The Benedict Project 3: Time Management Tips

A few weeks into my Benedict Project I’m coming to the insight that getting up in the morning and going to bed at night at more or less fixed times is actually hugely depending on the art of starting and stopping a previous task.

Given my passionate and somewhat impulsive nature, I have a big tendency to get carried away by the latest and the loudest. Often times I start an internet task (like: research for my blog) and find a thousand more interesting things, which I clip onto my Evernote or (even more addictingly) pin on Pinterest or share on Facebook.
Very often I get so swept away that

  1. I get into procrastination mode
  2. my task doesn’t get done
  3. I experience a gnawing sense of being lost, of emptiness and failure
  4. the distractions are not even fun anymore and are guilt-inducing
  5. I have the feeling time is slipping away…leaking away..and I am wasting my life

Benedictine monks have several fixed tasks during the day, like: praying, working, meditating, reading and studying. They are never short on time!
Why is that?
They don’t carry on reading a particular good piece of literature “because it is so compelling”, they don’t continue praying “because they’re not done yet”, they don’t prolong their meditation time, “because they’re spacing out so nicely”, they don’t drag on with Mass “because working is less important”, they don’t study longer than scheduled “because they’ve procrastinated and have to catch up”, they don’t continue working after the alotted time “because work is not finished yet”.

How refreshing and counter-cultural is that, in a world where 60 hour workweeks seem to be the norm and working through the night is considered virtuous and ambitious? But the monks don’t ignore the bells and neither should you, if you want a to live a more productive, frictionless and spiritual life.

“But as soon as the first signal for None is made, let each and all break off from their work and be ready by the time the second signal has sounded.”- Rule of Benedict

Benedictine monks stick to their daily routine like velcro and know how important it is to start on time and stop on time, making mental space for the next task.

This goes against my human nature. I want to quit things I find hard or boring and I want to prolong things that give me pleasure as long as possible. How freeing it must be to develop a healthy Benedictine sense of discipline, character and time management.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

An added benefit of starting and stopping properly is that I am never “idle“.
Benedict already knew:

“Idleness is inimical* to the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be occupied, at fixed seasons, with manual work and again at fixed seasons with spiritual reading.”

I’ve noticed that my productivity is inversely proportional to the time I seem to be having. I seem to get less productive because I get idle or lazy by thinking I have all the time in the world, and I actually function better with deadlines and setting my timer for tasks.

Practical suggestions:

  • keep a kitchen timer or your phone with you at all times and consciously start each activity, alotting a specific time for it before you begin and setting your timer.
  • STOP when the timer goes off! Be still!
    Make some notes of where you’ve stopped and wish to continue next time, to make starting again easier.
  • Prepare for the next task, be conscious and aware, creating space in your head
  • Set your timer for the next task (or resting period)… and so on

Let me know if you’re implementing Benedictine time management into your own life and what your experiences are in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!

Please take a minute to leave a comment now.

And if you like what you’ve read, go ahead and sign up for the e-mail list or via rss!! Thanks for supporting me, it means a lot…

love and peace,

Ester

You can also find me on: Facebook, Google + or Twitter.

You can find my previous posts of the Benedict Project here:

Benedict Project 2012: a sneak peak

Benedict Project 1: getting up in the morning

Benedict Project 2: going to bed on time

*inimical to= hostile to, an impediment to

Sources:

Some suggestions are inspired by a combination of the Rule of Benedict and reading Denise Hulst’s website: http://www.denisehulst.nl/tip-een-heilzame-dagindeling. Denise is the Dutch author of: “Een volle agenda maar nooit druk: Benedictijns Tijdmanagement”.
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8 thoughts on “The Benedict Project 3: Time Management Tips

  1. What a wonderful day, today……. Peace of mind, hope, there’s joy too. I’m embracing life again… Wow! 😉 The sun doesn’t shine, but it don’t bring me down today. Today it feels like I’m ‘back on track’ again. More discipline today in daily structure. Important issue… a good start with silence today

    It’s not always easy for me to ‘meet’ the silence. But many times this moments of silence surprised me (unexpected things happening)…..

    You wrote: “Hurry keeps you away from feeling, emotionally and physically. The body is slow, feeling takes time” (Rob Brandsma) ….. last year I used his mindfulness book for practice…..

    It is! Today I felt this more then ever. Mindful living is needed. Release, rest … peace of mind…

    Last week I’ve learned: Discipline, daily structure; moments of silence, contemplation, beating procrastination, feeling guilty, these are important issues I have to deal with in my challenge today. I’m sure I will meet them often, during this challenge. Maybe this ‘kind of battle’ is needed to become – and stay – healthy.

