. If they were their own scholars, and taught themselves, it would be of no consequence if the pupil sat waiting for his teacher for twenty minutes. As it is, we in this world cannot get away from the unpunctual, nor get them away from us, and therefore we are obliged to put up with them; but we should like them to know that they are a gross nuisance, and a frequent cause of sin, through irritating the tempers of those who cannot afford to squander time as they do. If this should meet the eye of any gentleman who has almost forgotten the meaning of the word “punctuality,” we earnestly advise him to try and be henceforth five minutes too soon for every appointment, and then perhaps he will gradually subside into the little great virtue which we here recommend. Could not some good genius get up a Punctuality Association, every member to wear a chronometer, set to Greenwich time, and to keep appointments by the minute hand? Pledges should be issued, to be signed by all sluggish persons who can summon up sufficient resolution totally to abstain from being behind time in church or chapel, or on committee, or at dinner, or in coming home from the office in the evening. Ladies eligible as members upon signing a special pledge to keep nobody waiting while they run upstairs to pop on their bonnets. How much of sinful temper would be spared, and how much of time saved, we cannot venture to guess. Try it.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 2 July 2008 at 09:40

Redeeming the time

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Perhaps it is in the nature of a blog to be ephemeral. Perhaps it is the spirit of the age to promote ephemerality. I got back from the Italy trip a couple of days ago having taken an almost total break from the computer (with the exception of a few checks for essential emails relating to things that could not wait).

As I logged back in to catch up on posts on the blogs I follow, I found over 350 posts waiting for me. I started skimming through the posts, highlighting the ones that warranted more careful consideration. I recognise that some blogs are more special interest, some are more chatty, and some will have particular attraction to acquaintances and friends (and/or foes) of those writing.

At the same time, I ended up highlighting only ten percent of the posts for future attention. Of those, most were despatched with little ado when I realised that some were less substantial and interesting than I had anticipated. So, of some 350 posts, only about 20 got my attention and kept it.

That means that – going by those statistics – of the 46 posts on this blog so far, there is a risk that only two or three are likely to be of genuine interest and value. As one who constantly struggles for focus and to be diligent, it makes me the more determined not to waste my time on ephemera, either my own or that of others. I recognise that this blog probably falls into the three categories suggested above, and is simply a electronic waymarker for many others. Nevertheless, the need to redeem the time demands that I seek to write what is substantive and profitable, and only read what – for me – falls into the same category. With that in mind, I hope to give some reports on my time away in Italy over the coming days (i.e. special interest, of interest to a few friends maybe!).

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 12 June 2008 at 12:13

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