Managing your time and sanity

Is life coming at you like the old video game, Asteroids?! Well, let go of the joystick, sit down and relax. Here is my exclusive formula for managing your time . . . and sanity.

There are many famous formulas: E=MC2 has something to do with the speed that traffic lights change relative to how far you have to travel and how late you are. C=PiR, if I remember correctly, is helpful in cutting a pie into even portions. And, of course, there’s Formula 409, which I have never seriously tried to master.

Here’s another formula—and you don’t need a pocket-protector full of engineering pens to understand it. And it will help you restore sanity to your crazy schedule:

Y Z >A R = C

Simply put, if amount of your zeal (YZ) is greater than your area of responsibility (AR), then you will experience composure (C).

For instance, Kevin has the zeal and energy of the Energizer Bunny on speed, so let’s say he has 10 “Z-factors” for his amount of energy and zeal (YZ). He’s married, father of two, works 60-plus hours per week as a nuclear power operator, and serves as a member of the county school board for a score of “eight” for “areas of responsibility” (AR). As long as his amount of zeal (10) is greater than his areas of responsibility (8), he will experience “composure.”

Let’s say that Elizabeth is a working mom with two pre-schoolers, volunteers at the local Crisis Pregnancy Center and is guardian of her aging parents, so also has an 8 for areas of responsibility. But—oh, oh—her “Z-factor” is only a 7. Because her amount of zeal (YZ) is less than her area of responsibility (AR), the Y Z >A R = C equation is reversed and, instead of composure (C), she feels like she’s going …

C = R A>Z Y

The “Z-Factor Theory,” then, is quite simple. If we’re going to maintain composure in our lives—and avoid being ordered to see a court-appointed psychiatrist—our energy level needs to be greater than our areas of responsibility. By recognizing that each person’s metabolism and personalities equip them with a unique level of zeal, we can make an effort not to go over our own area of responsibility “weight limit.” There are two ways to assure this: increase our level of zeal or decrease our areas of responsibility.

It is possible to increase our energy by eating right, exercising, and taking our vitamins every morning. But until we look like the Greek gods or goddesses on those work-out videos, we may need to try something less Olympic.

A Mission Statement

We all need a mission statement to clarify what we are willing to accept as our own areas of responsibility.
My mission statement is simply, “To communicate the gospel of Christ in an effective and creative manner and with as many people as possible,” (Matthew 28:19-20).

That brings us to the “D-4 Formula,” which keeps us from over-loading our lives.


This is a very simple exercise. Standing upright in a relaxed position, take a deep breath, and as you exhale say, “No.” (You may need to practice this exercise in front of a mirror or with a friend, but it is easier than drinking raw eggs with bee pollen and running 10 miles every day.)

By knowing our limits, we can honestly say, “Thanks so much for asking, but I’ll have to say no.” What a time-saving device, and it keeps our AR’s manageable!


This is simple. If someone has more time and more talent for a particular project, defer or delegate the task to him or her. One of the best things that happened to the church my wife pastors was to be without a pastor prior to our arriving. They had taken over the “serving tables” ministries in the absence of a pastor who does it all.


There are some real advantages of delaying a task or project a while.

1. By delaying, we may not have to do it at all. I never start to seriously work on a speech for a conference until about a week before the meeting. Recently two conferences have been cancelled because of budget problems. (At least they told me that was the reason!) Fortunately I hadn’t spent months preparing a talk for a seminar that never materialized.

2. By delaying, our subconscious has time to work on the task. When I’m working on an article or speaking assignment, I tell that little creative “muse” inside my head, “Don’t bother me with your ideas right now. Keep working on it and I’ll get back with you closer to the deadline.” It’s amazing — and sometimes frightening — the work our subconscious creativity can produce when given enough time.

3. By delaying, we avoid wasting time. The principle that “work expands to fill the time allotted” is so true. (If you don’t believe it, just remember your last board meeting.) A meeting scheduled for three hours will take three hours to deal with the agenda items. If it’s scheduled for an hour and a half, it will take an hour and a half to deal with the same agenda.

Delaying a task, however, is not the same as procrastinating or just “putting something off.” We must allow adequate time to do the task well, but mustn’t give it more time than it deserves.


Finally if we can’t say “Don’t,” can’t delegate, or delay, then we must “Do.” But if we’ve kept our AR’s below our Z-units, we’ll have enough energy to complete our responsibilities with a degree of Composure.

Copyright © 1988 James N. Watkins

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