“I wish there was more time in a day.”
“I wish there was another day in the week.”
“There’s just not enough time to get everything done.”
These are common statements, and I’ve said them all. I’m sure many of you have as well.
Most of our resources are flexible and fluid— money, space, energy...but not time.
We can’t do a thing to add or subtract time from our days.
To be functional and lead at the highest levels possible, you must learn to maximize your time.
For this, an optimized schedule is required. I’m talking mandatory.
No one who is highly productive is winging it.
Usually, for the highest achievers, every minute is budgeted.
And so, let’s talk about how to become a scheduling genius and effectively manage your time.
I believe you can get more done with a lot less stress if you set up your schedule in the right way.
Let’s talk about how.
Match Your Most Productive Time to Your Most Important Tasks
When seeking to optimize your calendar, the first question to ask is this: “What are the most important things for me to be doing?”
This is different for all of us.
- If you are a small group pastor, it might be meeting with volunteers.
- If you are a preacher, it might be studying for sermons.
- If you are an executive, it might be strategic thinking.
Take a minute and make a shortlist of what you believe are your most important tasks.
The second question to ask is, “When, in the day, am I most productive and creative?”
If you’re like most people, it’s either early in the morning or in the evening.
But, maybe for you, it’s 1:00 PM.
It doesn’t matter when it is. What’s important is you’re aware of when it is.
For me, it’s 7-10 AM.
Here’s what you need to do to become a scheduling master: Match your most important tasks to your most productive and creative times.
Then, schedule it.
Don’t let anything else invade this time in your calendar.
For me, I block nearly every morning for sermon prep.
I use this time for study and practice.
Only emergencies can interrupt.
This is a way to maximize your particular contribution to your church.
Schedule What You Have to Do
So, I have an injury.
It turns out I played too many sports or something.
My doctor has prescribed physical therapy.
I have the exercises. I know how to do them. I’ve tried them.
I’m not currently doing physical therapy.
The other day, I asked myself, “Why are you not doing your physical therapy?!? Your injury isn’t going to get better. What is wrong with you?”
Then it hit me.
I’m not doing it because it’s not on my calendar. I haven’t scheduled it.
Here’s the deal. There are things you have to do, and it’s possible they aren’t your favorite things to do.
It might be recording your hours. It might be filling out a required report. It might be administrative tasks. It might be taking out the trash.
You don’t like them, but they are required.
My guess is you find ways of forgetting or postponing these tasks and have found yourself in trouble for not completing them before the assigned deadline.
I have a solution. Put those tasks on your calendar.
I’m telling you. It will save you.
Don’t Drain Yourself
You know those days when you get to 5:00 PM and crawl to your car totally drained?
Yup. Me too.
A few years ago, in an attempt to be productive, I scheduled all my one-on-one meetings on Tuesday afternoons.
I thought it was brilliant.
But then, without fail, I was almost dead by the end of every Tuesday.
I ended up hating Tuesdays.
It took me a while to figure out one-on-one meetings are not my favorite.
They drain me of energy.
And, putting them all back-to-back was a surefire way to drain me completely.
Here’s how you avoid this mistake:
- Make a list of all the tasks that are part of your job.
- Then, grab a green, yellow and red highlighter.
- Next, highlight in green all the tasks that give you energy, in red all the tasks that drain you, and yellow for the tasks that make you say, “meh.”
- After you’ve done this, analyze your calendar and look for times that you have back-to-back “red” tasks. These will drain you. My Tuesday afternoon was a big block of red.
My takeaway from this experience was never schedule back-to-back one-on-ones.
Ideally, I have only one one-on-one per afternoon or at least a buffer of some kind in between.
Whatever it is that drains you, don’t stack those tasks together!
Standardize Your Schedule
One last tip: Use the same schedule every week.
You might be saying, “Well, that sounds incredibly boring.”
Trust me on this one. It’s so freeing.
First off, you save yourself time and energy because you don’t have to figure out when to do what.
Second, when you standardize your schedule, your brain and body get into a weekly rhythm.
You’ll find yourself operating with more speed and efficiency.
It’s the power of habits at work.
Third, setting up infrequent meetings becomes so much easier.
Instead of dealing with all the moving parts of your entire schedule, you can say, “I always have Wednesday at noon open and Thursdays at 3:00 PM open."
Effective time management is a learned skill and an essential skill if you hope to succeed in your role.
There are many tips and tricks to help.
These four are a few I’ve personally found to be game-changers.
What has worked for you? Please share in the comments below.