5 Keys to Tangent-Proofing Your Time

Would you consider signing up to receive my posts via email? Simply enter your email address in the box in the top of the sidebar. And if you would follow me on Twitter here or “Like” my Facebook page here I would be oh, so grateful. :-)


Welcome Encouragement for Today devotion readers. If you are joining us and haven’t yet read my devotion today, click here to do so and get up to speed with the rest of us here. Don’t forget to hit your back arrow and come back for 5 keys to tangent proofing your time and a giveaway!


Have you been there? Allowed the Internet or another hobby or pastime knock you off course and sap your time? How can you prevent this from happening in the future? Here are 5 guidelines that have helped me focus and keep on task:

~ Plan your work and then work your plan, grouping like tasks together.

There is no substitute for a good working list. If you set out to “get things done” without a written list of what it is you need to accomplish, it will sap your mental strength. You will unknowingly be preoccupied with the fear of “forgetting”: to make a call, send an email or pull meat out of the freezer to thaw for supper.

If you can brain dump your tasks on to a piece of paper or “notes” app on your phone or electronic tablet, you can focus all your mental energies on doing the task at hand rather than worrying you’ll forget one you hope to accomplish later that day.

When you are making your list, group like tasks. Think about the errands that require you to leave your home: the dry cleaners, grocery or drug store, post office run or item to return. What about tasks that require the computer: sending an email, making an online purchase or paying a utility bill. Are there around the home chores that must be done? Cleaning, laundry, pulling weeds or organizing a closet?

Rather than just launching out on a “mission to accomplish” and randomly start working, think smart. You will save time, motion and effort if you group like tasks as you work.

I do this, once I have written out my list, by using different color highlighters. I’ll highlight all the “around the town” errands in pink, computer tasks in green, etc… While I’d like to be organized enough to group the tasks as I write the list, that often takes more effort and may require starting over. Just doing a general brain dump and then going back and categorizing with highlighters works best for me. Besides, I like to see pretty colors on my to do list rather than just a black and white list. :-)

~ Utilize your phone alarm.

Work in pre-determined “shifts”. Set out to tackle some household chores, but set your phone alarm for 30-45 minutes later. Then, dive in and work, without thinking about anything else. Roll up your sleeves. Stay focused. Listen to music or an audio Bible on an Ipod or MP3 player. Lose yourself in your work.

When the alarm sounds, read what the screen says. (I “talk to myself” by making my alarm reminder read “Good job girl! Go make yourself an iced tea!”) Wrap up the current task, take a short break and move on to the next thing.

Alternate between working with your brain and working with your hands.

I find that if I am using my brain for an extended period of time perhaps writing, filling out college forms or other paperwork, I need to mix it up after a few hours. Those tasks are not particularly draining physically but do deplete my brain’s energy and creativity .

To remedy this, I will switch to something brainless for a while instead. Yes, I will fold laundry or clean the house while watching Gunsmoke, Bonanza or another retro show. It rests my mind and refreshes me. Then, I’m ready to jump back in and use my brain again.

~ Set up a visual reminder of your time priorities.

I place my Bible on top of my Ipad each night on my nightstand to remind me “Bible over blogs”.

Maybe you’ll need to make your phone’s lock screen read “Have you spent time with God yet today?”.

Or put a picture of your family on your computer’s home page. Anything that will help you connect with God and your family BEFORE you venture off into cyber-land.

~ Less is more.

The less I am pulled by social media and cell phones, the more time I have for God, family and just “being” rather than “doing” all the time.

This has been the biggest lesson lately for me when it comes to electronic devices becoming tangents. I was letting social media, my cell phone and emails I received call the shots and dictate how I spent my time.  With the instant access that today’s culture provides, it can overrun a people-pleaser like me.

Up until a few months ago, I gave out my cell phone number freely. I was accumulating friends on Facebook and also accumulating lots of “invites”, and “requests” and challenges to play games. And, I was getting dozens of emails per week from people asking me questions to which I had no answer or asking for time-consuming favors from me.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love helping people. I am thankful for the connections that can happen and the ministry that takes place via the Internet. Seriously thankful.

I am deeply grateful for cyber friends and blog readers and I am a faithful reader of a few blogs myself. However, because I tend to be a people pleaser, I would jump when I got a private Facebook message and feel I needed to answer right away. Or, if a text message came in when I was supposed to be accomplishing a task or spending time with my family, I would feel the tug to text back quickly.

When I would fight the urge and, in an attempt to live my priorities, not respond until later when I had time, I would feel guilty. Or others would feel slighted that it took me a day or so to answer. However, when I added up the time it would take just answering people (sometimes to tell them I actually had no answer!) it would be hours per week.

