In God's Time

A Guest Post by Michele Quigley

As someone who created and publishes a daily planner I am often asked questions about time management and organization. People assume that I am naturally organized. I'm not, which is part of the reason I created a planner in the first place. Organization and time management have been a struggle for me for a long time and while I am most certainly not perfect at it now, I have learned a few things along the way and [mostly] have a handle on it in terms of my family's needs and what works for us. That being said, please know that anything you find of value here today is only because through His mercy and grace, God has allowed me to fall on my face enough times in my 28 years of marriage and 27 years of motherhood to know where I need work. Know too that while I have a pretty clear picture of what needs to happen, I don't always practice it. I am most certainly a work in progress.

Although time management and organization go hand in hand, I really believe that time management has to come first. You can have all the great organizing ideas in the world but if you don’t manage your time well, things won’t get done.I know from personal experience that being able to effectively manage my time is the key to getting the most my day and avoiding burnout. How each of us goes about it will be unique to our situation but I do believe there are some concepts central to effective time management. My suggestions here are meant to help and I implore you not to let them overwhelm you. What I offer is based on experience and research but ultimately it is my opinion. In this small space I can really only scratch the surface of a very big topic. This is simply a starting point in an ongoing, ever changing and highly individual journey.


The problem of time management can be complex because everyone’s issues are different. Your life situation, what season you are in, how you manage stress and so on, all factor into what your time management struggles may be. The answer though, is relatively simple in that the goal is to be able to manage your time so that you get done the things that need to get done, arrive where you need to on time and prepared, and not neglect your family or yourself.

There are many books, programs and systems out there for time management and it can be overwhelming wading through all of them. Most of them offer good advice but the only right system or method is the one that fits you, your style, your personality and your family. That's the key to making it all work. Knowing what you need and finding the way to do it.

Let's begin.

Putting first things first

Before undertaking any new plan or routine there are some things that have to be in place. No plan or system will work long term if you don't put first things first. I believe it is essential to start by nourishing your interior life. Growing in your relationship with Christ is vital to being able to effectively manage your time and your life. You must pray. Daily and if at all possible, first thing. It can be tempting to allow the busyness and distractions of life to encroach on your time alone with God and I know it can sometimes feel like you are just too busy for a regular prayer time. The truth is, the busier you are the more you need it.

Mothers in particular can struggle with this. It feels selfish to take that time alone with God but taking time to nourish your relationship with God isn't selfishness, it's self-care and there a very big difference. By nature we are self-focused beings and that isn't an accident. While it has been distorted by sin, it is actually intended for our good and properly focused can be a path to growing in holiness. "Love your neighbor as yourself" assumes that we will love ourselves.
Not in an egotistical way but in the way that God does. Desiring the highest and best good for us, that of union with Him and eternal life. That is self-care.

Selfishness and vanity on the other hand eat away at the soul. They can never be satisfied and they leave us wanting more of the same all the while becoming angry and bitter about what we do not have and cannot do. Self-care, being in relationship with God and nourishing that relationship as the primary one in our lives, fills us with love and overflows into our lives. We want more yes but we want God and we want others to know Him too. It inspires our actions and thinking and helps us to live as children of the light.

You can't give what you don't have. Oh sure, you can serve others for a time while ignoring your interior life but eventually you will burn out. All the saints knew this, they knew how important it was to nourish their interior life and it was only through grace that they were able to do all the things they did --that they were able to love so much. Certainly our Lord Himself set the example for us in this, taking to time to pray in solitude regularly.

Please don't misunderstand. I am not telling you to neglect your duty to your vocation. You have to do what you have to do, but I have never found it true that God will so allow my duties to overwhelm me that I cannot find time for Him. When I have been unable to find that time it has almost always been my doing by allowing things to intrude on my time, having higher expectations of myself than He does and often simply trying to do too much.

Realize the great gift that prayer is and ask God for the grace to desire it and the time to do it. He can and will make a way when it seems there isn't one.


Coupled with prayer I highly recommend journaling. When I finally, after many years of resisting, began journaling daily I was able to have much more insight into my life and gain a much greater sense of balance. I can't stress enough how this has helped me. For me journaling and prayer go hand in hand. My journal is a prayer journal and so often I hear God speak to my heart through my journaling. Growth in holiness comes through self awareness. We become aware of our faults and defects yes but also our heart's needs, our talents and our gifts --some that we may not have even realized we had. These are all things that God understands even better than we do and that He wants us to understand and show us how to use for His greater glory.

Grab a notebook and start writing. Yes, writing as in with pen and paper. Try not to use a computer and at all costs resist the urge to get online before you pray or journal. Unless there is really an emergency that needs attending, your e-mail, Facebook and whatever else can wait. Trust me it's not worth it.

