Dec 15, 2021 • 7M

Time Management for Busy Pastors, Part 3

Beginning to see interruptions as “divine appointments” and growing in serving those who interrupt you is pastoral growth all in its own right.

Jeremy Hoover
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Last week, I taught you about building block one in my time management system, scheduling your week so you know what is happening. If you’ve been doing the exercises, you should have a time map of how you spent your work time before you began reading this series. You should have run through a week where you scheduled your time. If you’ve done those things, you are hopefully already finding some growth in your time management.

If you haven’t done those exercises, I really want you to spend some time thinking about why. It could be that you are already skilled in time management and this isn’t anything new. If that’s the case, I appreciate you reading this series and kindly request that you share it with one or two other colleagues who might struggle with time management.

But if this is a problem area for you at all, and I am providing you with free teaching that could be helpful to you, what do you have to lose by giving it a chance?

Growth is difficult. But as pastors, we are constantly challenging others to grow in their faith. And growth means change. I implore you to do the hard work that goes beyond just reading these articles. Block out some time and do the exercises. You owe it to yourself and your church to continue your own growth. Then, after you’ve done the exercises, come back and continue reading. 

Building Block #2: Plan your week with margin so you have time for interruptions

If the first key to time management is knowing what you're going to be doing, the second key to time management is acknowledging and planning for the fact that you're going to be interrupted in your work. This is where I got caught many times as a young pastor. Each week, I had two or three lessons to prepare for, hospital and general pastoral visits to make, and administrative work to complete. I would schedule these things in my calendar, but I made a crucial mistake: I didn’t plan time for interruptions. 

The Cost of Interruptions & Distractions | Ethos3 - A Presentation Training  and Design Agency

This meant that if a church member stopped by my office for a visit, which I really enjoyed, I found myself behind in my work after they left. If I was needed at the hospital, again, I was leaving my tightly-scheduled week to go and serve. Occasionally, a Bible class teacher would call in sick and I had to quickly prepare a lesson to fill in for them, and that was time taken away from my constructed schedule. 

When this happens, many people think that having a schedule means your time constraints are too tight and you need to be more flexible. The problem with this is, that more flexibility often means less scheduling, and less scheduling can lead to filling your time with the low-productivity and non-essential tasks that end up taking up too much time. 

My solution for this is to schedule your day and week as tightly as you can, but to schedule some margin into your week so that when the inevitable interruptions arise, you are free to serve without jettisoning your schedule. If you plan on being in the office all day, schedule about six hours of work instead of eight. This may seem counterintuitive to you. I'm not saying to shortchange the church. But, if you plan for six hours of work and you are diligently working during that time, you will find things to do to fill that remaining time. There is always more time for sermon prep. There are always congregants who are available to have a quick coffee with.  There are always people to be called or people to be visited and there is always administration that can be better attended to. These important things often go by the wayside because we find ourselves running short on time.

And, if an interruption or emergency comes up, you will be able to serve without worrying about getting the rest of your work done. Time management is about building discipline into your life. We can give more attention to both our scheduled tasks and other impromptu things if we build margin into our weeks. Don't account for every hour that you intend on being out of your home and in the office. Put the big rocks into place and then build in some margin. 

There have been countless times where I've been doing some sermon prep and been interrupted by needing to dash up to the hospital or by a congregant needing to have a conversation about something. You’ve likely experienced this, too. But when you learn how to do what I'm teaching you in this article, you will be able to adapt to interruptions and serve without stress or worry and be fully present and attend to the person who needs to be served at that moment. And then you will be able to come back to what you were doing and have the space and the time to jump back in and get done what you needed to get done. Building margin into your day, and your week, will be one of the healthiest things you can do. Planning for interruptions is key, because you will be interrupted. It's not a matter of “if,” it's a matter of “when.” 

Beginning to see interruptions as “divine appointments” and growing in serving those who interrupt you is pastoral growth all in its own right. 

As always, let me know how I can serve you in this.

Love First,

Jeremy

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