PRINCIPLES OF PASTORAL TIME MANAGEMENT
By: Richard B. Douglass
Recently a frustrated young pastor called one of his deacons. Knowing that the deacon was an expert on business administration, he hoped for some help in getting on top of his work. After hearing the sad story of “too much work and too little time’ the deacon responded: “Pastor, I have listened to you tell about all of the things you need to get done this week. I did not hear you say anything about believing you could do them. Without that belief, I cannot help you at all.”
Most pastors simply have more jobs than they can get around to. Some simple suggestions about a philosophy of time management will help build a foundation on which you can construct a solid approach to time management. Years ago a highly successful pastoral administrator concluded: “If I have more work than I can possibly do in a day, it is obvious that the Lord did not give me part of it.” God never frustrates his people. Once you know that many of the responsibilities that clamor for your attention are not from God, you can begin to prayerfully delete some of them.
The second principle grows out of this one. “You can and should do those things God intends for you to do each day.” The administrative expert rightly analyzed his pastor’s problem. The pastor had completely given up on any possibility of doing all of his work. Convinced that he could not, he simply could not. He was cut off from the vital resource of a positively programmed subconscious mind. We must begin with the basic assumption that God will provide the power, insights, and resources to do what he wants done in a day’s time. That will open the subconscious to the power of the Holy Spirit so that part of the mind can devise the program for getting things done.
The third principle of time management is: “Learn to work without friction.” A guide at a hydro-electric plant heard a woman declare: “With all of the work that machine does, it must wear out in a hurry.” The guide responded: “No, the machine has been built so that it generates almost no friction. Work never hurts a machine, friction wears one out.” Resistance to the job at hand, laziness, despair, and dislike of interruptions all create friction that wears away at your energy and time resources.
To overcome this friction you must develop a positive enthusiasm for your work. When you look forward to the tasks at hand with excitement and zest you will accomplish more than twice as much. We are told that most people only accomplish about ten percent of what they are capable of doing. Enthusiasm is one of the key ingredients in turning on the resources to multiply your accomplishment level.
Learn to see interruptions as “messengers of God.” One pastor stated recently that this whole ministry was changed when he realized that “God has a purpose in many of my interruptions.” Interruptions cause more internal frictions than almost anything pastors face. When they begin with the idea that God may have a purpose in the coming of some person, then you approach it positively, deal with it quickly, and return to your other tasks without having wasted energy on a negative resistance.
One final principle: “Learn to evaluate your priorities.” A leading industrialist paid twenty-five thousand dollars for a simple secret more than forty years ago. The secret: “List all of the jobs you need to do each day, number them in order of importance and then work down the list. That insures that you do the most important jobs each day.” That simple rule can change anyone’s output level.
These simple rules will help you build a foundation on which to develop your own approach to time management. Anyone can accomplish more when they know that it can be done and that it is more enjoyable when you do.
To succeed at managing his time and work, a pastor must have a solid philosophy of management. Once this is established, then there are a number of hints that he can incorporate into his daily habits that will help accomplish more work in less time. Each of them has been well-proven through experience. Some of them will key your mind to try variations that will save further time in your busy life.
1. Plan your work. Long-range planning for five or more years helps you see how your work fits in. Detailed planning for six months is absolutely necessary. This will save you from the frustration of having key events and rush seasons slip up on you. Planning your preaching and administrative program for several months ahead enables you to gather important materials and utilize spare moments for preparation for coming events. It takes the rush out of life by giving you time for fitting the whole program together.
At the end of each day list the jobs that need to be done the next day. Number them in their order of importance. Then, lay out the materials that these jobs will require. Your subconscious mind then will begin to prepare you for the jobs that will be coming the next day. Many people find that this procedure will enable them to solve many problems without ever giving any conscious concentration to them. The ever active subconscious works on them while they are engaged in other activities or while they are sleeping.
2. Develop a regular work schedule. Many people hate to be tied to a regular schedule. Some pastors claim that this makes them feel less available to people and that it may even cut down on their creativity. Regular habits save time for other work and stimulate creativity. Again, your subconscious is the key. When you dictate your correspondence at a regular time, your mind has already been warmed up to the task. When you set a regular time for sermon preparation, counseling, or any other responsibility, you will find that you have less resistance to difficult jobs and are mentally prepared for each task.
