rebelling against low expectations

Stop Wasting Time.


UPDATE: The sticky note holder is available here.

We’re Losing More Than Time
Sometimes a whole day can slip by and nothing gets accomplished. Often it’s 15 minutes here, a half-hour there, 20 minutes here, an hour there, and suddenly you’re wondering where the day went.

For some people wasting time is a source of guilt (I would fall into the “heavy guilt” category), for others it’s a way of life. Nevertheless, we are commanded by God to be wise stewards of our time. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”

Our culture tries hard to distract us from our responsibilities. In a certain sense they don’t want us to be responsible to anyone but them and their products! According to a study released by Forbes Magazine the typical television viewer fritters away three years of his life being bombarded with commercials.

Studies like that make us mad. How dare they suck away our precious years in an attempt to get our money?!? Unfortunately, there are millions of little distractions fighting for things much more valuable than our money — they’re fighting for our character and competence.

They might seem harmless — the book we’ve already read, the online forum or message board where we “reach out,” the 5-minute video we found online, the new World Magazine comic section, the video game that’s fun and clean, a review of the latest star-studded flick, or that article on Google News about the kitten with two heads.

Harmless? Not at all. The price is the character that might have been and the competence that would have been. If we were to devote all the time we spend reading random news stories online to reading life-changing, soul-feeding books, how might our relationship with Christ flourish?

If we were to devote all the time we spend watching television to developing our talents in the areas of writing, speaking, musical instruments, filmmaking, painting, sewing, gardening, woodworking, web design, landscaping, computer programming, etc. how much more effective might we be in the Kingdom of God?

When we watch some “cool” video online we’ve lost more than just 10 minutes of time. We’ve lost every good thing we might have done with those 10 minutes.

When God’s Word tells us to “make the most of our time” it means: “Squeeze every last ounce of growth and grace out of every second of every minute of every hour of every day!”

Acceptable “Time-Wasters”
It is never acceptable to waste time. However, we also must be wise in determining what is “wasted time” and what is simple “character-building time.” For example, I am sometimes tempted to get stressed about “wasting time” with my family. Perhaps I’m taking my little brother James for a walk, and I think “Aaaaaahh!!! This is 15 minutes of my day that is not whole-heartedly pursuing growth!!!” (OK, that isn’t exactly what I think.)

This stress also tends to hit during my devotions. I’m reading my Bible and this voice in my head starts reading off my ToDo List for the day: “OK Brett, today you need to redesign the conference poster, mail the brochures to Jennifer, write a blog post, read a chapter in the 5 different books you’re reading, write two lab reports for science class, finish your “big question” essay project, practice the piano, AND on top of that, mom probably has 10 huge chores for you to do!! Hahahahaha!!!!” (This voice is very annoying)

The truth is that these two areas (i.e. God and family), require a rare kind of character and competence that Satan hates. Time spent serving our family or seeking the Lord is never wasted. Guilt or frustration due to time spent in these areas is misplaced — placed by the enemy.

How To Use Time More Effectively
Before your conviction forces you to leave the computer, allow me to share a simple system Alex and I have developed to help keep us focused and efficient. This won’t work for everyone, but it might inspire you to develop your own system. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge:

This cute little sticky-note holder helps me stay on track during the day, memorize Scripture, and jot down notes and things I need to remember. It’s nice and small so I can carry it in my back pocket.

It unfolds to reveal three panels — each with its own unique purpose.

The first panel holds my ToDo List for the day. I usually develop this list in the morning after my devotions or the previous evening before I go to bed.

Next, I have my Daily Challenge/Memory Verse for the day. I write down something from my devotions that I want to meditate on, the next verse in my Bible memory plan, or both! You’ll notice that the sticky note in the picture contains an excerpt from “A Real Man” and Romans 8:28-29.

The middle panel I use for jotting down notes to myself during the day. I might use this if I have an idea for one of my conference sessions or if I need to email/call someone. I’ve also found sticky notes really useful when someone wants my email address or a book title. I can just write it out and stick it to them!

You Want Me To Make A Checklist?

The truth is that it doesn’t matter how you plan, but that you actually plan! I find that when I don’t have a ToDo List to remind me of what needs to be done it’s much easier to get distracted.

Your plan might not be yellow sticky notes — maybe you have a neat calendar program on your computer or Palm Pilot. Maybe you’d prefer The Carolyn Mahaney System or maybe you already have a system that works for you. Whatever it is, use it. For the glory of God and by His grace, don’t waste a second.

