Being busy and fully scheduled doesn’t always mean being productive. Too often we unknowingly become victims of what I call the “tyranny of busy-ness.”  We often are rapidly accomplishing things and crossing off  projects on our various lists yet not always getting the bigger picture as to how these various activities really add up to reaching our larger goals. What happens is that we become passive about our time and its management and react to what comes our way versus strategically looking at what we really need to be doing and planning for it.

A very crucial skill in time management is sorting out how important various projects—both short and long term—are so that adequate time is given to each. This means striking a balance between attending to immediate deadline-driven work and projects which have a longer time horizon yet need to be worked on bit by bit. Obviously, if we only spend our days simply reacting and “putting out fires,” we will never get to many other important projects that impact our organizations.

So how do you insure that you get to this important work? A good place to start is to make “appointments with yourself” for projects that are important, yet not urgent. Certainly, every day there will be unplanned interruptions that are often unavoidable. Many times in the scope of things these items may not necessarily be important but need to be tended to immediately. The trick is to leave space for these tasks but also hold fast to time for working on the more important ones. If you have a project due in a month, plan ahead by breaking the work down into a series of smaller chunks. By working in these planned smaller “work parcels” you will allow time for changes in direction down the line. What’s more, you won’t be forced to be behind closed doors for four days straight at the end and unable to handle the demands of your other day-to-day work.

If you know the priorities, the other half of the equation is figuring how to optimally schedule your time to accomplish them. I advise clients to have a weekly plan and then a daily one which is adjusted accordingly. To be a better time manager, start with a simple diagnostic exercise. For a week, keep a detailed log of how you are spending your time in 15-30 minute increments. Pay attention to things that could have been avoided like an unimportant meeting or spending too much time on “busy” work such as low priority e-mails. Look to see what your overall goals and priorities for that time period were and how much of your effort went toward them. This is a very explicit way of figuring out which activities were perhaps getting short-changed and which may be getting too much attention.

Your calendar is a finite universe. Learn to prune activities that are less important to your job and your organization’s mission. This may involve delegating or re-assigning tasks to others, sharing parts of the work, or perhaps making them a lower priority. If you and your colleagues are in agreement as to what the shifting set of priorities are, then all can plan accordingly. By explicitly making room and intentionally planning for the crucial items, you will begin to shift from being a purely reactive scheduler to a more proactive time manager.

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AL294_SMThe Competent Pastor:
Skills and Self-Knowledge for Serving Well
by Ronald D. Sisk 

Competence in ministry is a moving target. A ministry technique that works in one parish may not work in another. What works today may not work five years from now. But a competent pastor will be able to adapt to changing locations and changing times. This book is intended to help pastors, seminarians, and lay people who work with pastors understand themselves and others and to keep a realistic perspective on their work and their lives.

AL374_SM Gifts of an Uncommon Life:
The Practice of Contemplative Activism
by Howard E. Friend

This book of ten essays is a breath of fresh air, a source of inspiration, a wake-up call, and a bold challenge for pastors, congregational leaders, and church members—both active and lapsed—who long for a new perspective, even a touch of creative irreverence. Howard Friend offers forthright, at times disarming, candor as he shares his personal pilgrimage of activism rooted in contemplation. Drawing on a range of stories from the Bible and his own lived experiences, Friend invites us to meet real people—pastors, leaders, everyday folks—who dare to dream a new dream, journey toward a far horizon, walk with tireless determination, and press on with awesome hope.

AL391_SMTending to the Holy:
The Practice of the Presence of God in Ministry
by Bruce G. Epperly and Katherine Gould Epperly 

Tending to the Holy invites pastors to embody their deepest beliefs in the routine and surprising tasks of ministry.  Inspired by Brother Lawrence’s classic text in spirituality, The Practice of the Presence of God, this book integrates the wisdom and practices of the Christian spiritual tradition with the commonplace practices of pastoral ministry .

AL252_SMThe Spiritual Leader’s Guide to Self-Care 
by Rochelle Melander and Harold Eppley 

The Spiritual Leader’s Guide to Self-Care is an ideal companion for clergy, lay leaders, and others who would like guidance about how to make changes in their personal life and ministry. Readers may work through one of the fifty two sections each week or adopt a more leisurely pace. The guide includes journal-writing suggestions, personal reflection questions and activities, guidance for sharing the discovery process with another person, an activity for the coming week, and suggested further resources.


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