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Numbering Our Days
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In Sunday’s sermon, I mentioned Psalm 90 as a reflection on how we use our time. The “writing on the wall” for King Belshazzar in Daniel 5 was that his “days were numbered” and his rule was about to come to an end. Psalm 90 invites us to consider that our own days are numbered–that we all have an expiration date–and that using the time we have wisely is a spiritual discipline. “Teach us to number our days,” says the psalmist, “so we can have a wise heart” (Psalm 90:12).


Knowing that our time is limited brings a certain amount of focus. As I get older, time seems to move a whole lot faster. I know the clock and the calendar move at the same rate as they always have, but at this stage in life the passage of time feels like the downward acceleration of a rollercoaster! Time becomes a more valuable commodity and I’m a lot more cognizant of how I’m using it these days.


I’ve used a lot of time management techniques over the years–everything from carrying around a massive Franklin Planner, to tapping a Palm Pilot, to using my smartphone. But while those things can capture appointments and the weekly litany of meetings, projects, and appointments, they’re not that helpful in actually reflecting on the quality of the time that I’ve spent. Days can pass without actually giving any thought to how I used that day or how I might prepare for the next one (Lord willing!).


Technology was supposed to help us save time and be more efficient, but in fact, it seems to get in the way more often that not when it comes to tracking time. I was supposed to meet another pastor friend of mine for coffee the other day and he didn’t show up (which is not like him). Turns out he had plugged the date and time in his calendar on the proper day, just in the wrong year! I get so many alerts, beeps, chirps, and buzzes from my phone that it’s easy to simply ignore them. You just use your thumb to scroll on to the next thing.


After my sabbatical, however, I have started to think a lot more about that quality of time and capturing it more reflectively. That’s when I discovered a concept called “bullet journaling.” It’s a very simply system for keeping track of your time, your thoughts, your experiences, your notes, and your daily life with a pen in an old-fashioned paper journal (which requires no batteries, recharging, or upgrading). Studies have shown that using paper and pen to jot down important information results in significant memory retention versus typing things out. I find that to be very true for me!


The bullet journal concept is simple–you keep track of your life in jotting down bullet points using different symbols to convey different things: dots for to-do items, circles for events, dashes for notes, etc. Every morning, I jot down what I know I have coming up for the day and make quick notes on each thing. If I had coffee with someone, for example, I’ll jot down what we talked about. Next time we meet, I’ll be able to revisit that conversation and follow up. I track my daily habits in the journal (devotions, reading, workouts) and even have places called “Collections” where I keep track of books that I’ve read, dreams that I’ve had, and goals I want to achieve. Everything is in this one notebook that is my constant companion.


Our associate pastor, Jason, is also a devotee of bullet journaling. So are a couple of my other pastor friends. I’ve actually become a bit of an evangelist for the practice. At the beginning and end of each day I can go through my journal and reflect on the day–maybe jot down how I feel, pray over what took place, and prepare for what’s ahead.


If you want to check it out for yourself, go to the Bullet Journal web site (bulletjournal.com) and hit the “Start Here” button. You’ll be able to see a short video of how to set one up. You’ll be amazed at how simple it is. Even more, you’ll be amazed at how useful it is and how helpful it is in “numbering your days” effectively and reflectively.


Oh, and feel free to ask me about my journal any time. I’d be happy to help you get in the habit of numbering your days!

P.S. – While there is an official “Bullet Journal” you can purchase, I just use a Rhodia Rhodiarama softcover A5 note book (dot matrix) and Pilot G2 pens. I love the leather-like feel of the notebook, but any notebook will do.

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