Time…seems like these days, we never have enough time. Lots of stuff to do, everyone is busy, busy, busy! We could all use more time…whether it be our time with the Lord, our spouse, children, family, job, recreation or simply sleep.
For me, time management begins with setting priorities. Here is my priority list. You may or may not agree with my priorities. However, it is a good idea to sit down every once in a while and write down your priorities. This little exercise, at the very minimum, forces you to think about the priorities in your life.
- Time with the Lord
- Time with Spouse
- Time with Children
- Time To Work
- Time to Serve Others
- Time for Fun
- Time for Yourself
- Time to Sleep
The problem is that so often priorities get rearranged…sometimes by me, sometimes by others, sometimes by simple default due to lack of desire. What? Yup, I said lack of desire. Sometimes, we run so hard, do so many things, juggle so many balls that our priorities become less and less important to us.
Here are some of the things that help me:
- Make a list. I write my priorities down. Then I review the list occasionally to make sure that I am following them. Within the list of priorities, I have daily lists of things that need to get done that day. Yes, I am a list man. Try it, it works. I cross items off my list as I get them done. It may seem trivial, but you do fell a sense of accomplishment as you cross of items from your list. I try my best to stick with my list. However, I do understand that ministry is “managing the interruptions” (thanks to John McFadden for that bit of advice). If something falls off my list for the day or is not completed, I then try to get that item done the first thing on the next day.
- Don’t over schedule. Boy, I could go on for a while about overachieving here, but I will not. When planning out your priorities, your day, your week; be realistic. Do not overextend yourself. You are not superman/superwoman and no one expects you to be one. If they do, then they are wrong and you need to tell them so. Be realistic on your expectations of yourself. Please do not get me wrong here, you still have responsibilities at home, work and with family that must be met. Build in some free or down time in your schedule. Take time to pray, take a walk, talk to your wife, your children, your friends, read a book…think…plan.
- Don’t get caught up in someone else’s dream. I must be careful here not to hurt anyone’s feelings here. However, have you ever been in a meeting at work or church and there is someone who always has the new ideas? The best plan? Before you know it everyone has their priorities changed and everyone is working on someone else’s plan or dream, while their priorities are being left unattended. Be careful not to get caught up in someone else’s dream as it may mess up your priorities.
- Learn to say no. Boy, this is a hard one for me. I am a people pleaser and it is really hard for me to tell people no. This is especially difficult in ministry. I recently had to tell a good friend of mine that I did not attend some ministry training because as a father and grandfather I had to get our family back to normal As a result, I had to pull back from some of my ministry commitments. I had to stick with my priorities. His priority for me was different than my priority. I needed to say no and say it without guilt.
- Planning is important. There is an old management says… “plan your work, work your plan”. This is so true…not only our jobs or our work, but so true for our home and family life as well. It is true of our daily tasks as well as our projects. Concerning projects…think through projects before starting them…preplan…jot notes. There are times that I may think through a project for several weeks before I put anything down on a piece of paper.
- Don’t get distracted. We are surrounded by distractions. Ok, I am being real honest here…guys, how many times have you been distracted from a conversation with your wife by a commercial on television? So true. We live in a world of short snippets designed to get our attention. Stay focused; avoid distractions, work at it until the task is done.
- Sometimes, you just need to close your door. This applies to work as well as home. Ok, so we live in the South and this may be more of a “northern” way of doing things. However, a closed door does send a message that what I am doing is important to ma and I do not want to be disturbed. All well and good. It may be a time of study, without distraction, a time of preparation, a time of planning, or maybe just a time with God.
- Handle each piece of paper once. This is an old piece of advice I received many years ago. Think about this…handle each piece of mail (snail or email), incoming message or phone message once. Many years ago, I would read each incoming message, then set it aside and do something with it later. I found out that following the advice of handling something once that I could move about 80% of the pieces of paper, messages, etc. off of my desk. The remaining 20% is much easier to fit into my schedule.
- Set routines. Ok, by now you can see that I am a pretty predictable guy. Gail often talks about the time when we were young and our children were small that I would come home for lunch and have Ravioli for lunch every day. The same thing. Well, I like Ravioli. It tastes good and it worked for me. I saw no need for change. I set routines…at work; I answer emails and voice messages first thing in the morning. The rest of the morning is taken up with routine tasks of ministry. In the afternoon, I work on projects. It is a simple plan that works for me. I do the same for my home tasks. It may not be super exciting and new, but the job gets done on time.
- Minimize Meetings. We live in a world of meetings. Sometimes in my past life, I even thought that I got paid by the meeting. Meeting are necessary to communicate a message, coordinate activities to priorities, etc. however, my hones opinion is that once they go beyond an hour, time begins to be wasted. Try to minimize your meeting time. Set an agenda. Be prepared. Plan the meeting ahead of time. Communicate clearly through the meeting. Maintain order throughout the meeting such that the group does not go off on a tangent. Keep the main thing the main thing. Understand, of, course, there may need to be time for input and discussion.
These are some of the things that I have learned over the past years. We are each unique on how we handle our time. One thing that I know for sure is that we cannot make up for lost time. We must make the most of our time today. We should be good “stewards” of our time. After all, who really owns our time? The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. Psalms 24:1 (NKJV)