You Need to Budget Your Time to Manage Your Commitments

If you think in terms of financial expenditures, you have vastly more opportunities to spend money than you have funds available to you.1

If you’re Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, the size of your financial net might be wider. But it’s still quite limited by comparison with the world’s total opportunities for expenditures. Even if you use debt, there’s a ceiling to how much you can use.

1. Your time is limited.

The same is true with your time—only more so. Everyone gets only 168 hours a week to spend.

You might incur “sleep debt” to try to stretch the number of hours you have. But that’s a losing proposition.2 And it still doesn’t allow you to spend more than your 168 hours from a given week.

Time is a zero-sum game. When you spend it on one thing, you can’t spend that same time on anything else.

So, any commitment you make—whether it’s to a person, a project, an event, or whatever—represents a claim on your 168 weekly hours.

2. Your possible commitments are unlimited.

But there’s nothing out there in the aether stopping you from committing to more than you can do in the hours you have. So you can very easily make more commitments than you have the time to fulfill.

The only trouble is … that’s not honest to yourself or to the other people involved. Any excess commitment you make is, by definition, going to get shortchanged in some amount or left entirely unfulfilled.

And shirking commitments you’ve made isn’t a good practice—for you or anyone else.

Conclusion

But that doesn’t have to be your story. You can start “right-sizing” your commitments to your time.

You just need to work through them both intentionally to decide what does and doesn’t make the cut.

That will be an iterative rather than a once-for-all process. But you don’t have to wait to begin. And the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to better fulfill the commitments you have.


  1. I’m here using the metaphor of financial budgeting as described, for example, in Financial Peace University; “10 Budgeting Myths You May Be Falling For,” Dave Ramsey, n.d.; “What Is a Budget?,” Dave Ramsey, n.d.; “A Zero-Based Budget: What and Why,” Dave Ramsey, n.d. 
  2. Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (New York: Crown Business, 2014), 91–102. 

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Why You Need to Budget Your Time

Budgeting time requires different strategies for different contexts and schedules.

Your schedule might be regular, irregular, or some of both. But whatever it looks like, there’s a corresponding strategy you can use to budget your time.

Still, saying all of that leaves out one very important question: Do you really need to budget your time in the first place?

Reasons You Need to Budget Your Time

I’d like to suggest that the answer to this question is a firm “Yes” for at least four reasons.1

In particular, you need to budget your time in order to

  1. Manage your commitments because your time is limited, but your possible commitments are unlimited.
  2. Get the most out of it not only by doing more things but also—and more importantly—by doing more important things.
  3. Avoid schedule crises. Schedules don’t always go to plan. And if you haven’t balanced your scheduling budget in advance, you’ll find yourself in larger crises more often when the unexpected arrives.
  4. Avoid guilt and shame. You will spend your time. How you spend it reflects what you chose or endorsed as a priority. If you spend your time intentionally, you will disappoint someone at some point. But you don’t have to feel guilt or shame about that if you know you’ve done your best to choose what’s most important.

Conclusion

In short, you can spend your time intentionally. Or it will get spent for you.

Intentionality is critical to knowing what you should do with the time you have. And creating a time budget can help you ensure you’re making the choices about your time that you really feel are the best.


  1. I’m here using the metaphor of financial budgeting as described, for example, in Financial Peace University; “10 Budgeting Myths You May Be Falling For,” Dave Ramsey, n.d.; “What Is a Budget?,” Dave Ramsey, n.d.; “A Zero-Based Budget: What and Why,” Dave Ramsey, n.d. 

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Research on (Re)writing Prophets in the Corinthian Correspondence

“Rewritten Bible” is a fascinating phenomenon in Second Temple literature. Prime examples are often found in texts like Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities, Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities, the Genesis Apocryphon, and others.

Discussions of “rewritten Bible” often focus on generic characteristics. The aim is to define what common thread(s) hold together this kind of literature.

The Hermeneutics of Rewriting

Such research is good and profitable. But it certainly isn’t the only dimension of this literature that’s worth exploring.

It’s also quite valuable to contemplate the hermeneutical process that produced a given “rewriting” of a biblical text.

When this process is brought to the fore, there’s also a readier basis for comparing these texts and their hermeneutics with Paul’s letters and his interpretive work in them.

Rewriting Boasting

For example, in both 1 Cor 1:31 and 2 Cor 10:17 Paul quotes the same maxim: “let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”1

In 1 Cor 1:31, the quotation is direct and completes Paul’s claim that his argument is “just as it is written.” In 2 Cor 10:17, the quotation is indirect, but the wording is identical to 1 Cor 1:31.2

Wording like this occurs in Jer 9:23 (MT, OG; ET: v. 24). It also occurs in 1 Kgdms 2:10.

(Generally speaking, 1 Kingdoms is the Greek version of 1 Samuel. But the language Paul quotes to the Corinthians occurs only in the Greek text, not in the Hebrew.)

Among “rewritten Bible” texts, Pseudo-Philo transforms 1 Kgdms 2:10 (LAB 50:2). The Targum of the Prophets reworks Jer 9:23 (MT, OG; ET: v. 24; Tg. Neb. Jer 9:22–23).