Questions for Discussion and/or Contemplation:

  • What is my #1 Time Waster?
  • What are the things that I should be doing but just don’t have time for?
  • Would I have time for these things if I managed by time better?
  • When am I going to do something about my time-wasting habits? AND…
  • Who is going to do it with me? (The last question is because accountability and encouragement are important!)

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • In economics opportunity costs is a term that closely agrees with your statement, “We’ve lost more than just 10 minutes of time. We’ve lost every good thing we might have done with those 10 minutes.” The definition of opportunity costs is “the value of the best alternative opportunity forgone.” In other words, because we are limited by time from doing everything we would like to, we have to pick the option that gives us the most satisfaction in light of what we are forgoing. Ever since studying economics (which I loved), I’ve often thought of opportunity costs in reference to my everyday life. In light of eternity, thanks for the reminder.

  • Thank you for this great post. Computers eat our time so fast…wow, it’s amazing. You hit the nail on the head for me (like always) and I praise the Creator that he is working through the Rebelution in such a big way…may He use all of us to spread the message and renew the vision.

  • I like the idea of the little post-it note book! I think I might get myself one! Very clever.

    My #1 time-waster? Listening to music on my headphones while surfing the internet.

  • Gaaah! You caught me wasting time! I’m serious, I saw your RSS feed right as I was wasting time. *conviction*

    1. Wikipedia (and/or internet “friends” is my #1 time waster.
    2. I should be developing a better relationship with my brother AND practicing (violin) more.
    3. Yes.
    4. Hmm…I’ll have to think. I’ve tried to cut back in some practical ways already.
    5. I’ve asked my mom to ask me randomly if I’m on bunny trails while studying…

    Ok, so those were probably rhetorical questions, but I had to answer them “aloud”. Back to studying!!

  • Scene: Brian steps groggily to his computer after waking up from an unintentional, mid-economics homewok nap (definitely did not get enough sleep last night). Check e-mail #1. Check e-mail #2. Check blog. Check Rebelution. Read post about wasting time. Oops. Guilt trip! Yeah, you got me too. 😉

    I don’t know if this is normal or really weird, but I actually do a better job of managing my time when I have a LOT to manage. I am a huge fan of the to-do list; my own sticky pad is sitting right next to my computer. However, when I only have a few things to get done (which is not very often, these days) I tend to procrastinate and assure myself that I’ll have time later. This is a vicious lie. I never have time later because I waste it all away and then have to do all of those “few things” in a very short period of time.

    1. My number one time waster is definitely the internet, unless it’s one of those weekends where I decide I have time to read a fiction book, in which case that book consumes my life until I complete it.
    2. Things I should be doing more: diligently reading all my current non-fiction books. I tend to drift toward a sort of “here and there” schedule with these rather than a disciplined chapter-a-day or something like that.

    I need to get one of those sticky-pad notebooks. I love it.

  • I am so excited that you wrote an article on time management and scheduling. Making the most of time is a passion of mine. It is so important, yet it is amazing how easy one can get sucked into wasting precious moments. I believe it comes down to having a purpose and knowing where you are going and what needs to be accomplished – when one is on a mission it is hard to stop him. I am actually working on flexiblity because I am so strictly addicted to all my schedules, lists, and forms! Good word about time spent with family is not time wasted, I have such a hard time sitting still to converse with them. Something I must work on…

  • Wow. Thanks for this very practical blog post. Like the previous commenters, I am very convicted, and right in the middle of thinking about wasting time!

    I liked your illustration about losing 10 minutes of time. 10 minutes of wasted time could have been 10 minutes praying or reading my Bible.

  • It’s particularly great when you drive all around town looking for a nifty little post-it notebook as referenced in this post, and never find one. Five stores, and nothing even similar to it. That’s what I call a waste of time, haha.

  • okay, you caught me! and thanks to my dad eavesreading, i got up and finished my chores before coming back to finish reading your post. 🙂
    thanks for challanging me (and the rest of us teenibloggers). i’ll take this to heart.

  • Wow, amazing! You caught me red handed on this one!!
    Lately I’ve been full of stress with not getting things done. I’ve had completely packed days of things that needed to be done, and yet I somehow manage to hardly do a thing on those days. At the mention of message board I was immediatly convicted! I’m part of a team of attendents for a message board (*feels like if any of them from there read this… i’ll be in trouble for not doing a quick comercial so…* check out Great place with a good Godly atmosphere ;-P) and thought I do need to be spending my time there to help moniter the board, and be the blessing to some people I need, I realize I can do exactly what i’m doing there now… with spending a lot less time.
    So, being the youngest, and a homeschool (haha… what a lucky combo!!) my organization skills aren’t the greatest, but I’m going to go for it! Organize my day, set it all out, get things done that need to be done! So thanks again guys for sharing what God put on your heart! It was definetly done for me to read! God bless!!

