How To Build A Schedule That Saves You Time

There is no way you're going to get everything done this week.

Last week, I texted 20 friends of mine who are pastors and asked them what they needed most right now. I gave them several options to choose from - money, help at the church, etc. - but one answer became glaringly obvious. Time.

For the past two years, I have worked two jobs. I am the lead pastor of a church. For 18 months I led a church planting network with over 500 churches. In January, I launched a coaching and consulting firm. I have one other big project in the works. I have a wife and three boys. I have friends and things other than work that I enjoy. So I totally get why 17 out of 20 pastors said that what they need more than anything right now is time.

I am convinced that you have all the time in the world to do the work that matters most. I get asked a lot about how I pull off everything that I am doing. And the truth is that there are some unique circumstances that come together to make my life possible. But I also have put together a way to build a schedule that saves time. 

1. Clarify

Define what success looks like in every area of responsibility - at home, in your job, etc. Put it into a sentence - 'I will thrive as lead pastor of Christ Community if I am preaching and leading our leaders.' Put that list of wins somewhere (Evernote, whiteboard, calendar reminder) you will be reminded of it every time you plan your schedule

2. Focus

80 percent of your productivity will come from 20 percent of your time. Focusing on your job as a pastor, write down the ten primary ways that you spend your time. Your list will include things like sermon preparation, meetings, email, etc. With the help of other people, identify the two things on that list that add the most value to your church. My hunch is that you will discover that your best work is also your favorite work.

3. Eliminate and Delegate

I picked this up from Tim Ferriss several years ago. You must focus on what matters most and ignore the rest. Lack of time is actually a lack of priorities. But now that you have your priorities in order (clarify and focus), watch what happens. Take your two critical tasks and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines. Do all of your sermon preparation on Wednesdays, for instance.

Eliminate inefficiencies (the amount of non-critical information you take in during the day; pointless meetings) and interruptions (email, social media updates, phone calls) by batching them together. Check email or social media once a day. Write all your thank-you notes once a week. Set meetings or make phone calls one day a week.

Delegate others to take on the work that you no longer need to be doing. Some of it you just eliminated by batching. Now you need to build a system to replace the rest of the 80 percent of the work you will no longer be doing. This may require recalibrating the work of other leaders in your church or developing the leaders that you need to take on the work you no longer need to be doing. Hire a virtual assistant to take on tasks that are time consuming and well-defined. For me this includes email, scheduling meetings, expense reports, editing and formatting documents and certain types of research. 

4. Measure

The goal of this process is not to give you more time to do nothing. The singular reason to clarify, focus, eliminate and delegate is to free up time for you to focus on what matters most. 

And because what matters most can always be measured, make sure to write down what you will be doing and identify when and how your work will be measured, and who will be responsible for that process. I suggest quarterly reviews by the governing board of your local church (if you are the lead/senior pastor) or your supervisor (if you are an assistant pastor/staff member).

Do The Next Right Thing

Let me repeat something that I said earlier: lack of time is actually a lack of priorities. Define what matters. Be able to measure what matters. Do work that matters.

Have questions about what to do next? Ask below in the comments section.

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