Why paper? Why do I stress writing by hand and why do I publish and use a paper planner when there are so many useful electronic gadgets out there? Well I do use those wonderful gadgets for many things but I also know that writing by hand is incredibly beneficial. Research shows that the hand has a unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas and brain scans have shown that sequential finger movements, the strokes you make to form a letter, activate massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory. One study showed that people write more words, faster and express more ideas when writing by hand versus using a keyboard. I know that's certainly true for me. There's something very soothing about writing by hand and I find it tends to calm my mind and give me clarity. I began journaling reluctantly but I continue it earnestly.

As aside note, handwriting also implies intimacy --a familiarity that's lost with type. My mother was an excellent typist. She learned to type in school and used it throughout her life. I remember as a child watching her fingers fly on the typewriter. However, she also wrote things by hand and she had beautiful handwriting. She's gone now, she died a year ago and I miss very much but last week as I was going through her sewing box (which as the only seamstress of my sisters, I inherited) I came across a slip of paper with directions written on it in my mother's handwriting. Immediately I felt a sense of comfort from seeing her handwriting --something that was uniquely hers. A typewritten note wouldn't have had the same effect. I can't tell you how grateful I was for that slip of paper in that moment.

If you haven't written by hand in a while I will tell you that your hand and arm will tire easily at first. But as with any form of exercise they will grow stronger with use.

Where do I go from here?

Once you've put first things first what comes next? Make a list of anything and everything that's on your mind in relation to managing your time and getting organized. From the big to the small, the monumental to the mundane. All of it.
Don't worry about form and order yet, just get it down. You can use your computer for this task but I find writing it by hand to be the best way to start and then organizing it on my computer later.

Next, ask yourself these questions and take notes as you answer them:

Do I get the things done that need to be done? If not why not?

Do you get the things done that I want to do? If not, why not?

What isn't working? or What do I need to get a handle on?

What can I drop? and What would I LIKE to drop?

What's working? Don't skip this one! You need to see what IS working in order to get a clear picture and keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed with all that needs done.

Lastly, what are my priorities? Remember that what’s a priority for one person doesn’t even make the list for another person. You'll need to take the time to really think and pray about your priorities. This question is last on purpose. After you get everything else down go through it and ask yourself how it all lines up with your priorities. You might be surprised.

This list is going to be the basis for forming your plan and it can take some time to compile but unless you have a clear picture of what the problem is you can't fix it.

As you go through this process keep a few things in mind. I like to use the acronym RFB when forming a plan of action. RFB stands for *Rhythm, Flexibility and Balance*


Years ago when my family was growing and we started homeschooling, I was struggling to keep up and my husband suggested that I need a "schedule". Now, I am a right brained, free spirited, creative kind of girl and I have to tell you, that word --schedule --struck terror into my heart. To me it sounded like a straight jacket of drudgery. I was homeschooling my children because I wanted our days to be free and flowing, happy and calm. My children are creative (I believe we all are) and creative people need time to create, time to let ideas percolate, time to look around and be inspired.

What I quickly learned was that without a system of order and some structure those things don't happen. They get pushed way to the back while I spend time trying to manage the chaos.

To be honest I still don't really like the word schedule, because so many things change daily in a growing family. There's a lot of flux and we need flexibility.

What we have is a "rhythm" {a movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements.--Webster's} .

Each family's rhythm is unique because each family is unique. Take a few minutes to think about your family and the way it operates. Go back to your list and look at what you said was working well. That's your rhythm.

Now think about what things are disrupting your rhythm. The "what isn't working" and "what do I need to get a handle on" answers are your disruptions.

You will want to have a clear understanding of your family's rhythm before you can form a plan. Anything that goes against that rhythm won't work --not for long anyway. Of course sometimes the flow is disrupted because of emergencies. That's normal but it shouldn't be the norm.

What if your family's rhythm is out of sync? It happens. That's why prayer in first place is so important. Pray and journal about it. It might just be the season you are in at the moment but it might me something else. Ask the Lord to reveal it and trust that He will.


{a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements - Webster's}

Any system of time management has to be flexible enough for your family and while still being structured enough to work. That isn't going to look the same for everyone. I know what it looks like for my family because I know my family. You have to be the one to determine it for yours.

Is the answer to time management woes as simple as "getting things done"? Will you be happier if you get more done? Maybe. Will your family be happier or does the stress of trying to get it all done turn you into a drill sergeant -barking orders?

Productivity is not a virtue --which isn't to say that it can't be virtuous but sanctity doesn't consist in the works we do but in how we respond to God's invitations in our soul. We have a duty to God and to our families and justice demands that we fulfill that duty, but LOVE must hold primacy of place and productivity can only be at the service of love.

It's true that love in the moment might mean getting dinner on the table but this is why planning can be so beneficial. Things come up, emergencies or just things that need attention right now. The baby needs fed or his diaper needs changed. Dinner needs to be made and this is where having a plan is so helpful. A plan, maybe a meal plan, can keep you from losing it when things get stressful and it can help you delegate what needs to be done if you are unable to do it at that moment. I have found that stress tends to reveal character and I don't know about you but I am constantly amazed at the amount of opportunities that God gives me to see where my character needs work! Planning ahead, even just a little bit can really help reduce that stress. Live for today, plan for tomorrow.