  • Brett,

    Awesome job! It’s so neat how many people read this blog (including my sister, Lydia *wink*). It’s so unfortunate that so many people get caught up in the internet.

    Dad is actually trying to solve that problem for all us kids by making it a library sort of thing. You check out the cable connecting the modem to the phone line via Mom, and when you’re done, you check it back in. That way the little boys are not graphics-searching (that’s a REALLY scary thing right there), and Mom is reminded that we’re on and need to get off. Since it’s only been in effect four days, we shall see how it works in the long run…

    Thank you so much for having such an awesome blog! It really puts a good light on homeschooling when guys like you are writing.

  • This is excellent.

    I was actually looking for a simple system for organizing my schedule and better using my time, when I came across your post. I am an avid journaler and have been using post-it notes for several years as a way to increase its value as a spiritual discipline/tool. Having always loved post-it notes, I was thrilled to find a “wallet” size system that actually puts them to an inventive use!

    Since reading your blog, I ordered it from online (from the link you provided) and have been using it for over two weeks. I love it. Thanks for the great suggestion!

  • I’ve always felt terrible about wasting time. When I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything meaningful, I feel so empty and guilty. I’ve noticed that I’m becoming lazier. Thank you for this article. I really need to start doing things that will build my character and have a plan to stick to it.
    My #1 Time waster: Listening to music. It’s really sad how much time I’ve wasted just doing this.

  • Wonderful article to read while I avoid my math…..
    I’m going to go do it now.
    I agree with Abigail and Cait though, number one biggest time waster = internet.
    thanks for a great read

  • Wow. You have done it again. Another awesome post.
    Well last Sunday our Worship Pastor led us in a song, one of the lines of the chorus was…
    forgive me of my wasted time, selfish arrogance and pride…
    if that dosn’t get to you then I don’t know what will.


  • Wow – VERY convicting and inspiring post! Over break I’ve been reflecting on the last semester and realizing how much I really need to reprioritize and manage my time better. Those little “unimportant” things that I’ll always have time for “later” just slip through the cracks from day to day and before I know it, several weeks or months have passed… talk about frustrating and disheartening! I plan to start up a to-do list like the one you have when I get back home and start up school again. Thanks so much!

  • Thank you so much for this! I feel guilty when I am wasting time. I think that I waste the most time putting makeup on in the morning (10 minutes). I have a planner but I never use it. I guess I will now. Thank you!

  • Thank you so much for writing about this topic! In a moment of panic as I realized how long and badly I’ve been treating God and putting Him to test, I searched online for bible verses on wasting time and came to your site. Ephesians 5:15-16. Thanks!

  • Oh, Brett, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!! I just stumbled across this article browsing through the resource section, and it was EXACTLY what I needed—a humbling, convicting, challenging DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT article on time management. I’m going to pray over and work through your list of questions and stop wasting time worrying about wasting time!

    Also, I really want to commend you for the excellence with which you write, combined with such a down-to-earth quality; it’s all so funny and genuine that I’m always eager and ready for the hard truths you hit us with. You never fail to challenge and uplift me. May God continue to bless your efforts for His kingdom!

  • I must ditto Abigail’s comment! She states it so well that I really don’t feel the need to reiterate what she says. 😉 I missed this article when it was originally released, but what a blessing it is to read 13 months later!

    Wasting time is an extremely hard and nitty-gritty issue to overcome… especially when one has it mastered! 😉 Many times I find myself slipping into unnecessary activities by convincing myself that they’re “ministry” to some other person, while I leave my family neglected.

    Thank you for the reminder, encouragement and admonishment to persevere in the hard thing of using our time wisely! =)

  • As late as I am on this scene, I’m glad I read it.

    Thanks for the encouraging post – I see that I’m not the only one trying to balance time!



  • I just spent two hours on this site trying to avoid doing homework. This article was just what I needed! Thank you!

  • I saw the first comment and it totally clicked with me. I always mean to do my homework, or practice my violin and piano and clean my room, but then it gets to be six o’ clock and I cram to do my homework until ten and am left without accomplishing much of what I wanted to having frittered it away all afternoon on the internet.

  • 1) What is my #1 Time Waster?

