The word for evil in the original Koine Greek language is “ponéros”, which is a word with various meanings, depending upon the context. These include “evil, bad, wicked, malicious, slothful, painful, and decaying”. Thus, a valid interpretation of this verse is to make the most of our time because it is quickly passing us by. This is certainly an appropriate admonition for daily living.
Each day, as soon as I get out of bed, I make a “to do” list. In fact, I often make one for the next day before I even go to bed. Moreover, I am so compulsive about this that if I get up and accomplish two or three things before I get my list jotted down, I will actually write down the things I have already done and then mark them off as completed.
I owe a lot to this simple daily method. I learned to operate this way out of necessity. Back when I was in seminary, I would get all of my various syllabi on the first day of a given semester. As I sat staring at all the term papers and other assignments facing me, feeling somewhat overwhelmed, I soon realized that I needed a plan to manage these assorted.
As this was all before the advent of Day-Timer’s and other such time management tools, I was operating on my own, so to speak. But I soon decided to sit down with a ruler and draw out a huge four month calendar, consisting of four 8.5 X 10 sheets of paper taped together and hung on the wall in my studying corner of our little apartment.
On that calendar were written in all my assignments on the date when they were due. By the second and third iterations of this simple homemade scheduling system, I had learned to color code each activity as a way of ascertaining which was a large and which was a small assignment, etc… This allowed me to manage multiple tasks simultaneously and effectively.
This concept soon spilled over into other areas of my life. And even though my methods have changed, evolving over the years from homemade wall calendars to three ring notebooks to a Palm personal digital assistant to Microsoft Outlook to Android and iPad calendars, the concept has served me well until this very day. To be productive: first, make a list; next, prioritize the items on it; and then get busy accomplishing them!
Years later, I heard a story on an old Cassette tape borrowed from a friend. (To the best of my memory, it was part of a series called “The Masters of Success”). It helped me to realize that I was not the only one who had learned the importance of mastering one’s time. The story goes that…
In 1912, an efficiency expert named Ivy Lee met with a prospective client, Charles Schwab, who was President of Bethlehem Steel, and outlined how his organization could benefit the company. Lee ended his presentation by saying: "With our service, you'll know how to manage better." Schwab then stated:
"We don't need more 'knowing' but need more 'doing.' If you can give us something to help us do the things we already know we ought to do, I'll gladly pay you anything within reason you ask."
"I can give you something in twenty minutes that will step up your doing at least fifty percent," Lee answered. "Okay", Schwab said, "show me." Lee then handed Schwab a blank sheet of paper and said:
"Write down the six most important tasks you have to do tomorrow in order of their importance. The first thing tomorrow morning look as item one and start working on it until it is finished."
"Then tackle item two in the same way; and so on. Do this until quitting time. Don't be concerned if you have only finished one or two. Take care of emergencies, but then get back to working on the most important items. The others can wait."
"Make this a habit every working day. Pass it on to those under you. Try it as long as you like, then send me your check for what you think it's worth."
In a few weeks, Schwab sent Lee a check for $25,000 with a letter stating that he learned a profitable lesson. After five years this plan was largely responsible for turning the unknown Bethlehem Steel Company into the biggest independent steel producer. Schwab purportedly made a hundred million dollars and became the best known steel man in the world.
Now, I must admit that my practice of writing down things to do, prioritizing them, and then checking them off the list has not made me a hundred million dollars. But it has served me well, both in my life and in my profession. And it has also helped me to appreciate Benjamin Franklin’s notion that “well done is better than well said” most any day of the week!
You may already be a list maker. If not, why not give it a try? You might be surprised at just how much more productive you become by doing so! And along the way, you will find yourself fulfilling the Biblical admonition to redeem your time!
I leave you with this quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that is the stuff life is made of!”
This story can be found numerous places online. One such example is the May 31, 2014 blog entry for 52 Best Stories titled “Make This a Habit”. Cf.: http://www.52best.com/idea5.asp?utm_source=52Best+06%2F01%2F14%3A+++*+The+%2425%2C000+Idea+*+&utm_campaign=Sandy+Test1&utm_
Also, Wikipedia’s article on Ivy Lee is found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivy_Lee. It sources this story with three notes as follows:
Mackenzie, Alec (1997) . The Time Trap (3rd ed.). AMACOM - A Division of American Management Association. pp. 41–42.
LeBoeuf, Michael (1979). Working Smart. Warner Books. pp. 52–54.
Nightingale, Earl (1960), "Session 11. Today’s Greatest Adventure", Lead the Field (unabridged audio program), Nightingale-Conant . Related references: Radio and television broadcaster Earl Nightingale (1921-1989) popularized in 1960 this often told Ivy Lee's priority task list story, often attributed to Nightingale's friend and mentor Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) who, according to Hill's book How To Sell Your Way Through Life, knew both Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939) and Ivy Lee (1877-1934). Earl Nightingale appears in the book A Lifetime of Riches: The Biography of Napoleon Hill, by Michael J. Ritt, Jr. and Kirk Landers, because of Nightingale's relationship with Napoleon Hill.