Comparing how these works interpret their biblical base texts helpfully illuminates how Paul interprets one or both of these same base texts. In particular, it highlights the Corinthian letters’ world-restructuring narrative of divine action in Messiah Jesus.

If you want to read further, drop your name and email in the form below, and I’ll send you a copy of the full article.


  1. Translations here are mine. 
  2. On direct and indirect quotations, see J. David Stark, Sacred Texts and Paradigmatic Revolutions: The Hermeneutical Worlds of the Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts and the Letter to the Romans, Jewish and Christian Texts in Contexts and Related Studies 16 (New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013), 48. 

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Confused or Intrigued with Second Temple Hermeneutics?

Second Temple interpretations of Scripture often look very odd to modern readers. That’s because modern readers are missing these interpreters’ worldview context.

Sacred Texts and Paradigmatic Revolutions illustrates how modern readers can work to recover this context.

The volume works with the case studies of the Qumran community and the apostle Paul to illustrate how to recover this context in a way that can be applied in other texts as well.

How to Budget Your Time If It’s Regular and Irregular

If your schedule is regular, budgeting that time is pretty straightforward. You spend the time you know you’ll have on the commitments you think are most important to fit into it.

If your schedule is irregular, you’ll instead work whatever time you have against a fixed and prioritized list of commitments.

But how do you budget your time if your schedule isn’t completely regular and predictable?

Some of it might be. But some of it might also be irregular and unpredictable.

Budgeting Regular and Irregular Time Together

In this case, you can combine the two approaches for regular and irregular time.1

For the portion of your schedule that’s regular, you can plan in advance how you want to spend your time. For the portion that’s irregular, you can work on your commitments in priority order.

When you’re thinking about this combination, though, be careful not to overestimate how much of your schedule is regular. If you do, you’ll be at greater risk of running out of that regular time and still having unmet commitments.

Minimal Regularity amid Irregularity

Instead, think about how your more irregular days and weeks tend to go. If you keep a pretty detailed calendar, it might help to look back over the past few months.

As you do, what you’re looking for is the minimum amount of regularity you tend to have in your schedule, even in more irregular times.

In a good week, maybe you can keep Thursday pretty well free to tackle whatever you need to. But when things go haywire, maybe you only get until 10 am.

If you base your plan on your best case scenario, you’ll be more likely to have that plan get more disrupted more often.

Instead, you can run your regular time budget on a minimum amount of more regular time that you have. That way, your time budget will be less likely to break in more hectic seasons.2

Once you’ve done that, you can then budget your irregular time by a prioritized list of commitments.

Using the two approaches together, you can then have a proactive plan for your time, even if some of it’s regular and some of it’s irregular.

Conclusion

Whether your schedule is pretty fully regular, pretty fully irregular, or some of both, there’s a corresponding strategy to plan for your time.

Whatever shape that plan takes, having that time budget will help ensure you’re giving priority to your most important commitments.

Prioritizing these commitments in your time budget will simultaneously give you a powerful tool to help you avoid “spending” your time at the scheduling equivalent of the impulse buy rack.


  1. As a basis for these categories, I’m drawing on thinking like that described in “How to Make a Zero-Based Budget,” Dave Ramsey, n.d. 
  2. On this principle, see also Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (New York: Crown Business, 2014), 175–84. 

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6 Reasons You Should Read Your Bible

Whatever else it does, biblical studies starts with the Bible.

A lot of academic biblical studies has to do with thinking critically about the biblical text.

It has to do with bringing preconceptions into question and making judgments like historians. It has to do with looking closely at the text again and again.

This work is good and important. Nothing can substitute for this kind of detailed, careful attention to a particular book, a given passage, or even a single verse.

But with this kind of close attention also comes the danger of paying so much attention to the individual trees that the forest fades from view.

There’s a risk of increasing knowledge of a small slice of the biblical literature at the cost of increasing unfamiliarity with other parts.

To counteract this tendency toward unfamiliarity, it’s helpful to cultivate a regular habit of Bible reading.

There are at least six reasons for this. The first three apply whatever language you’re reading in. The last three are special benefits if you’re reading Scripture in its primary languages.

1. To remind yourself that your Bible is Scripture.

True, not all biblical scholars would claim membership in a particular faith community—especially one they see as relevant to their scholarship.

But biblical scholarship is a coherent discipline only because of the faith communities within which biblical texts emerged.

In practice, “Bible” might mean quite a lot of different things. It might be

  • A “Hebrew Bible” without a New Testament,
  • A “New American Standard Bible” with a New Testament but not an apocrypha, or
  • A “New Jerusalem Bible” with both a New Testament and an apocrypha.1

But whatever its specific content, speaking of a “Bible” as such inevitably requires reckoning with the fact that this text has been deeply embedded in the faith and practice of the communities that have cherished it.

Ignoring this history is then precisely a historical oversight. And before critical biblical scholarship lies the task of avoiding historical oversights.