    I also like to respond on your next post. But now it’s time for my next task.
    My daily structure and discipline, you know 😉

    Blessings and peace,

    ‘despair is a choice’

    1. Wow ‘despair is a choice’ ! You have made so much progress. I am so happy to hear you enjoy life at this moment and that you’re establishing a healthy structure just like me! For me outer structure contributes greatly to my inner peace and structure and HAPPINESS!

      I’m also working on a post about the Pomodoro Technique, which is a way to work in concentrated bursts of 25 minutes on your tasks. Loving it! Completed 4 pomodoro’s already today 🙂 perfect against procrastination.

      Keep on keepin on “d.i.a.c.”! Thanks for walking with me on this road to a more manageable and God-centered life!

      regards

      Ester

  2. Last week I’ve spend some time reading about the Benedict principle. For me this is very good! Thanks again. I was suffering last week with this attitude, also called my ‘inner child’, wich makes me feel guilty about “what you did last week was not good enough, brother”. This will keep me away from the most important things in life; to start with ‘being a beloved son of the Father’. Beating procrastination is not easy! So, today I started with a dialog with myself (again). And with a lot of praying. One of my goals: to start each day being thankful, because of His grace (thinking about Psalm 90 vs. 12)

    “despair is a choice”

  3. I can’t say it was a week of suffering for me, but it was’nt easy to hold on. I’m satisfied about myself being concious and aware, last week. I’ve noticed a bit more rest doing my job too. It did work out; creating space in my head before starting the next task. I’m using my timer, like I did before. I get used to it. I need it too. Discipline with daily structure could be better. I want to create more structure and rest (!) in my daily life, so it’s needful to me. But I have to say: There’s some progress. I do’nt want to be a perfectionist, but it’s not easy for me to be satisfied about myself. For me, I think it will take a lifetime to learn. It’s important for me to know – and feel – I’m God’s beloved child. In fact, nothing else matters. I’m relaxed when I know, feel, and realize I am. God is near, every new day. I want to start and end each day in His precence, worshipping, thanksgiving, praying.

    Did you notice some progress this week? I like to know. Wish you a wonderful week!

    p.s. I feel it in the air: springtime is coming 😉

    ‘Despair is a choice’

    1. Spring is definitely in the air, “despair is a choice”!
      Today I did some *spring* cleaning and I timed it very tightly, which made me slip into a flow! Awesome stuff!
      Got a lot done and did not go into procrastination mode. Yay!
      Also got a new job, so this week was kind of adjusting to my new lifestyle.
      I can be very Benedictine in my job too (in any job you can!!).
      I have to wait for the proverbial shaken dust to settle down (like a snowglobe you know?) before I can see the effect on my routines.
      I do have more sense of urgency now that I got more on my plate, which adds to beating procrastination as I said. But I need to not lose contact with God and to let Him lead me at all times. Otherwise I will be toast!!

      Looking forward to this week again.
      Good luck, blessings and peace.
      Ester

  4. Hi Ester,
    The issues you get into when you get so swept away; this sounds familiar to me. I recognize: guilt-inducing, being lost, emptiness, failure, time slipping away, wasting my life. Sometimes the result is: no fun anymore. Not having fun, not moving forward; this could be a ‘killing’ experience (for me it is). At least there must be some fun. I think about some words of Anselm Grun, it’s about looking out (longing) for your daily rituals. The longing (and happiness) you can experience because of the structure this daily rituals you will give (on time). I try to imagine this. So, this is one of my ‘goals’.
    You wrote: “start on time and stop on time, making mental space for the next task”. For me this very important, this make sense. You wrote this practical suggestion: “prepare for the next task, be concious and aware, create space in your head”
    Thanks!
    In fact I started an experience like this a couple of weeks ago. By this experience I use the timer on my cellphone and the one on my iPod. I use it also to get medication on time. Beside MS Outlook and Google calendar I use also my iPod for business and private appointments en events. It’s not easy for me to act without it. Well, I like music on my way to work, so I don’t forget my iPod very often.

    At least three things I like to practice next week:
    – discipline; daily structure (don’t give up)
    – to be concious and aware, creating space in my head
    – and last, but not least, remembering myself: it’s about progress, not perfection ……. it is(!), Jaap 😉

    Have an awesome sunday and coming week! Good luck with your new job; enjoy it!

    ‘Despair is a choice’

    P.S. Thanks for your recommendation. Pukka Night Time tea 😉

    1. Thanks DIAC,

      I really appreciate your comments. They are food for thought every time!!
      Yes, Pukka is great!

      Your comments really keep me accountable and make me revisit what I’ve written.
      It’s an amazing journey

      Ester

      1. p.s. I use my nokia “dumb'”phone alarm for timing, or a kitchen timer. I use google agenda (with pop ups).

        p.s.2 I’d love to be in a state of longing for my rituals too!!!

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