Daily Living · Growth

Ten Questions to Ask About How We’re Spending Our Time

This year, one of my focal points for growth is depth. I want to increase the depth of my reading, writing, and thinking and move away from the shallow addictions of the Internet and entertainment. This desire was heightened all the more after reading the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (book review pending on this blog).

Right after I started the book, I began thinking about some questions I could ask myself when considering how to spend my time. After all, we’re only given so much time every day, and it takes wisdom to know how to allot it in a way that will increase depth.

Of course, a couple weeks later, I became immersed in our school musical that I was helping with and my time was mostly spent on surviving. But now that the show has ended, and I’m back to discretionary decisions about my time, I want to revisit those questions and use them to guide me the rest of the year. So here are a few questions I’d like to consider before engaging in various activities:

Question #1: Is it contributing to a healthy life for my body and mind?

As I get older, I have to be honest about health restrictions that make me more tired than I used to be – and more tired than other people at times. And as recent events have proven to me, when I overwhelm my schedule with commitments, my mind and body are not healthy. The routines of regular bedtimes, exercise, healthy eating, and margins of mental rest are essential to overall good health.

Question #2: Is it mindless or mind-engaging?

There are times when my mind has been so engaged all day long that I need a mindless break of watching a TV show to give it a break. However, if I’m not careful, this can become an excuse to indulge rather than a genuine small break. Therefore I need to set limits on mindless tasks (including scrolling on social media) so that my brain doesn’t become addicted to them.

Question #3: Does it help me grow in my goals?

I’ve set clear goals for my writing this year, which means my other decisions need to support progress toward those goals. Creating the habit of writing practice every night has been so good for me this year and makes me feel like I’m growing in my goals, even if the growth isn’t evident to others. However, other activities could consume my time if I’m not careful and pull time away from investing in those goals.

Question #4: If counted as rest, is it rest that glorifies God?

This circles back to question #2 where I can use “mindless resting” as an excuse. I’ve been learning to carve in “margins of mental rest” at the end of my day where I just sit and observe the world. Sit and pray. Walk through my yard and talk with the Lord about life. This is rest that is meaningful and brings him glory, not rest that saturates my mind with distractions.

Question #5: Am I worshiping self or worshiping God more through this?

Speaking of distractions – sometimes those TV shows that I like to watch only feed my selfishness and my need for emotional satisfaction. Sometimes they don’t. But I need to learn the difference so that when I’m feeling emotionally vulnerable, I don’t turn to those cheap substitutes, but rather I turn to the One whom I ultimately need. Any activity can be used to worship God if we have the right heart attitude. We just have to be in tune with our motives to discern what they actually are.

Question #6: Do I feel peaceful, productive, or purposeful doing it? Or do I feel stunted, stressed, and slacking?

I know my callings in life right now. They are: 1) Teaching, 2) Writing, 3) College ministry, 4) Family and friends. If I’m making choices that contribute to those callings, I feel peaceful, productive, and purposeful. There are times in all of those areas where the stress bubbles up because it’s unavoidable. But oftentimes stress comes because I’m trying to cram in things that aren’t part of my calling right now. Or maybe I’m not doing things that I should be doing, which leads to feelings of slacking and stunted growth. God uses these feelings as little signposts for where we should be investing our time, and it’s wise to pay attention to them.

Question #7: How am I using my talents for the glory of God?

If I’m using my talents for myself, I’ll vacillate between feelings of insecurity and pride. I’ll obsess over people’s reactions to my work. I’ll get self-conscious. I’ll crave their praise and feed off of it. But if I’m using my talents for the glory of God, it honestly doesn’t matter how others react to my work. I can accept kind words with humility and graciousness, knowing it was not my own doing, but rather God’s. And I can be content when the compliments don’t come and no one notices what I’ve done. Both are fine because God sees, and he cares. And I’ll also be motivated to keep working even when I don’t feel like it, because I know he deserves the glory for what I’m doing.

Question #8: Am I using my brain well—deepening its complexity or furthering shallow addictions?

I desire to make more time for reading, listening to good thinkers, processing my thoughts through writing, and doing practical things with my hands because this is helping my brain grow. This is using my brain to its fullest capacity instead of letting it wither away due to the distractions of the Internet. This is a constant fight, but because I’ve experienced the rewards, I know it’s worth it.

Question #9: Is it growing my relationships with others?

A Friday night dinner with family. A Saturday night dinner and game night with friends. A Sunday walk through the neighborhood with friends who are neighbors. A Monday night Bible study with my people. These are gifts from God that further relationship, which he’s called me to. Building community and friendships is never a waste of time because this is how God designed us. So yes, sometimes I give up other activities because I need a night to chat with a friend – and this is also such a good use of my time.

Question #10: Am I feeding my selfishness or selflessness?

Any of the above questions could imply this one, but I think of this one in particular because my routines get pretty set, and I like them that way. But they can become an idol and all about me, when I refuse to acknowledge others’ needs that might interrupt my schedule. I might get so set on pursuing my own goals that I fail to see the importance of meeting another person’s needs in the midst of those goals. First and foremost, God calls me to reflect his love to those around me, and that means dying to self and considering them better than myself. And when this is done, great joy is birthed in my soul.


All of these things are in progress. Not a day goes by that I don’t fail at one or most of them. But benchmarks are always good things to have, and reflection questions can help guide our thinking. So I pray that I would grow in these ways this year, seeking the Lord’s face above all else as I do.


Photo by Andrew Romanov on Unsplash.

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