    ~ Thinking too much and at the wrong times. Thinking about all the schoolwork I have yet to complete (but hardly getting around to doing it), thinking about the book I recently have been reading, thinking about recent family discussions, thinking about when I’ll have time to clean my room and do my chores (but still not getting around to it). A lot of THINKING about doing the work, but not much actually getting around to it and buckling down to get it done. :o(

    2) What are the things that I should be doing but just don’t have time for?
    ~More Bible memoriztion, reading more good books (such as The Pursuit of God), more family time, more practice at learning Thai, and more schoolwork [lots more schoolwork]. And house chores.

    3) Would I have time for these things if I managed by time better?
    ~Most certainly! (even though its really hard to “buckle down” to finish chores and homework)

    4)When am I going to do something about my time-wasting habits?
    ~ I’d like to put it off until maybe next week, but that right there [procrastination] is my problem. I’ll start— right now… after I finish this comment (most definitely).

    5) Who is going to do it with me? (The last question is because accountability and encouragement are important!)
    ~ My sister Kirsten.

  • You have neat handwriting for a checklist =) I love doing checklists…the problem is that I’m too much of a procrastinator to actually finish everything on my checklist.

    What is my #1 Time Waster?
    The computer. As much as I hate to admit it, it has become somewhat of an addiction. I spend so much time on the computer just surfing the web while I have a huge list of homework I need to tackle.

    What are the things that I should be doing but just don’t have time for?
    I should be doing some cleaning around the house and organize my room, but homework consumes the time left after I’ve been on the computer for an hour or two.

    Would I have time for these things if I managed my time better? Definitely.

    When am I going to do something about my time-wasting habits? The day after Christmas =) I suppose I’ll start tonight –the thinking part and do the action part the day after tomorrow.

    Who is going to do it with me? I know it’s important to have an accountability partner, but I can’t think of anyone who would want to be my accountability partner…=/ I guess I have to think about this part.

    Thanks for posting this! I’m convicted.

  • Wow great site! Some really helpful information there.
    I’m sorry for little off-topic, but I want to ask you about design of this site.
    Did you make this template yourself or got from any templates website?
    Looks pretty cool for me. Wonderful well this reading.

  • I am sooooo guilty. I’m off to spend time with my little brother and then guitar practice.
    Oh and that post it thing rocks i’m going to get one of those =)

  • Haha – yikes!!! conviction time!!! ya so I clicked on this cuz at the Bible Study last nite one of the guys kept talking about how “TimE Is TicKing AwaY!!!” and ya this applies …. haha – im sooooo bad~ my #1 time waster is no doubt the computer!!! I love this thing to death!!!!! ya so thats bad ….. uggg …..

  • wow! this really applies to me. I have a very hard time managing my time well. I am home schooled and so therefore i keep telling myself that i have enough time to get everything done that i keep putting it off until i end up wasting my time away and end up not getting much if anything done. Thank you so much for writing this, it’s great!

    Love from your sister in Christ,

  • This is such an amazing site. Thank you so much for being incredible examples as Christians. I have been navigating through this site for the last week and it has helped me immensely in fighting my struggles. :]

  • Thanks Brett. I think this my favorite article that you have written. Oh, by the way, you have so many things in common with my older brother including playing the piano!

    What is my #1 Time Waster? Probably reading. I don’t mean deep, study reading, I mean fun, usually fiction books. The only thing profitable about them is that they help me learn vocabulary. (They are almost always really old classics).

    What are the things that I should be doing but just don’t have time for? Spending time with my brothers (especially the youngest) and doing more important things for God.

    Would I have time for these things if I managed by time better? Oh yes.

    When am I going to do something about my time-wasting habits? Tomorrow morning! I am also going to get one of the little note books. But knowing me I will decorate it and make it pretty. 🙂

    Who is going to do it with me? My mom (who is also my best friend).

    Thanks again Brett!

    God bless!

    Sarah. 🙂

  • Wow! I tend to drift off my studies a lot, too. Right now I really need to spend more time with my family instead of on the computer. Thanks a lot!

  • Thanks for that- it was exactly the challenge I needed to hear!

    This reminds me of Jonathan Edward’s Resolution #5.

    “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time: but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.”

  • I stumbled on this article through the Resource page. Wow. I usually feel guilty when I’m wasting time, but I’ve committed this crime so often – especially online – that it’s becoming habitual. Too much valuable time is wasted on my computer. 🙁 Thank you so much for writing this!

  • OUCH!!!! This article is really convicting. Okay, my biggest time-waster is YouTube. Yes, I have my own account(so I can leave nice,CLEAN comments on the videos). Yes, I resist the urge to watch what could be really foul videos. BUT, still, I have no excuse, and I intend to do better.

