This quarter of the year begins with thoughts of freedom. The 4th of July and all it symbolizes is in full force. The American flag flies prominently, and parades are held in many cities. Picnics with hamburgers, hot dogs, and all of the trimmings are the normal food fare. Homemade ice cream is churned, and beach time is in full swing. In the South especially, the 4th of July marks the real beginning of summer. There is freedom from school for many students. Even those students in year-round schools have a somewhat more relaxed feeling in the summer, with beach, lake, and pool outings to look forward to. Freedom rings.

There are other examples of freedom. What about the freedom to choose who we will vote for in the upcoming general election? While I will not make any political statements about individual candidates, we certainly have the opportunity – and many would say the responsibility – to vote. Voting is one of our most important freedoms. We should carefully consider who can best lead our country into the future, and vote our conscience. For the benefit of our country and our freedoms, may the best person win.

There is another freedom we all have, and one I wonder if we consider often enough. We all have the freedom to decide how to spend our time. As I attended our oldest granddaughter’s graduation from elementary school recently, I wondered, as many of you likely have also, where did the years go? The quote, “The days pass slowly but the years fly by,” was in my mind as I pondered, how could Mary Grace already be the age to enter middle school? It seems like yesterday that we were awaiting her arrival in the hospital delivery area, watching her take her first step, enter preschool, kindergarten, and then first grade. Now, middle school! We will blink, and be at her high school graduation. Scary.

And it may be even scarier to think about what we have done, or not done, in these same years. How have we spent our time? Have we been good stewards of the time we are graced to have? I am probably like most others who would say, “In some cases yes, and in others, no.” Well, those years are gone, never to be recovered. But the days, months, and years in front of us can be spent intentionally, if we choose to do so. Let’s start with July 2016.

July marks the second half of the year. Instead of spending too much time thinking about what we determined to do in the first half of this year that we have not accomplished, let’s focus instead on the remaining half of the year. We have six months left in 2016, time in which we can do amazing things. But only if we not just plan to, but commit to. Commitments are stronger than plans.

Since structure helps me stay on task, I recommend a structure for this commitment that can help us be successful. Since I often structure things in sets of three, I recommend we focus our time commitments for the remaining months of 2016 on three areas: personal, family, and work. These three areas are important areas for most of us. There are other important areas as well, such as faith, community, social, financial, physical, educational, etc. If any of these speak to your heart more than the three areas I recommend, by all means, select those. You may note that most of the areas in the second group listed can be included in the first. The difference is really in the degree of specificity.

I am very clear about how I will spend my time the remainder of 2016. In the area of personal, I commit to lose the remaining weight that I need to lose to be at my Weight Watchers goal again, which is very doable. In the area of family, I commit to spend quality time with certain family members. This is also very doable. In the area of work, I commit to book speaking and consulting engagements, the revenue of which will fund at least my monthly expenses. There should be no reason why this commitment can’t also be met. I hope that I will do more than just these, but I will keep these three commitments. Will you be my accountability partner? I will report my progress to you at the end of these six months. 

Now, how about you? What are your time commitments for the remainder of 2016? Make three commitments to yourself, write them down, and keep them. You will be so glad that you did.

Remember, “The days pass slowly but the years fly by.”