When I was a kid, we had all kinds of toys. One of my favorites was called TinkerToys. We’d empty the box and put things together all day. Then my dad would tell us to clean up. But we couldn’t get all the pieces back in the box. It was then that my dad taught me an important principle. “To fit everything in the box, you have to put the big pieces in the box first. Then everything else will fit.

Life is like TinkerToys. You have to put the big pieces in first. Dawson Trotman once said, “The real difficulty is not the lack of time but what we do with the time we have. Since we can never accumulate, stockpile, replace or turn back time, we must learn to control it as it passes. If we fail to manage our time, nothing else in our lives can or will be managed.”

Time management is vital to those who want to live out their priorities. There is a 5-step process that you can go through to make sure your priorities are represented on your daily calendar.

1. Craft a Personal Mission Statement that reflects your priorities.

A personal mission statement simply expresses what you are currently accomplishing or hope to accomplish in your life. It will help you plan your future. It will give you objective criteria by which you can say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to opportunities that present themselves. My personal mission statement is: To love and serve God and others with all my gifts and resources, helping every person to grow closer to Jesus Christ.

2. Determine Major Goals that will combine to make the mission statement functional.

These are goals that you set and never change – at least not for a long, long time. They are big, long-term dreams that might take months, years, or decades to achieve. Your goals will combine to help accomplish your Personal Mission Statement. These goals could deal with some or all of the following areas of your life: spiritual, financial, vocational, political, social, personal, physical, family. One of my life goals is: Read through the Bible 50 times.

3. Determine Intermediate Goals that will help you reach your major goals.

Intermediate goals are stepping stones to major goals. Several intermediate goals stacked uk and accomplished equal one major goal. For example, since my life goal is to read the Bible through 50 times, I’m trying to read it through every 90 days.

4. Determine Short-Term Goals that will help you reach your intermediate goals.

The next question you have to ask yourself is: “What can I do right now to get the ball rolling toward that first Intermediate Goal?” Your answers will be a list of Short-Term Goals. For example, since one of my intermediate goals is to read the Bible every 90 days, my short term goal is to read the Bible 30 minutes every day.

5. Determine a Schedule that will accomplish short-term goals and screen out unnecessary activities.

Place your short-term goals on your calendar. If you don’t have one, get one! You might use an app for this. Examine each of the short-term goals you came up with in #4. Many of them can be tied to a specific time-to-complete or deadline. Put those on your calendar. This is a critical key to mastering your time. It will enable you to say ‘no’ to other things. If you schedule the activities that reflect your priority structure first, people won’t be able to fill up your days and nights with pursuits you don’t really value. If you don’t schedule your days, someone else will do it for you – and you probably won’t like it.

You and the Lord – not everyone else around you – need to be the ones who decide the big pieces of your life.

You can read some of my other articles about time: If I Could Save Time in a Bottle, Spend Time or Invest Time, 7 Minutes with God