What if you somehow learned that you would die in a week? If you were given just seven days to think back over your life, what would be your assessment? How satisfied would you be with what you have accomplished? What would you regret having left undone?
Are you spending your life on things that make a difference? Are the truly important matters getting enough of your attention? What draws you away from these things?
Moses was contemplating these types of questions when he wrote Psalm 90: “[W]e spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (verses 9-10).
Then he drew this poignant conclusion, beseeching God: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (verse 12). Recognize the brevity of your life, and you gain sharp clarity of thinking.
Honestly evaluate how you are using your days, your hours, your minutes. Are you just marking time—or are you truly numbering your days so you can apply your heart to wisdom? Are you devoting enough energy to the significant things? Are you prodding yourself and aiming to truly use your life, fulfilling your God-given potential?
A successful life demands being purposeful and driven. Your time, which is your life, is your most valuable asset. You don’t even know how much or little you have, all you know for certain is that supply is limited.
The devil knows your time is limited. He has built modern society specifically to consume your attention with trivialities, to draw you away from what matters. If you just do what comes naturally and what is easiest, you will be swept up in a torrent of distraction taking you far from anywhere you want to be.
Don’t get trapped in trivial, quickly forgotten busyness. Establish your priorities and trudge toward them, step by step, against resistance, daily, hourly. Regularly evaluate your progress and make frequent course corrections to stay on track. Do not let your priorities fade and disappear, then replace them with new priorities that you also let fade and disappear. Once you establish your priorities, led by God, sprint, lumber, clamber, scrap, fight and crawl toward them until you have achieved them.
Look at your daily tasks and ask yourself tough questions about each one: Is this really important? How will this further a long-term goal? Will its impact last beyond this week or this month? Does this advance my real purpose in life? Is it diffusing my energy and preventing me from accomplishing what I need to? If so, can I delegate it or cut it?
With your goals and priorities firmly in mind, you can far more readily avoid getting caught up in unessential things, and you can intentionally do specific things each day to advance your goals. Devote as much time as possible to work of lasting value. Focus on what is truly important. Focus will determine your success in achieving it more than anything else. If you can’t focus on something, you won’t accomplish it. If you can, you will.
For fruit trees to reach maximum yield, they must be regularly pruned. Jesus Christ said growth in your life also requires continual pruning. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He [the Father] takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2; New King James Version).
Unwanted, unhelpful growth is natural. Extra obligations, diversions, projects and preoccupations bud and blossom all the time. That is why pruning is so critical, and why it must be continual. “Our life is frittered away by detail,” Henry David Thoreau wrote. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.”
Stop and ask: What am I doing right now? Is it really what I need to be doing? Busyness is not the same as productivity. And productivity is not the same as fruitfulness. Look at the fruit. Is what you are doing producing results? Are they good results? Are they meaningful? Are they building your family? Are they helping others? Are they advancing God’s cause? Are you putting the resources He has entrusted to you to their best use? God wants to help you answer these questions.
You cannot afford to waste time. Prune whatever is stealing your minutes and not producing good fruit. To focus on the important things, the less you think about other things, the better. Set limits on what you consume and do. Eliminate the unessential. Cross off what’s not really important. Postpone things that don’t need to be done right away. Keep your focus locked on what is really important and prune everything else.
This is a continual process. Prune, then prune again, then again. Prune monthly, weekly, even daily.
This is how to maximize your time and energy. If you are doing something important, then you are moving in the right direction, even if slowly. As Earl Nightingale said, “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”