3. Do related jobs together. Each time you change to a different type of work your mind has to change gears. Sometimes as much as twenty minutes can be required to make the mental transition. When you do work that has related aspects together, you cut down on the mental lag. Administrative appointments can be grouped near the time of counseling appointments. Telephone calls can be returned near the time when you are answering your correspondence. The more related characteristics jobs have in common, the greater the benefit of grouping these types of work together.
4. Learn to rest creatively. The mind and body soon tire of working at one type of job or in one place or position. Fatigue begins to set in. Frequently all that is needed is a momentary change of pace. A secretary said recently: “I have gotten so tired of typing, I must do some filing.” A very brief change of pace and she was ready to go back to the job that required her immediate attention. Sometimes you can take five minutes to think through a program or read a few clippings and return to the group of work that is next on your schedule. Many people allow momentary fatigue to become an excuse for an extra cup of coffee or a bull session and completely break their work rhythm. Creative rest will prove much more productive.
The key to managing your time will be developing the philosophy and the habits that put you in control of your life. these hints will be productive for you if you use some imagination and think through the personal applications you can make of them in your daily schedule.
A youthful pastor accepted his heavy responsibility without complaint. He knew what needed to be done, and he wnet at his job with verve and vigor. He was anxious to serve and accepted the numerous jobs he had always heard comprised the extras done by older successful pastors. No one had told him that those respected pastors did not try to do all those things at once. Soon tension lines filled his face. His feeling of being rushed began to make him curt and irritable. He described his problem to an older friend. He was told: “A few things need to be dropped from your schedule. Your biggest problem is simply learning how to manage your time and work.”
Everyone needs help in this area. The following hints will add to your skill in this.
1. Develop the habit of writing it down. The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory. When you get an idea for a sermon, talk, or campaign, write it down immediately. When you accept a responsibility write down when, where, and how. Put in every detail you can get. Then check your calendar well ahead of time so you can use the information you have gained. A pocket notebook or a series of small cards numbered in sequence so a lost one will be missed will prove very helpful.
2. Plan ahead of time for major events. Nothing makes you feel so rushed as having to prepare an address for a major meeting in a few hours. Watching some church offices the week before a budget campaign or a vacation Bible school would make most people think they were visiting a carnival. The leadership of another church will fit preparation for these events into the weekly work load for months ahead of time. The office force in such a church will never notice the change of pace, except for a few possible last minute details.
3. Learn to take short-cuts. The telephone company advocates that we let our fingers do the walking. Sometimes we will shop for hours for a gift when five minutes of telephoning would have found what we are looking for. Servicing a car or taking our dry cleaning by can be time consuming. In many cities, you can have the cleaning picked up and delivered at no charge. In others, the cost is small. A station that gets most of your business might pick up and deliver your car. An important question concerning any activity is: Could it be done in a way that would consume less time?
4. Keep growing. Talk with people who seem to get a lot of work done. Find out how they do it. Accumulate files of material that you can use later. Read and attend studies so that you will have ieas and materials to draw on later. These simple procedures will help you deal with daily situations from an overflow rather than creting a crisis as you have to do costly last minute preparation.
5. Learn to race with your record. Time some of the activities that are a part of daily or weekly routine. Then try to beat the previous week’s record. Most of the time we simply accept the routine jobs as ones that take up too much of our valuable time. Little thought is given to any possibility of our being able to cut down time expense on the jobs. Racing with the record does several things. It adds new excitement to these mundane jobs. It makes us aware that many activities are taking too much time. Usually it enables us to become more efficient and to save valuable minutes for other work.
6. Reward yourself for your success in saving time. Use the time you have saved for something that will benefit you and your family. Take an evening off for fun and good food. When you reward a past success you inspire yourself to further successes in time and work management.
Every pastor experiences some frustrations in the area of proper time and work management. Ministers should be the first people who recognize the need for being good stewards of their time and tasks. Growth in efficiency in this area is vitally important. Hopefully these hints will help you do that.
(The original publisher of the above material is unknown.)
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