{a state of adjustment between opposing or divergent influences or elements -Webster's}
This is easy but one we often forget. Make the plan work for you. Don't be a slave to the system make it your slave. Follow the rhythm of your family, stay flexible and always, always, put love first. That's the balance.

Balance also means you can't do everything --no matter how hard you try. You need to decide what is most important and then arrange your life and time around those things. As moms I know that some days everything feels like a priority and it can be a struggle choosing between the good and the best. It’s not always clear which should come first and that’s why it’s very important that you think about the “most important” ahead of time so you have a guide.

At this point, hopefully you are starting to see the big picture and a path forward to where you want to go.


The how to get there solution might still be foggy though and there are some things we need to address yet so let's press on.

Some obstacles to effective time management:


Perfectionism in small things can keep you from ever getting to the big stuff. Attention to detail can be great but most of time it’s not a big deal and it can eat a lot of time. I understand the temptation, the need for things to be *just so* sometimes but it can really become a time management trap. It can also make you grouchy because if you live in a house with children something will always be awry!

Another aspect of perfectionism is not delegating because you want things done a certain way and you feel you are the only one who can do it. Maybe that’s true but you only have so much time and this can really become a problem. Either allow yourself enough time –not always an option –or learn to accept your limitations and let someone else help or do it instead.

Are you All or Nothing? That perfectionism. G.K. Chesterton wrote that "anything worth doing is worth doing badly". In other words, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good or in some cases the "good enough". I often find that something done imperfectly is far better than not done at all. Now that doesn't mean we don't strive for excellence, we absolutely should but there's a flip side to this in that often a reason people don't manage their time well --waiting to the last minute etc.-- is because they fear failure and/or they feel stuck and aren't confident they are up to the task. Always waiting until the last minute tends to be stressful for everybody. It does however have a payoff because we tell ourselves that we could have done better if we had had more time.

I well understand the perfectionist tendency and I know how detrimental it can.


Doing anything but what you need to be doing. Most of us are experts at this and it’s so very counterproductive. There needs to be a balance between doing what needs to be done in a timely manner and yet not attending to something as soon as it demands your attention. Procrastination is very often just another form of perfectionism.


Distractions come in many forms, the key is how you handle them and whether of not you can stay focused. When you have many young children distractions are a fact of life but I have found that working with your rhythm and planning ahead can go a long way towards minimizing distractions. If the baby is sure to need a diaper change just as you sit down to read with your 2nd grader, keep a diaper and wipes handy so it can be as quick and non distracting as possible.

A lot of us get sidetracked with “emergencies”. Not real emergencies mind you just urgent things that aren’t really so urgent. Resist the temptation to pay attention to those things and stay focused on what you are doing. The mail doesn’t need to be brought in the minute the mailman puts it in the box. If you really don’t want to be interrupted turn off the ringer on your phone. If answering an e-mail is one of those things that becomes urgent for you don’t check your e-mail until your actually have the time to answer.


Most people underestimate the amount of time it takes to do something. I find with children the best method is to plan ahead and then plan to be running behind anyway. If you end up ahead of schedule all the better! You can actually drive the speed limit to where you are headed. :)

Try this: Pick an everyday task (clean the bathroom, sort the mail) and estimate how long it takes you to complete it. Now time yourself doing that task (at normal speed). My bet is you will be surprised at how long it actually takes compared to how long you estimated.


Sharing ideas is great but don’t compare yourself to someone else. It’s not helpful and it can be discouraging or worse yet lead to pride. We have to remember that when looking at someone else's life we are only seeing a snapshot of the whole. There's a lot of good to be gleaned from one another but if something regularly disturbs our peace and leaves us feeling inadequate, we need to examine that in the light of grace and ask God to help us understand and accept the place we are in.

Moving Forward

So how do you gain control of your time? In reality you don't. You can't manage time --it moves forward regardless of what you do. What you can manage is your actions, what you DO. As you work to form a plan of action, strive to keep it simple –any system that is too complicated is likely to be abandoned and probably pretty quickly. In all that I offer here there's one very important thing to remember; don't spend more time planning than actually doing. There is no perfect system, plan or method, only the one that actually works for you and the one that works for you is only the one you will actually do!


Paper, electronic or both?


I use both. I already explained why I like paper and writing by hand and since I publish a paper planner it makes sense that I would use it. I do like using my phone and computer too --especially when I am out but those are more for my to do list and things I need to remember. The planner is where where I list appointments, dinner plans and anything else that the whole family might need/want to know. I keep it open on my desk and everyone can see it.

As a Catholic I also want the liturgy to be infused into our lives in an organic way. My planner helps me do that and reminds that it's all in God's time.

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Would you like to win a Catholic Daily Planner™?

Pop over to my webstore and peruse the offerings then leave a comment on this post telling me which planner you'd like.
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 THE winner of this giveaway is Alison. 

Alison said...

I love your planners! I try to order them every year. I love the full size planner with the menu & lesson planners, full size too!
Thank you for all the great work you do!