I once told myself I’d never be the guy who said, “Just 5 minutes a day can change your life.” It sounded like a stupid advertising adage made up by unscrupulous salespeople who wanted to market some terrible product to lazy people. Unfortunately, I now have to eat my words because I have seen firsthand how making intentional use of 5-minute windows of time, or “intervals” as I like to call them, can make a big difference in our lives.
We all have these intervals in our lives. These aren’t like our margins where we don’t have things going on and all is leisure; intervals are the travel times, the waits in line, the walking from one place to another (even if it’s just to the water cooler), etc.
Are we intentional about how we use them?
Several years ago, I learned a valuable lesson on this subject that has shaped me ever since. Between flights, sitting in the Atlanta airport, deep thought kept me from paying attention to the people around me. When I “came to” and noticed my surroundings more, I noticed everyone was on their cell phones. At the time, I still did not have a smartphone (I was a late adopter of the technology), and I realized all the thinking and praying I did on some issues in my life would not happen if I lost these valuable intervals in my thought and prayer life.
This principle was further confirmed a few months later when I was finishing graduate school. Before I could complete my degree I had to take comprehensive exams. I got really nervous when I was assigned a wonderful, but challenging professor to oversee my exams. My fears proved well-founded when my assignment was to write 168 pages in 6 days, drawing conclusions from research and content I learned over the previous 3 years!
In other words, this had to be well thought-through stuff.
It was extremely hard, and I didn’t sleep much, but even as I was writing I realized the hard work was done. Already married with a family and working full time, the time not spent on a cell phone was spent thinking about the biggest issues and ideas in that paper. My grade reflected the benefit of those intervals of time.
The moral of this story is this: do not waste your intervals, not with a cell phone or anything else.
It’s not a waste of time to just think.
We do not have to be checking emails or responding to texts or phone calls all the time. These things do not make us more impressive or necessarily productive. Most especially, we don’t need to be on social media. If we are leaders, then we have to be thought leaders. Thinking in the intervals, and I would argue praying as well, helps us to lead better with brighter, more alert, and more present minds.
It is no waste of time to retreat into one’s own mind and heart multiple times throughout the day when we get the chance.
These are precious moments: times to reset, regroup, to process things while they are fresh; they are prayerful times set apart to commune with God and find peace. I totally believe we need margins, extended periods of time in our lives for all these things, but we also benefit highly from making use of every moment we get during the day. It’s like learning proper breathing technique for runners or swimmers. Breathe properly, and you can find yourself going much further.
I now have a smartphone and am grateful for it, but do my best to use it wisely.
Question: If you were to inventory your time, how many intervals are you wasting in a cell phone, on social media, or idling without meaningful thought? What are you doing to change that today? You can leave a comment by clicking here.