In addition, if you come to the biblical text from one of its communities, reading the text for its own sake can help remind you to cherish it—whatever else you also then do with it, either analytically or critically.

2. To see things you won’t by reading only isolated passages.

Specialists in any given book or corpus have a very real tendency toward functional ignorance of other books and corpora.

The focus involved in specialization is logical. But it shouldn’t come at the cost of not knowing other primary literature that might also be very relevant.

For instance, while Luke and Paul shouldn’t be confused, they are at least both very early witnesses to the memory, faith, and practice of the Jesus movement. So texts like these might, in principle, just have as much to say about each other as would Josephus or Philo.

Readings of Paul might then feasibly be enriched by readings of Luke, just as much as by readings of Josephus or Philo, and vice versa.

But literature you don’t know the contents of can’t help you. So it’s helpful to read widely across the biblical text as also in other primary literature beyond it.

3. To focus more fully and hear things you won’t by reading silently.

When thinking of Bible reading, the default mode is often to think of silent reading. But reading the text aloud can be beneficial too.

In a group, reading aloud helps everyone follow along at the same place. If you’re reading aloud to yourself, that’s not such an upside. You always know where you are.

But if you read the text aloud—even by yourself—you engage another sense in the reading experience. By doing so, you push yourself that much more into the experience of reading.

Have you ever gotten distracted when “reading” a page silently? You then suddenly realize you have no idea what you’ve supposedly just seen there while your mind was wandering.

By contrast, if you’re reading aloud, you’ll probably realize much quicker that your mind has started to wander when you run out of words coming out of your mouth.

By engaging that other sense, you also give yourself another chance to make connections in the text that you might read right over on paper but pick up when hearing yourself repeat the same phrase here or there.

That’s true when reading in English, but it also leads into how Bible reading can help sharpen your familiarity with Scripture’s own languages.

4. To sharpen your languages.

When you read the biblical text in its primary languages, you can practice and sharpen your ability to work with these languages.

You’ll get a better feel for the languages by experiencing them first hand rather than only reading about them in a grammar.

Grammars do, of course, make very profitable reading of their own. 🙂 But they can’t substitute for deep familiarity with the literature they try to describe.

If you’re reading in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, you can even take the opportunity to read the text aloud.

That way, you can practice your pronunciation and develop your “ear” for the language.

Don’t worry if it sounds bad or halting. And don’t worry too much about your choice of a pronunciation system.

As a child, that roughness was part of your learning process for your first language. It will be here too.

But gradually and by degrees, you’ll find yourself making progress. You might even see things in the text that you’ve previously missed because you heard yourself saying the text aloud.

5. To find things you won’t in translation.

To communicate some things in whatever language, translators inevitably have to obscure others.

This fact is wonderfully encapsulated in the Italian proverb “traduttore traditore​”—”a translator is a traitor.”2

From an English translation, you might well learn about a time when a ruler of Egypt dreamed about cows.

But English simply isn’t able to communicate the humorous irony involved in having פרעה (paroh) dream about פרות (paroth; Gen 41:1–2).

Many translations do a great job with rendering the core of what a passage communicates.

But for getting at the fine details both within and across passages, there’s no substitute for reading the original text.

Here also, your lack of familiarity with a biblical text’s primary language can sometimes be an asset.

In English translation, you might well read it overly quickly and so gloss over its implications.

But by reading the text in a primary language, you might pause long enough to consider it more deeply than you otherwise might in English.

6. To learn vocabulary.

When you learn biblical languages, you learn a certain amount of vocabulary that occurs frequently. But even with this under your belt, there is still a huge amount of vocabulary you don’t know.

Continuing to drill larger sets of vocabulary cards might have a place. On the other hand, you may well remember the language better by seeing and learning new words in context.

You’ll also learn new usages, meanings, and functions for the vocabulary you thought you knew.

You may have learned a small handful of glosses for a word. But you’ll start seeing how that term might have a much wider range of possible meanings than what those glosses might have lead you to suspect.

Don’t Settle for the Cliché

Unfortunately, biblical scholars who doesn’t have a regular discipline of Bible reading are common enough to be somewhat cliché.

Whether you find yourself in this boat or whether you’d just like to join biblical scholars who are actively in the text, I’d like to invite you to join my students and me this term as we read the biblical text.

Every term, my students and I do a daily Bible reading exercise together. Each day’s readings are quite short—normally only a few verses.

The reading plan will work whether you’re using a translation or working from the biblical languages themselves.

But the readings are designed to be short enough to complete in the primary languages without taking too much time out of your day.

It would be wonderful to have you join us. To get started, just drop your name and email in the form below.

You’ll get an email delivering this term’s readings directly to you. And you’ll be ready to pick up in the biblical text right where my students and I are.

Feel free also to revisit this post to comment on interesting things you come across in your reading. It would be great to hear what you see as you read through the text.

Looking forward to reading with you!


  1. For further discussion, see my “Rewriting Prophets in the Corinthian Correspondence: A Window on Paul’s Hermeneutic,” BBR 22.2 (2012): 226–27. 
  2. For making me aware of this proverb, I’m grateful to Moisés Silva. 

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