large_1237995271When I was young, older adults taught me the value of making a priority list to manage the time in my life. It was a vertical list that reflected something like:

Work / School

This made sense to me and I strove to live my life based on this priority list. But along the way I consistently felt like I was failing. In the matter of days, I would find myself not able to honor this list of priorities with my actions. So I would try again, and would fail again.

Over time (no pun intended), I began to relearn the meaning of time and re-think the priority of my time management as a horizontal line rather than a vertical list. There are two ancient greek terms used to define time:

The first is most familiar—chronos . It means the chronology of days, governed by the carefully calculated earths’ sweep around the sun. But another word for time is kairos . This speaks more to specific times throughout history, sometimes called a “moment” or “season.” Kairos is not marked quantitatively by the past, the present, or the future, rather, qualitatively by the meaningfulness of the experience.

Here’s the key: As I reflect on the chronos time of my life at the end of a day or week, do I see that I have made appropriate time for kairos moments that include all of the priorities in my life? Are there certain areas of my life only getting leftovers or are all areas getting at least some of my best energy?

We all must make quantitative decisions about the chronos time in our lives – and those decisions are important. However, I suggest that if the only evaluative tool of measurement is a vertical bulleted list, then we are setting ourselves up for failure. Rather, if we evaluate our time by looking for kairos moments with the things most important to us in the midst of our chronos management, I believe we will find more satisfaction.

On a regular week, work receives the most quantity of my chronos time, but I can still have kairos moments with my faith, family and friends. On Monday nights, my friends receive the most chronos time, but I can still have kairos time with my other priorities at other times. Weekends, vacations, retreats, trips all receive higher quantities for various priorities, but I still have the ability to have kairos moments with the other important parts of my life along the way.

Generally speaking, I now look at my life one week at time. The chronos time “is what it is.” Life requires a certain quantity of time for the multiple commitments in my life. However, the most important decisions I now make about my time are carving out the opportunity for kairos moments for the most important parts of my life in the midst of chronos time management. It’s still hard to manage the many things in life and I still wish I had more time for _________. But overall, I have MUCH more satisfaction with the decisions I make about time.