Examples and Resources for Habit Formation and Time Management

When choosing which habits to practice, consider your schedule, commitments, and values. Everyone has regular responsibilities. For me, my primary responsibilities include taking care of my family (particularly my children), working my paying job, and serving my church. I believe that habit formation and time management are vital to managing all of these responsibilities well. Additionally, as Christians, I believe our primary purpose for habit formation and good time management should be to increasingly love God, neighbor, and obey the Great Commission.

To get started, think of habit formation as a three-tiered system. Below, I’ve listed the habits I practice regularly (or attempt to practice regularly) as an example. I will also include links to some helpful resources at the end.

First Tier: Keystone Habits and Spiritual Disciplines

The first tier of habit formation is keystone habits and spiritual disciplines. These are the habits most likely to lead us to love God, neighbor, and fulfill the Great Commission. I’ve also included my keystone habit (getting up early) in this tier.

  • Keystone Habit: Waking Up Early: By itself, the habit of getting up early does not directly lead me to any of the purposes for habit formation listed above. However, this is the habit that allows me to accomplish every other first-tier habit listed below, and largely every habit in the second and third tiers. As a stay-at-home mom who also works full-time from home, getting up around 4:15-4:30 every morning usually gives me enough time to pray, read my Bible, and get some work done for my job before my kids get up.

  • Quiet Time: The first thing I do in the morning is pray and read my Bible. The habits (or spiritual disciplines) are the reason I get up so early. Unhurried time to pray and read my Bible is vital to every other aspect of my daily life and the habits that most directly influence how i love God, others, and live on mission.

  • The Story: I have written on this before, but in addition to our personal Bible study and prayer, my husband and I have been trying to develop a time of family worship with our kids. Right now, that looks like reading a story from The Jesus Storybook Bible with them every night before bed. We have already seen our kids, particularly our oldest, become familiar with the stories and talk about them outside of this time. I believe this habit meets the “loving others” and “fulfill the Great Commission” motivations, as teaching my kids Bible stories is both an act of love and evangelism. But it also fosters my love of God as I am continually reminded through simple stories of what He has done for me.

  • Fellowship: I define fellowship as both attending/participating in corporate worship and hospitality in my own home. Corporate worship directly impacts my love for God and others, as well as spurs me on to obey the Great Commission. Though this does not happen frequently, when I am away from our church for a time (such as this summer when we missed three weeks for a mission trip and my niece’s birthday), I notice a difference in my mindset. When my focus so easily shifts to myself during the week, participating in corporate worship points me back to Christ, serving points me back to others, and fellowship is both encouraging and helps me keep others’ needs at the forefront of my mind.

    In the same way, hospitality is a way that I directly love others by opening our home to share a meal and good conversation. While we can definitely improve on inviting unbelievers into our home, this is a way that we can share the gospel with those who might not be comfortable setting foot into our church building (yet).

Second Tier Habits

My second tier of habit formation are habits that may not directly foster my love for God, neighbor, or fulfilling the Great Commission. However, these habits make it easier for me to practice first-tier habits, which do have a direct influence on those three motivations.

  • Cleaning: I read a tweet recently about hospitality and having a clean home. While I can’t remember exactly what it said, the tweet’s author was making the point that an insistence on having a clean home is detrimental to practicing hospitality. I largely agree with the sentiment of the tweet. If believers are to make hospitality a habit, we need to let go of the notion that our home must look perfect in order to do so.

    To be clear—I do not think that our homes must be perfectly organized or even very clean to practice hospitality. If we have to choose between a clean home or a welcoming home, we should choose the latter. That said, I also believe that having a clean, if somewhat cluttered, house helps me serve those who live here and help those who visit feel more comfortable. I also think that maintaining a reasonable level of cleanliness helps me to steward the home God has given me. Because I’m not naturally a very organized person and I really hate cleaning, I’ve tried to build cleaning my home into a habit to make it easier to maintain and mostly ready to have people in our home at anytime.

  • Cooking: Another area where I’ve been historically weak is cooking meals at home. There are a lot of factors that contributed to this, but eating out became a legitimate bad habit for us and something I wanted to change. Thanks to some meal-planning advice from friends, I’ve recently had a bit of a breakthrough in meal planning. Over the last month or so, we’ve significantly reduced the number of times we eat out.

    While this may not seem like a huge deal, meal planning and cooking at home has been better for our budget, which frees us up to be more generous. When I’m in the habit of cooking at home, it makes it easier to have people over, as I often have a freezer stocked with hamburgers or spaghetti sauce that can turn into an easy meal for extra people. It also allows me to serve others by sharing meals with them during a time of need. For example, I was able to send some homemade chicken soup from my to some friends who were sick.

Third Tier Habits

Third tier habits are those that I feel are important, but don’t necessarily check any of the motivation boxes. Third tier habits fall into two categories for me: the “try your best” or the “don’t forget” habits. The “try your best” habits are those that I try to practice regularly, but often take a backseat to first and second-tier habits. While I always seek to manage and maximize my time, I still only have so much. The days are full of interruptions, little people, and tasks that demand my attention. The “don’t forget” habits are those that I know I need to do, but because of the aforementioned demands to my attention, I often forget in the shuffle.

Some of the “try your best” habits include: exercise, fasting, drinking enough water, getting a set amount of steps, and writing for my own website. Most, as you can see, involve habits for my health. While I know many would scoff that I put these habits in the third tier, I will say that at least half of these I manage to practice (almost) daily. I believe that being a good steward of my health is a way that I love God more, however, the third tier is just where these habits have to sit for me right now.

Some of the “don’t forget” habits are all things that are silly, but I legitimately forget to do if I don’t write them down. They include things like brushing my kids’ teeth and taking my daily medicine for a minor health issue.


Finally, here is a list of helpful resources for habit formation, time management, and habit tracking.


Apps and Other Tools

  • Loop Habit Tracker: I like this app because it is super bare-bones. There are no ads, you simply list your habits and check them off each day. It allows you to set reminders and view stats as you track your progress.

    Note: This is an app that I downloaded from a privacy-minded, third-party app store called F-Droid. As far as I know, this can only be used on Android phones. If you’re not able to use this particular app, there are lots of others that you can find in the app store for your phone.

  • Todoist: Todoist is what I use to manage my daily and ongoing tasks. I like todoist because I can sort tasks by priority level, which helps me know what tasks are more urgent than others. Todoist also has several integrations. I use the one for Outlook, which means I can add work emails directly from Outlook to my task list. There is a habit tracking integration for those who may want to consolidate apps. (Full disclosure- I don’t like the habit tracking function in todoist but it’s there for those who may want to use it.)

  • Eisenhower Matrix: The Eisenhower Matrix “helps you decide on and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or not do at all.” This is the framework I try to use when I sort my tasks. As someone who tends to overload myself with tasks and view all tasks as urgent, this is both a difficult and necessary tool that I use to help me manage my time well. Todoist’s priority feature works well with this tool.

  • Predictable Success Styles Quiz: It may seem odd to put a personality test on a habit formation and time management resource list, but out of any personality test I’ve ever taken, this one has helped me become more self aware of how I view tasks (and therefore how I manage my time).

    Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash