Time Management 101 For Busy Church Leaders
Time - there never seems to be enough of it. Most busy church leaders find themselves wishing for an extra hour or three. The number one request that I receive from my boss when I ask if he needs anything else needed is “more time in the day, please.”
While I don’t have a magic wand I can wave to give people more time, I can offer some helpful and practical time management tips from my experience as an Executive Assistant.
1. The calendar is king.
One of the most important and useful tools to master in time management is the calendar. There is an endless availability of electronic calendar applications available for free download or a minimal fee, depending on your preference. If you’re not already using a calendar app that can sync between your phone and computer, I highly suggest you get one. Even if you keep a paper agenda book, many of these calendar tips are still applicable.
A. Schedule more time for an appointment than you think you need.
Say you have three phone calls to make, and they’ll only take fifteen minutes each. Schedule each call in thirty-minute increments. This way if one of the calls runs a bit long, it won’t cause you to run behind on your other calls.
B. Schedule breaks!
If you know there is a really busy day coming up, set aside time for at least two solid breaks, as well as lunch. Mandating a break via a calendar appointment will make it easier to stop whatever you are doing and actually eat some lunch or rest for a minute. In the long run, these breaks will help keep you mentally and physically going for the rest of your busy day and prevent you from getting burnt out.
C. Create different calendars for different aspects of your life.
Many calendar apps allow you to create multiple accounts and show them on the same calendar in different colors. Even having just two accounts –personal and work – can be extremely helpful. Then if you look at your calendar quickly and see you have an important family outing in one color, you won’t mistake it for another work call in another color. Be sure to note “black-out dates” on both accounts for safe measure (e.g. no traveling on a day when you have a doctor appointment or no important meetings or calls during vacation time).
D. Make notes.
Many calendar apps have a notes section available for each appointment that you make. Take advantage of this feature! It’s better to make a quick note about a call – who, what, why – as you create the event than to not remember what the call is about a week later. Note who you are speaking with, who is initiating the call, what number you are calling, and why the call is needed/what you are speaking about.
Another important tool in time management is your staff. Delegate tasks and projects to make the best use of your time. Know your team’s strengths, and trust them to take care of projects that they can better accomplish with their skill set. Sure, you can put together an Excel spreadsheet of volunteers, but your colleague who works in Excel all day might be able to do it in half the time. If you have an assistant, trust them to take care of the details of day-to-day tasks. Once you delegate, let it go. Your brainpower is better served elsewhere than micromanaging the project you just handed off to a capable colleague.
3. Prioritize your focus and use a list.
Set aside a little time each week to actually plan and prioritize. For some, this may be something you need to do first or last thing every day; for others, once a month might be better. Use this planning time to make a physical to-do list. There are a lot of great apps available to help create checklists. Check out Wunderlist, Quest, or even the classic Notes app in your smart phone. There’s also my personal favorite: pen and paper. Use what works best for you.
Next, go through that to-do list and note which projects and tasks are actually most important or time-sensitive. Pay special attention to any tasks or projects with a specific deadline. If there are smaller tasks that need to be done daily, such as checking and responding to emails, schedule a specific amount of time dedicated solely to the quick tasks. Once that time is up for the day, move on to the more time-consuming projects. This can help you feel more productive and keep your inbox from overflowing while you work on a project that requires a lot of concentration.
4. Schedule rest.
The most important thing you can do to better manage your time is to schedule rest. This includes allowing time for small breaks during the day, as well as time completely away from work. A workday break could be anything from a stroll around the block for some fresh air, to a 10-minute power nap, to standing up and stretching at your desk. If you do these small things regularly throughout the week, you’ll notice a huge difference in your energy levels and physical wellbeing.
When planning vacation time, be sure to actually add it to your calendar. This serves as a reminder of the upcoming break and can be helpful in prioritizing projects leading up to that date. Make sure your team knows you’ll be out of the office and that it is to be valued as protected time, meaning minimal or no calls or emails.
Scheduling and prioritizing rest helps to prevent burnout. In the long run, you’ll do better work more efficiently if you allow yourself time to recharge mentally and physically.
Try these time management tips and you might be smiling at your calendar sooner than you think. What other tips do you have for time management?
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