So now I give myself some guidelines and boundaries including limiting answering emails (that aren’t from family or my work-at-home ministry position at Proverbs 31) to 30 minutes a day. That might mean I can’t answer someone for a few days or weeks depending on how full my inbox is. I also got a new cell number and only give the number out to family, close friends, my one son’s school and other sons’ tutors and crucial ministry contacts. I can still communicate with friends (in real life and cyber both) by Twitter messages rather than texting.

I have become so convinced that electronic communication methods, with their instant access to people, have become modern day bullies. They boss us around and burn up our time when we aren’t intentional to use them as tools only. I can’t describe to you the freedom I now feel now that my phone buzzes only occasionally and I don’t feel glued to the computer. Ahhh….freedom!

Now, please leave a comment with which of these tips you’d most like to try. Or, any other piece of advice or thoughts you have on this topic. One gal will be chosen to receive a signed copy of my book The Complete Guide to Getting and Staying Organized and a $15 Staples gift card to purchase some list-making notepads or a new planner to help you use your time wisely.

Winner announced Monday.


  1. Needed to read this! Since I have several online businesses (two Etsy shops and a Half-com shop, plus freelance writing which requires emails to editors), a blog that I felt God was pushing me to start, and ministry that I’m trying to keep up with on Facebook, I need some boundaries for online for sure. Tips I’ll use: listing goals (I tend to keep them in my head… not good); using the timer more (including to limit time online…); and Bible over blog – I’m going to stick a post-it on the cover of my laptop that says, “Have you read your Bible yet?” Thanks for the tips!!

  2. Hi I am a first-time reader and couldn’t agree with you more regarding the texting “stress.” It literally makes me anxious. I have found that leaving my phone on silent and letting the important people know they should call me on my house phone if it is important is so freeing! (Old fashioned…but freeing!! so funny) Thank you for your ministry I look forward to following your blog. We are kindred spirits in so many ways. Bless you!!

  3. I appreciate your thoughts so very much. I struggle in knowing how to divide my time as I enjoy interacting with those who need encouragement. I have been setting my kitchen timer…..then when it rings I go to my next chore. I love organization. Without my timer, too much gets left for the following week. Many thanks for blessing all of us.

  4. I so enjoy keeping up with your blog. You have so many wonderful insights and great ideas. I’m having a hard time keeping up with the times, never really cared to follow a blog, honestly, but I have thoroughly enjoyed receiving your updates thru email. Thanks so much for sharing your gift.

  5. Thankfully I realized about a year ago that I was spending too much time on the internet and neglecting my husband in the evening and neglecting God. We both work full time and evenings are the only time we have together, when I realized he seemed very distant. Why shouldn’t he? I was spending all my awake time on social media sights! Now I have set limits of checking out what is happening about once a week (usually do it before he even gets home), and am back to reading my Bible daily! I have not missed the social sites one bit!

  6. Well, I guess I missed the giveaway, but wanted to leave you a comment anyway. I need to put some of these suggestions into practice(probably all of them). I too am a people pleaser and have been told by a counselor that I need to learn how to say NO. It is so hard and I have a terrible time being overwhelmed and frustrated by the things I can’t do. I am signed up for the latest bible study, but still don’t have the book. Thank you so much for posting these putting into practice ideas, that doesn’t come easily. Have a blessed week!

  7. I, too, use the color coding system and the phone alarm! I love it my color coded calendar. I have a set of colored pens. Each color represents a different person in my family and/or a different part of my life (purple=church, green=work, pink=me time, etc.) I’ve tried to go electronic with my system, but I’m returning to pen and paper – I like being able to scribble notes in my calendar. Thank you for your insights!

  8. I plan to try the hightlighter method….. some days I feel like I get nothing accomplished because I don’t stay focused on one task at a time.

  9. I love this article…I deal with these issues every day. As a gramma raising grands, I am very overwhelmed some days. Praise God, .my health has improved, thanks to natural therapies, and I now have the energy to tackle some things, that have gotten out of control. At one time there were ten people living in my home., including 5 sweet grandchildren age 6 and under. I have wasted too much time on the computer in the past, and I need to get the bad habits under control. I now need to discover how to use some of these tips, as I am tech challenged.. I am blessed to have an Ipad, that I used Target giftcards to purchase.. .which was an amazing treat. I have a droid phone, but I am sure they weren’t designed for 49 year old grammas…thank you so much for this.. I am praying I can be a better steward of my time as a wife, mother and grandmother….

  10. So glad to hear your comments about technology! I have been convicted for some time now about wasting time on FB just to be discouraged or frustrated over posts that were irrelevant. I do love to keep in touch with old friends though! Lol! So, I set the timer for a certain amount of time and say good bye for now when it goes off! I do try to make a list to do things that need attention, but never thought to color code by category. Great idea! I am going to try it and I know it will help me stay focused and get more accomplished! Thanks! I needed that!

Leave a Reply to Wendy Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *