Most pastors, worship leaders, student ministry leaders and other church ministry staff are in charge of their own time. This can be both good and bad. The scale can tip either way – all work and no play or too much procrastination and loosey goosey scheduling. This can leave us feeling bogged down at both home and in ministry, usually doing second rate work under the gun.
In addition to being your own time manager, a ministry schedule is not always easy to navigate. There are demands for us that go beyond the typical cut and dried 9-5 job. In a life role that includes juggling a volunteer team, visioning, planning, serving and leading, it can become overwhelming.
If you’re like me, you get all geared up for great time management, it works for a while, then you get overwhelmed again. I’m learning over and over again – it’s an ongoing process.
So, hopefully without adding huge, crazy systems that overwhelm you, here are three big ideas for full time ministry leaders in regards to effective time management. Try adding an element of each of these into your life this week:
Develop Simple Routines and Habits:
Ministry leaders must develop good routines and habits for the ongoing ministry roles they need to fill. You already have habits and routines. The question is, are they enhancing your schedule and time stewardship? Routines not only help you, but they help those who are serving with you.
Everyone’s best energy during the day is different. For me, the mornings are amazing times and help start the day strong. If you have read anything I have written, you can bet it was written between 5 and 7 am over the last four or five years. Most all of my prayer time, Bible reading time, exercise time, and daily to do list planning happens before 8 am. [A Morning Routine That Helps Me Accomplish More]
Little habits, stacked on top of little habits, can make a world of difference. Picking out clothes for the next day, setting out keys and other things you need to take, waking up and putting your tennis shoes on whether you think you will exercise or not. These things all become time-saving habits and help move you toward your goals in life.
After a while, you don’t have to think about habits, they are just part of your life. Incidentally, that’s why bad habits are so difficult to break! Do your best to fill your life with small, good little habits.
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: The Power Of Habit, Charles Duhigg
Plan For Un-Interrupted Deep Work:
Carve out the space you will need to accomplish the most important things. Start with 90 minutes. If you can invest the first 90 minutes in the office working on the most important project, it very well may be about all the time you need. Most folks are distracted. They pick up their phones every six minutes. They check accounts or email every time they sit at their desk. Try walking into your office, getting things in place, leave your phone in your car if that’s a temptation, then work for 90 minutes without getting up or changing projects. If you did this for four mornings a week, can you imagine what you could accomplish?
There isn’t a magic time slot for this 90 minute period, it all depends on your daily energy levels. For you, it might be late morning or just after lunch. But, I have found the freshness of the morning, right out of the box is when this is best accomplished for me.
Plan ahead to make the most of these 90 minutes. Block off your calendar, close your door, arrange for someone to answer church phones if needed, and let your team know what you are doing. You will become addicted to this productive time for writing, reading, preparing, planning, visioning, thinking and focus.
Sometimes, with all the interruptions that occur during a day, this might be the most you get done, but often, it will feel like enough!
After you have practiced the art of 90 uninterrupted minutes as many days a week as you are able, you will learn what it takes to dive into “deep work” mode in shorter spurts as you have time. For the twenty and thirty minutes time blocks while you’re waiting for your next scheduled activity, you can jump into deep work or be preparing to do the deep work project the next day.
The culprit of deep work is assuming we will get to it later. It won’t happen unless you plan it.
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: Deep Work, Cal Newport
Kindly Say No:
Think of your life schedule like a closet full of clothes. We often ask the wrong questions when going through them. We say, “will I ever wear this again”? But the right question is, “Would I buy this now, if I didn’t own it”?
Our schedules become full and we keep it all!
The best way to deal effectively with your time is to take charge of it. Kindly say “no” to the things that don’t fit into your scope of life and ministry. These can change season to season.
In every season of life, you will have to determine those things to which you will need to say “no”. I once heard Andy Stanley say he accepted few outside speaking engagements while his kids were growing up at home. It was an intentional step toward guarding his time and schedule.
When you say “yes” to one thing, you are always saying “no” to another.
In ministry, there are seasons where you are obligated to give it all! Understanding spouses and families can take a rough patch during heavy times of work, but wise ministry leaders work hard to bring harmony after those times – being a home a little more for a couple days, planning some time away, etc.
Saying no comes from a confidence of knowing what you really want to accomplish in life!
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: Essentialism, Greg McKeown
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: Time Management From The Inside Out
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: Time Power, Brian Tracy
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: Life Work Balance, Andy Stanley
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