  • To Do lists are a must. I also have to write down lists in the morning or evening. I panic when I lose my lists because its practically all my brains for the day on a piece of paper.
    I’m going to try using a dry-erase board for notes soon. Then I can’t lost lists. Ha-ha.
    This Blog is wonderful…but I really have to go so I don’t waste time!

  • Wow, that is really convicting! Thanks, now I am motivated!
    Hmm, I am here WASTING TIME! guess I’d better get going!!!
    Thanks for the post, Brett

  • I’ve been really struggling with using my time in an effective way. I didn’t realize how much time I really do waste. This post really helped me. Thanks!

  • Wow, this is a fANTASTIC article that has really inspired me today as I sit to write my own blog post about redeeming the time. I feel freshly convicted and ready to use every ounce of my time to honor God. Thank you for allowing God to use you in my life!

  • I would say that time management is my greatest weakness, especially as this year at school has been very busy for me. Just today I wrote this in a post on Scripture Union Scotland’s teen forum, “ignite”:
    “I would love to spend more time helping with my CU, such as changing it in such a way that keeps our focus on God and on having fellowship with other believers, but making it more open and exciting for those who have either left, never come along or who are invited along. But I get frustrated because I have the passion but I do not have the time. And I only have half a year of school left, and I feel I have missed an opportunity.”
    I have known for a long time that my time management skills are more of a problem than my actual workload, but in response to question number 4, procrastination is also a weakness for me.
    Thanks for this post, it is inspiring and I think it will help me get my act together.
    God bless.

  • I’m just about the biggest procrastinator i know, but I am not lazy when it comes to things that have to get done. But even when i say that, i think your view is a little harsh. Why is doing nothing so wrong? Are we not entitled to a little relaxing? i know that some days I enjoy just laying in bed till noon before I start my day. Why is it a sin to want to just have a little quiet time? And why is it the Devil that instills laziness in us?

  • Fantastic post guys. I like how you show the slow insidiousness of how we waste our time-ten minutes there, half an hour here. So true!

    To-do lists and some sort of scheduling process are essential to staying on track. A book I would heartily recommend to everyone concerned with how to stop wasting time is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and Make Today Count by John C. Maxwell (in bookstores everywhere).

    Maxwell’s book is short and easy to read but well worth it. He has a section on Priorities which ties in closely with what your getting at here, but then he also has a section on values.

    I think this is particularly important because we can have all the structure in the world but if our scheduled activities don’t align with our values we’re not accomplishing much. In Make Today Count, Maxwell advocates writing out a list of values, putting it in concrete form, and reviewing it every day to stay on track.

    I’d encourage you guys to do this. I have a list of values pinned to my wall where I see and reflect on them every morning. It helps me do two things at once: align my day with my values and be productive! Read the book and give it a try. God Bless!

  • Tottaly guilty of wasting time. Been procrastinating all morning about studying for a final exam tomorrow. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Thanks for the great reminder! I struggle with wasting my time, but this article encouraged me to do something about it and ask for God’s help!

  • I agree completely! I hate it when people waste time, when I waste time, and when people waste my time. You only get so much time. Look at this summer! People are already complaining that it’s almost over, (as they always do) but they don’t ever do anything about it. I know a friend that plays video games almost all summer. Use your summers, don’t waste them.

  • Most an informative article and reader comments that you have here. I would point out that others certainly propose a varying case, especially in terms of gardening. Has anyone here seen more interesting information on the Web, and would you let me know where?

  • Awesome, you caught me wasting time too 😛 lol Guilty!!
    » What is my #1 Time Waster?
    Let’s see, my #1 time waster is definitely the computer.
    » What are the things that I should be doing but just don’t have time for?
    Homeowrk I procrastinate, and practicing bass are probably the 2 big ones.
    » Would I have time for these things if I managed by time better?
    » When am I going to do something about my time-wasting habits? AND…
    I need a better battle plan, mine never seem to work…
    » Who is going to do it with me? (The last question is because accountability and encouragement are important!) maybe my friend? my mom even? I’ll get on finding someone 🙂

  • Great article! It speaks as to how vigilant and thoughtful you are in spending your time. If each one of us tries to achieve this , our world would be no different from heaven.

  • Lately I’ve been having questions about wasting time, and how I managed to find this post, I don’t know. I love it when God does that – answers my questions in a way I never imagined! I also love how God continues working through people, even if their actions (or posts) were years ago. . .
    The Rebelution has been a huge blessing to me. Thank you for being willing to step out, to set an example of doing hard things for us to follow. God bless you!

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rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →