How to Schedule Effectively

Here are my top 10 tips for better scheduling and time management in a ministry context:

This is my response to Alex McLean’s Just another day in the office.

1. When you think it, ink it.
I use a Palm Zire 72 w/ a voice recorder. I know some people who carry a small notebook. Write down thoughts, ideas and tasks as they come to you and make time to organize/prioritize them later. If you don’t record it, you waste a lot of mental energy trying to remember and often forget.

2. Schedule time to schedule.
Some people say, “I’m so busy I don’t have time to schedule.” The fact is you don’t have time not to schedule. I spend roughly one hour once a week to plan out that week’s agenda. I spend the first and last 15 minutes of each day reviewing my schedule and adjusting it.

3. Don’t fill every minute
I only schedule about 60% of the actual day. Leave room for people who might interrupt your day. Ministry is about people more than tasks. And who knows, you might get everything done and get home early to the family once in a while.

4. Double time needed for mission critical tasks
I block out double the amount of time I think I will need to accomplish a mission critical task. A mission critical task is, “Anything you that will stop your work flow if left unaccomplished.” (In theory this rule would allow me to always finish my Pro Presenter during work time instead of off time, but honesty I fail sometimes too.)

5. Schedule Sabbath and Family time first.
Set hard and fast boundaries for this time and guard it well. Nothing will lead to your failure in ministry faster than neglecting these two areas.

6. If you need to do it, you need to schedule it.
Seriously. Schedule time to brainstorm, dream, journal, research, study, pray, websurf, blog, write songs, be creative, whatever you need to do. Don’t think of your to do list simply in terms of physical tasks to accomplish. “Dream about what a successful worship minstry looks like” is just as valid a task to schedule as “Pick songs for Sunday.” Do your work when you are working and let your mind belong to your kids when you are with them.

7. Learn to say, “No.”
You can do many things mediocre or you can do a few with excellence. Set priorities and say “No.” to anything that isn’t 100% the absolute best use of your time.

A few tips for how to say, “No” gracefully:
1. “Sounds like an excellent idea you should go ahead and do it”
2. “Let me pray about it.” (Make sure to pray)
3. “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” (Make sure to get back)
4. “Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to help with that but talk to so and so”
5. “I’m sorry my schedule is full right now.”

8. Don’t Multitask.
For me multitasking usually leads to ADD. Set aside time to do something and get it done. This includes grouping similar tasks for better efficiency. Check you email once a day and block off a chuck of your time to deal with all your email at once. This is so much better than keeping your email open all day and having your attention zapped away from your current project each time a new message comes in.

9. Schedule your most difficult tasks for when you are most effective.
Some people are better in the morning some in the afternoon or at night. I’m a night owl. In order to be extra effective and creative I’ve been known to schedule some tasks late in the evening and allow myself to sleep in the next day.

10. Give yourself permission to leave things undone.
Simply because you have made a list of tasks to do does not mean you need to accomplish all of them by the end of the day. If it is getting near the end of your scheduled work time and you aren’t done with everything then make a deal with yourself. Instead of staying late and missing dinner with your family again, look at what you have left to do and reprioritize based on what is most mission critical, your energy level and resources available. Feel good about getting 7 out of 10 things done and leave the rest for later.

I wrote this list for myself as much as everyone else. I’ve yet to follow it perfectly.

Do you use these types of time management tools?

9 Responses to “How to Schedule Effectively”

  1. 1 Duncan McFadzean July 22, 2007 at 5:55 am

    Billy, some great ideas in there. I tend to write absolutely everything down, and categorise it all. I then focus on some of the “quick wins” that can reduce the size of the list. I then prioritise the remaining ones and focus on higher needs first. Sometimes saying no is exactly the right thing to do.

  2. 2 Sarah Chia July 22, 2007 at 8:12 am

    I think the most important thing for me is to find my own system. I love organizing shows and books and all that stuff, but a lot of it is like…”Here’s THE DAO of organizing. All other ways are failures.” But the problem is that everyone is motivated differently, and everyone thinks differently. So, what works for one person doesn’t work for someone else.

    Keeping general principles is good, but the specific application needs to be personal, like what you said about scheduling work for your most productive times, even if that’s not the typical 8-5 day.

    My personal organizing “thing” is color-coding. I love color coding. It looks nice to me, and having something be pretty is a motivator for me actually using a system. This also works for me because color-coding is a quick reference for me.

    This is getting long. I see why you made your own post about this!

  3. 3 jamesmclean July 23, 2007 at 7:13 am

    This was good. Thanks!

  4. 4 worshipcity July 25, 2007 at 10:46 am

    This has been perhaps the best post I’ve read in an incredibly long time! THANK YOU! I printed it out and its in my office 🙂

  5. 5 Billy Chia July 25, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    That rocks. You’re welcome.

  6. 6 Tracy Gorman July 26, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    I really enjoyed and appreciate the “How to Schedule Effectively” tips. Usually I am fairly good at scheduling, but over the past couple of months, my schedule has controlled me, rather than the other way around. I truly need to get a handle on it.

    Thanks! I miss you and your family!
    Tracy Gorman

  7. 7 ~JOSh-X July 29, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    These are great suggestions! I’m going to reflect on them… 🙂 thanks!

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