In last week's article I wrote about the importance of time management. Later that week, I had a conversation with another colleague who was having trouble getting his lessons done. This colleague deserved some grace because he was responsible for most of the weekly lessons for his church. He was teaching a Sunday morning Bible class, preaching a Sunday morning sermon and a Sunday evening sermon, and then teaching again at a midweek Bible study. He had a lot going on.
But because I had been writing these articles, and it was fresh on my mind, I said to him, “Let's break down what your week looks like. What do you do each day? How do you spend that time?”
We found that although he was relatively disciplined and was spending time working on his lessons each day, there was a lot of time that he spent browsing the internet, chasing rabbit trails, checking email unnecessarily, and doing things that filled his time but were low productivity or even non-essential tasks.
So I shared with him the three things that I'm going to share with you in this series, and asked him how his week would look if he did these. I'm going to share that outline with you at the end of this series because I don't want to get ahead of you doing the necessary work to discover for yourself how you spend your time and where you need to grow and change.
Before we get to the three “building blocks” I’m going to share with you, I want to strongly encourage you to complete the exercise from last week. If you didn't create the time map I recommended, go back to that article and do the exercise. Push yourself and be accountable to growing in time management.
Time management is something I would dare to say that most of us think we have a better handle on than we actually do. If we're totally honest about how we spend our time, the results can be jarring. This is why I recommend that you complete that time map exercise before you continue this article. If you have completed the exercise, pull it out so it's available for you to refer to while you go through this series.
Building Block #1: Plan your week ahead of time so you know what you're doing
Building block number one is the key to everything else. You must plan out your week so you know what it is that you're doing and need to accomplish. This does not mean that I expected you to block everything out in your calendar. I don't mean that, when you look at your calendar for the week, that you should have every hour blocked out. But you do need to know what you're going to be doing on a particular day.
I've learned a lot of this over time, and I’ve settled on using Google Calendar for my schedule and tasks. I set “all day” notifications for tasks that need to be completed on certain days but are not time-sensitive. I use the “all day” feature not because I’m going to work on these tasks all day, but because I have the calendar set to send me a list at 9:00am of my daily tasks. This becomes my to-do list for the day that I work off all day. I can also look at my calendar and see at a glance what the week looks like. I can see appointments that have been scheduled for the week, what days I’m doing sermon prep on, and what tasks I have scheduled for each day.
For most pastors, content creation is a big chunk of your week. This is true whether you are a preaching pastor, a youth pastor, or even a music director or worship pastor. If you follow this building block, you will chunk down your content creation into its smaller parts and schedule those parts on different days of the week, either as a task for the day or, if it is more helpful for you, as a scheduled appointment in your calendar.
I break down my sermon preparation into four parts: outlining the text and journaling, key word study, commentary reading, and writing. I put each of these on my calendar on a different day: on Monday, I outline the text and journal; on Tuesday, I study key words; on Wednesday, I read commentaries and continue to reflect on the text; and on Thursday, I write. Each of these goes into my calendar as a task.
It might be more helpful for you to schedule a block of time for such tasks. For example, you might block out Thursday afternoon from 1pm-4pm for “Sermon Writing.” However you do this, be consistent with it and stick to it! You need to know what the “big rocks” of your week are so you can give proper attention to them. No matter what your pastoral role is you need to attend to the content that you have to create.
You need to also consider the “non-negotiables” you have every week and how you can best schedule them in your calendar. Depending on your role, these non-negotiables might be lesson prep, staff meeting leadership, administration, or visitation. Decide where those things fit best in your calendar. If it’s lesson prep, think about how you can chunk it down into smaller pieces that can be block-scheduled or listed as tasks. If it's hospital visitations that you do every Wednesday afternoon, just go ahead and block it out on your calendar. If it is administrative work that you chip away at three days a week, then either block-schedule them on your calendar or list them as tasks.
Take some time right now and dig into this. Spend some time thinking through this step and doing these exercises. Then, next week, you will have a foundation to build on when it comes to building block two.
As always, let me know how I can serve you in this.
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