Chris Question Friday: Time Management

QUESTION: What does your personal schedule look like on a daily or weekly basis (i.e., how do you juggle everything a pastor does)? Also, is there any special technology, time management tips or software that helps you stay organized? – Kirby in Raytown, MO

ANSWER: That’s a tough one because…until recently…no two days looked the same. Now we’ve begun to train staff and I’ve been turning quite a lot over to them. Due to that fact, I have finally begun the process of scheduling my week and days. I’ll try to break it down for you:

Technology & Software: Buying my Macbook changed a lot of what I’m doing and I can’t imagine going back to Windows software for organizational purposes. I use iCal for my schedule and iGTD for my task list (I’m a huge Getting Things Done guy). Both of them sync into my Nokia E62 Blackberry’s calendar, notes and to-do list perfectly with Bluetooth. I use to have an Olympus voice recorder, but retired that when I got the E62. Now I can record voice reminders or verbally capture ideas on my Blackberry and then transfer the sound files to my Macbook by Bluetooth. I guess the final piece of the technolgy puzzle is Google software. I use iGoogle exclusively online to process input….especially Google Reader and my home page.

Daily: While each day is somewhat different, there are a few things I do without fail. I have a prayer time and read my Bible about 45 minutes to an hour each day. I use the ESV Journal Bible so I can journal my thoughts on Scripture passages. I carry a small Moleskine around strictly for prayer requests. I read about ten blogs daily through Google reader. There are about 60 more I keep up with, but only read those once a week. I also try to write one hour a day…usually in the morning when it’s quiet. Not everything is for the blog…I’m mostly working on two books and a buttload of magazine articles right now. I also read the local paper, CNN.com and the BBC news online everyday without fail. I need to know what is happening in my town, my country and the world. I check my church email account about twice a day and try to respond back then…or forward the email to the correct staff member to answer it. I check my private Blackberry address and respond each time I get an email there…it’s only for staff emergencies and family. Finally, I spend about 30 to 45 minutes each day working on my sermon for the coming weekend. I do sermon prep really weird compared to other pastors.

Weekly: I’m trying to get better at structuring my weekdays. Right now Mondays are my days off…also Saturdays when there is no church event. On Mondays I listen to podcasts of Rick McKinley and Erwin McManus to get fed. I also check out a few others on church leadership if the topic interests me. Other than that….Mondays are a down day. Monday nights I lead a Bible study at a local bar for young, artistic 20-somethings and then hang out with those folks playing video trivia at another sports pub until about 1:00 AM. Tuesday and Thursdays are becoming my meeting days. I try to schedule meetings only on those days now. Wednesdays are administration day…which I hate. I try to catch up on my public email account, returning phone calls, reading the other 60 blogs, writing assignment research, doing whatever paper work needs to be done and other stupid stuff that my ADD causes me to hate. On Wednesday nights Denise and I attend one of the Connexxions. Fridays are my final sermon prep and catch-all day for stuff that didn’t get done on Wednesday. Sunday is church and staff day…we have leadership meetings on Sunday nights. Most Sunday afternoons I eat lunch with guests that visit Compass Point. Sometimes football season limits the number of leadership meetings…I try to keep my priorities right. 🙂

Time Management Tips: These are just a few things that have helped me streamline my schedule.
1. I’m constantly on the road going somewhere. I try to use car time to return phone calls.
2. I carry my “man purse” every where I go. I never know when I’ll have a few minutes of “downtime” to get some work done. I carry my Macbook, a large Moleskine (for ideas), a small Moleskine (for prayer requests), my 30 gig iPod (for catching up on a television show or podcast I missed) and some other productivity stuff.
3. I rarely read book because most of them are too long (90% can say what they need to say in half the pages), but I do read a lot of magazines. I keep them….and a highlighter…in the bathroom for reading while I’m seated. 🙂
4. I never go anywhere without my Blackberry. I can do so much work on it at the spur of the moment.
5. Sleeping is one of the biggest wastes of time!!! Only wusses need eight hours of sleep! I’m ADD so six hours is a long night for me. Normally it’s between four and five hours…which leaves more room to get stuff done.
6. I don’t blog every day and almost never check my blog stats. This has been very liberating!!!
7. I schedule a lot of meetings over a meal. I gotta eat and I gotta meet…I might as well kill two birds with one stone.
8. I stopped going to movies, watching prime-time television and playing video games. Okay…I’ll play a few and will see a movie every now and then. However, I found both activities to be incredible time wasters with very little value to my life or ministry. I found they were more to escape. The more I escape…the less I get done. The less I get done…the less off days I have. The less days off I have the less time I have to do fun stuff with my wife or family. In essence…video games were keeping me from quality time with my wife…and my Lord.
9. I work on airline flights…it’s the John Maxwell in me. I still fly quite a bit and use the time in the air to get stuff done. Two hours in a seat with no where to go provides a great work environment with the Bose Quiet-Confort earphones. Now if I could just get a driver….
10. I work hard, but I also play hard. When I’m on vacation or a day off…forget trying to get in touch with me…it ain’t going to happen.

An Area For Improvement: I know this wasn’t part of your question, but I thought I might be a little honest. One of the best things…and worst things…for my time management is my computer. By nature of what I do I spend a lot of time behind a computer screen. It is a great resource for time management…but also a great time waster if I’m not careful. I’m trying to find more ways to untether me from the computer.

Chris Question Friday: Time Management