Maybe you do. For most of us, our time in seminary was a dance (or interpretive movement if you're Baptist) between school, family, church, and work. We had to learn how to navigate the demands for our time between competing priorities, always working to make sure that we did our best.
But it's not always that pressure cooker. And when we find ourselves serving in ministry we won't be finding ourselves working with a schedule printed on a wall. I loved that when I worked Retail in college and seminary. I knew when I'd be working, what time, who with, what time I'd be getting off, and how many times I'd be getting up at 4am to open the store. I've never seen a time clock since I've been in vocational ministry. But we must manage our time well if we're going to be faithful and fruitful in our calling.
Prioritize - As a senior pastor, Sunday comes every 7 days whether I like it or not. And every Sunday I've got to be ready to preach. So there's a priority to ensure that I've spent adequate time preparing and studying to be ready for Sunday. Some people take a whole day to write and study, others take time throughout the week. Whatever they do, they must make it a priority. But managing time doesn't stop with one priority. You need to balance a number of them. You'll need to prioritize time to prepare for the meetings you have, the luncheon you're attending, etc.
Block Your Time - The best way I've found to schedule my day has been to work it in a sequence of time blocks. I do my calendaring on my computer, so if interruptions or emergencies happen and I have to rearrange my schedule, all I have to do is slide the blocks around to make them work. And sometimes that block gets slid to tomorrow. I've found the best way to block is 15/30 minute increments. It allows a lot of freedom and mobility in case things need changing.
Communicate - Nothing is more awkward than someone looking for you and for no one to know where you are and what you're doing. If you have a good assistant, they'll cover for you, but that's not managing your time well. Communicate when you'll be in the office, when you'll be working off site (I'm spending time today with the patron saint of sermon preparation, St. Arbucks), when you'll be making visits, when you're off, when you're out of town, etc.
Limit Distractions - The constant ding of our email or Facebook can be an ongoing distraction. Close the window. Put your phone on silent. Turn off push notifications. One thing I've found helpful is scheduling email time, and my mail program stays closed until that time. I've also set my phone up to show the text on the screen so I can know if it's something to deal with now or later (hint - your spouse is always a "now" to deal with). It's not perfect. But when you have the attention span of a squirrel, it takes some planning!
Be Accountable - We're accountable first to God for the way we use our time, second to our family, and third to our church. If we find ourselves misusing our time and not working hard (or the opposite and becoming a workaholic - I talked to one guy yesterday who said his church was proud of its pastor having a heart attack and coming back to the office), we're going to be out of rhythm and one of our accountability systems needs to step in. If you're spending too much time at work, let your family speak into your life. If you're spending too little time working, let your leadership and godly counsel speak into your life. Finally, be sensitive to God's accountability in your life with how your time is managed.
How have you managed your time well in ministry?
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Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.