Time is money…so some say.

No. It is not. 

If I have all the money in the world, I can’t purchase any more time. For those whose time is calculated in billable hours, there is a monetary connection to your use of time, but time is still not money. The commodities are very different.

In college, I wasted time. I had classes, multiple jobs, played intramural sports, had plenty to do yet still didn’t use time well. 

My daddy would write things down so he wouldn’t forget them. I learned a great deal from Jonathan Thigpen, the main professor for my college major, and then made improvements. I began to calendar everything. Since I didn’t have much money, I’d create my own four-and-a-half-month calendar each college semester on a single piece of poster board to plot out every assignment from every class I had and every due date. If I dropped an assignment it was because I wasn’t looking at my calendar, not because I forgot. I could see each week and month in one view in an old school way.

Post college, I was trying to wrestle my time usage into submission. I continued to waste discretionary time, struggled with procrastination, and was easily distracted by… squirrel! Yes, all kinds of things. As a staff member of a small Christian Camp in eastern Kentucky, I needed to use time better, develop deeper spiritual disciplines and watch less TV.

In about 1985, I attended my first  conference of the organization which is now called Christian Camps and Conference Association. I signed up for an all-day early bird session called “The Organized Administrator.” Wow! It was just what I needed. Not simply time management but personal, values-driven management. t Then I began to use a system called Day-Timer’s, which helped to put calendar, contacts, tasks, mileage and expenses in one  compact location. I started tracking every penny that God allowed to pass through my fingers. Every penny.

On my family Christmas list in 1991, I asked for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. My brother Joby and sister-in-law Carol bought it for me. Though my faith tradition is different from Stephen Covey’s, his values-based, task / relationship model still affects my life and teaching, nearly 30 years later.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen Covey

So what about this 15-minutes idea?

In the application section of Covey’s Habit 3, Put First Things First, he suggests logging time usage for three days in  15-minute intervals. In college class I’ve required ministry students to log their time usage in  15-minute intervals for a whole week. It’s a valuable assessment to visually see how a person uses time and then to move toward better aligning that usage with their stated priorities. 

I’ve tried to be increasingly more mindful of how to use 15 minutes well with a desire to use the next 15 minutes wisely. I want to align my time usage with my priorities. Over time, 15 minutes has shaped my thinking in many ways. 

15 minutes are important because you only have those minutes once. There are really wonderful opportunities that only take 15 minutes. 

Sometimes people say, “I only have 15 minutes.”

Well, okay, use that 15 minutes. What can I wisely do with it for 15 minutes? Based on values and priorities, how can I choose to spend the next 15 minutes?

My wife and I have four kids, now all grown up.. We’re past the most intense, hands-on part of parenting. Comparatively speaking, it’s a pretty easy time for us. We’re not having to do school through Zoom because of COVID-19 precautions*.

But I still remember those times when it feels like the wheels are coming off, ‘cause they were. Sick child, lack of sleep, trying to keep children from hurting themselves or others, the daily guidance that seems to never end, emotional reserve empty, trying to connect values to actions, attempting to figure out why this child is screaming.

Parenting leaves a mark.

Sometimes as a parent, I need to just not lose my mind for the next 15 minutes. Or sometimes I need to pay attention to my child for the next 15 minutes. Sometimes I need to not lose my temper just for the next 15 minutes. And then after that, I need to not lose my temper for the next 15 minutes. And when I do lose my temper, reset and start the clock again. 

15 minutes is just a snatch of time. But if we can leverage that 15 minutes, sometimes it can help us move in a better direction.

15 minutes matter. A person’s whole life can change drastically with how they choose to use 15 minutes for better, or for worse.

I nap for 15 minutes. When I go to bed at night and then lay awake for 15 minutes, I get up and do something else. I’m apparently not tired enough to go to sleep, so I do something else.

For my spiritual and emotional well-being, I just sit, think, listen to the Bible, listen to a book or quality, life-giving podcast, or let an encouraging song play for the next 15 minutes. Perhaps I journal or pray for 15 minutes and set an alarm. Take a walk.

15 minutes has been very helpful for me, just to check in and say, “Okay, what can I do well in the next 15 minutes, what do I need to stop doing for the next 15 minutes?”

What’s the best use of the next 15 minutes?

I’ve used all manner of tools, from paper to a Palm Pilot to all sorts of apps, but the mindset is more important than the tool. Your priorities should manage your schedule.

I still get distracted. I do better than I did, but it’s still an ongoing struggle. I need to use this next 15 minutes wisely. Maybe it’s time for me to track my time for the next three days.

So was your last 15 minutes well spent? 

How will you use the next 15 minutes?



*This article was originally written in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Copyright © 2020 by James H Evans