You Cannot Save It, so Use It Well

TIME is money. So goes a well-worn slogan. In reality, time is very different from money or other material things. You cannot set aside time for future use as you can money, food, fuel, or a number of other things. Any attempt to save time by not using it is futile. What happens if you sleep eight hours and try to save the rest of the day by doing nothing? At the end of the day, the unused hours are gone forever.

Time might be compared to a large, swift river. It is ever flowing forward. You cannot stop it, nor can you use every drop that flows by. Centuries ago, people began building waterwheels on riverbanks. With them, they harnessed energy from the flowing water to operate their grindstones, sawmills, pumps, and hammers. Similarly, you can harness time, not to save it, but to use it to accomplish good work. To do so, however, you must contend with two principal time stealers​—procrastination and its close relative, clutter. Let us first consider the matter of procrastination.

Avoid Procrastination

A familiar maxim says, Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Some people, though, like to recast it and say, Never put off till tomorrow what you can put off till next week. When confronted with a demanding task, they find an easy way out in procrastination. According to one dictionary, “procrastinate” means “to put off intentionally and habitually; to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.” For the procrastinator, putting things off has become a habit. As stress and pressure mount, he finds relief by pushing the task into the background and relishes his newly found “free time”​—until the pressure builds up again.

At times, our physical and emotional state may require that we postpone some or even all of our work. Then, too, everyone needs an occasional break from the day-to-day routine. Even the Son of God was no exception. Jesus stayed very busy in his ministry, but he also allowed free time for himself and for his disciples. (Mark 6:31, 32) This type of respite is beneficial. Procrastination, however, is a different matter; usually it is harmful. Consider an example.

 A teenage student has three weeks to prepare for a math test. There are a lot of notes and books she must review. She feels the pressure. Procrastination tempts her, and she falls into its trap. Instead of studying, she watches television. Day after day, she puts off what she needs to do to pass the test. Then, on the night before the test, she faces the whole task at last. Sitting at her desk, she begins to go through her notes and books.

Hours pass. While other members of the family sleep, she forces herself through a marathon of memorizing equations, cosines, and square roots. In school the next day, she struggles with questions that her tired mind is not prepared to answer. Her test score is poor, and she fails the course. She has to study the material again and may not be promoted to the next grade.

Procrastination proved to be very costly for this student. But there is a Bible principle that can help people avoid a situation like hers. “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves,” wrote the apostle Paul. (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Paul was exhorting Christians to use their time wisely in caring for spiritual interests, but the principle can be helpful in many important activities of life. Since we can usually decide when to carry out a task, we will see better results and will get the job done quicker by choosing to start when the time is “opportune,” or most advantageous. This is a mark of “wise persons,” as the scripture shows.

When would be “the opportune time” for the young student to study for the math test? Perhaps every night for 15 minutes or so, she could progressively review the material. In that way, she would not have to cram the night before, during hours better spent sleeping. On the day of the test, she would be rested and fully prepared, and a good score would be within her reach.

Therefore, when you are given a task to do, determine “the opportune time” for it and do it. Then you will avoid the snare of procrastination and its consequences. You will also find satisfaction in a job well done. This is especially important when the task will affect other people, as is the case with assignments in the Christian congregation.

Cut Down on Clutter

As mentioned earlier, the second factor in using our precious time well is to avoid clutter. We are aware that it takes time to handle things, to arrange them, to use them, to clean them, to store them, to look for them. More things require more time. Working in a room or a house that is crowded with items is more time-consuming and frustrating than it is to work in quarters with open spaces and uncluttered surfaces. Additionally, as more and more things accumulate, the time required to find a needed item increases.

Housekeeping experts say that almost half the time people spend cleaning is wasted in  “handling, getting around, and moving clutter and litter out of the way.” The situation is likely the same in other areas of life. So if you wish to make better use of your time, take a close look at your surroundings. Is clutter taking up your space, limiting your movement and, worst of all, wasting your time? If so, cut down on the clutter.

Getting rid of clutter may not be easy. Throwing out cherished but unneeded items can be painful​—almost like losing a good friend. So how can you decide whether to keep an item or to get rid of it? Some use the one-year rule. If you have not used something for a year, discard it. What if you are still reluctant to throw it out after a year? Put it in a holding area for six more months. When you look at it again and realize that a year and a half has passed by and you have not used it, parting with that item may be easier. In any case, the objective is to reduce clutter​—to make better use of your time.

Clutter, of course, is not limited to things in one’s home or workplace. Jesus spoke of “the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches,” which can “choke the word” of God and make a person “unfruitful” with respect to the good news. (Matthew 13:22) A person’s life can become cluttered with so many activities and pursuits that he is hard-pressed to find the time needed to maintain the all-important spiritual routine and balance. The result is that he may suffer spiritually and eventually lose out entirely on entering God’s promised new world, when there will be an eternity of time to do what brings true satisfaction and delight.​—Isaiah 65:17-24; 2 Peter 3:13.

Do you find yourself constantly juggling your time to accommodate all the things that you feel you must do​—whether they are connected with your job, home, car, hobbies, trips, exercise routine, social events, or a host of other interests? If so, perhaps it is time to consider how you can reduce the clutter, spiritually speaking.

Another familiar adage is, Time and tide wait for no man. Indeed, time flows relentlessly forward like a steady stream. It cannot be reversed or saved; once it is gone, it is gone forever. By following some simple Bible principles and taking a few practical steps, however, we can harness the time we need to care for “the more important things” to our eternal benefit and “to God’s glory and praise.”​—Philippians 1:10, 11.

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Time, like a swift stream, can be harnessed for good work

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When is “the opportune time” for her to study for her test?

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Working in a cluttered space is time-consuming and frustrating