Monday is for Habits: Get Organized

I remember the haunting words to this day: “Your dirty car is a spiritual problem.” A mentor of mine said this while teaching on dominion from Genesis 1. My car was not embarrassingly dirty, but I rarely gave it a thorough cleaning. Strangely, I was convicted. I was convicted because it became clear I was not stewarding this particular area of my life. I was not having dominion as I should.

When Adam and Eve are commanded to have dominion, they were called to a great task that required effort, intentionality, and—perhaps—even planning. As they cared for the garden, they were called to expand it in ever increasing circles until it covered the face of the earth. In the same way, we are to care for the garden of our life with the same effort, intentionality, and planning. Ephesians 5:15-16 is perhaps the clearest command we have in this regard: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” If we are going to be found faithful by the Lord Jesus, then we will be those who make best use of our time. Making best use of our time requires that we get ourselves organized.

With this brief theological foundation set, let’s consider some areas of our lives that need and require organization so that we may be faithful stewards to our Lord.

Organize Your Things

This is the most obvious area for us to get organized. I am not recommending you try to mimic Martha Stewart or make your home and office look like a Pottery Barn cover photo. There is abundant grace and leeway for different personalities and priorities. My wife will tell you that our systems of organization look far different. Nevertheless, if we are called to stewardship, then we must not be ruled by our things. We must see our possessions as gifts from God and tools for the kingdom. If our things are unorganized, then we will lose things, waste time finding things, and drop the ball on priorities. More importantly, a disorganized and dirty home prevents us from showing hospitality to others, which we are commanded to do (Rom 12:13; 1 Tim 3:2; 1 Pet 4:9). If your home is disorganized, you cannot serve others.

Obviously, there will be a range of opinions on what is “organized and clean enough.” That is up to you, the people with whom you live, your personality, your culture, and even your time and energy. The point is not to compare with others but to commit to faithfulness.

Organize Your Relationships

Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us that relationships are of immense value in the Christian life: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” 2 Timothy 2:2 tells us that older men are to pursue and disciple younger men. Titus 2:3 commands older women to teach what is good. Obviously, these verses imply that younger folks are to pursue these teaching opportunities. Commands such as “love one another” (Rom 12:10); “serve one another” (Gal 5:13); and “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2) also abound.

Here is the question: Have you made a plan to do all of these things with others? If you are married or have children, the impetus increases. In my life, the following are a few of the commitments I have made to others:

  • I will read to my daughter every day
  • I will pray with my wife and read the Bible with her every day.
  • I will take a walk with my family at least once a week.
  • I will meet with my friend Chris bi-weekly for accountability and prayer.
  • I will read the Bible and pray with my intern every day we are in office.
  • I will have a meal at least bi-weekly with two young men I am discipling.

This is just a sampling. I find the best way to foster deep relationships and friendships is to make commitments to each other. Your commitments don’t have to be “spiritual” commitments either. You may commit to watching a TV show with a friend or spouse, reading a book together, having a game night on a routine basis, etc. My desire is simply that you will be intentional with your relationships. There are certainly other ways to “organize” your relationships, but perhaps what I do will stir you up to good works.

Organize Your Calendar

My college mentor drilled into my head: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” He made a habit of sitting down every Sunday afternoon to organize his calendar, list out his tasks, and plan his week. I took up this habit and do it every Monday morning. If I agree to any appointment — a phone call, a meeting, a “I will pray for you that day,” etc. — then I schedule it. I also sit down with my wife about once a week (although we don’t schedule this!) to discuss our joint calendars, assess our home life, and to pray and plan for the coming days ahead.

What’s the best kind of calendar to use? Your system and method is up to you. Some people use planners, others big wall or desk calendars, while many folks just make a running list on a notepad. Electronic calendars based on smart phones are also very popular, especially in the workplace. iCal, Outlook, and Google calendars are probably the most widely used. My wife and I use iCal and share our calendars with each other. This allows us to schedule dinners, doctor appointments, and other items without asking the other’s permission. This also allows us to anticipate busy times, pray for one another, and care for one another. Whatever kind of calendar you use, let me encourage you, if you are married, to find a way to have a joint calendar. It will greatly improve your marriage, your communication, your intentionality with each other, and your ability to serve others together.

Organize Your Time and Commitments

Part-and-parcel with organizing your calendar and your relationships is your commitments. You should write down everything you are supposed to do and you should review that list regularly. Paired with a calendar, having an organized and categorized list of tasks will help you steward your time and help you fight off needless anxiety. Do not lie to yourself by saying, “I’ll remember.” You probably won’t. Write it down.

While there are a variety of systems—notebooks, Wonderlist, Omnifocus, sticky notes—let me encourage you to do one thing. Write down your major roles in life and keep lists separate. My list categories include: Home stewardship, finances, relationships, work, church, to purchase, and to read. I review all of these lists several times a week. Larger lists such as my work tasks are split into multiple sub-categories. For example, for work, I have: website, blogging, major projects, marketing, communications, and internship. I regularly add to all these lists in a notebook I carry everywhere with me. Each day, I review these lists and make a task list for the day on a large, lined, sticky note. This helps me focus and not worry about everything else that is on the list. Your system may work entirely different. That’s great! What matters is that you have a system and that it works for you.

Organize Your Prayer Life

The New Testament commands us to pray daily and to pray for one another. If we are going to do this with any success, we should have a plan in place to pray. I have a two-page document that has over twenty categories for each day. Once a month, I will update the categories to match changing prayer requests. My categories include the following:

Personal: sins/growth, godly trait to put on, gratitude to remember, blessings.

Family: Bethany (wife), Evie (daughter), parents & siblings, close friends.

Church: Elders, Sunday School, Small Group, College Ministry Leaders, College Ministry Students.

Work: Dissertation, Directors, Employees, Major Projects, Areas for Growth.

Missions: Missionaries from Church, Friends, National Government, Local Government, China.

Within each of these subcategories, I will list out different things for each weekday. For example, this is what I have listed for my daughter:

Obedience (Monday), Tender Heart (Tuesday), Kindness (Wednesday), Health & Security (Thursday), Relationship with me (Friday).

Because these are areas I’m focusing on in her life as I disciple her, I pray for them. In fact, I have found that making my prayer guide every month has helped me be a more intentional shepherd to my wife and daughter.

There are more areas than these for us to organize. Finances, sleep, exercise, Bible reading and memory, etc. May the Lord bless you as you steward your life and make the most of the time!