The following are several general and specific issues for those of us trying to manage our time more effectively.
Use a calendar
Utilizing a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If possible, use an app or a program that syncs one calendar to all your devices. It is especially helpful to use reminders and notifications to keep you informed of important meetings or deadlines.
Know your deadlines
Proactively identify when you need to finish important tasks. Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and set some reminders so you know when these items need to be completed.
Use Promotion Schedules
A promotion schedule is a master calendar for special projects and events. It lays out a timeline of specific tasks required for completion. Items such as recruiting deadlines, team meetings, graphic design requirements, marketing and promotion dates and other crucial tasks can be laid out in a spreadsheet with corresponding dates, deadlines and assigned personnel.
Have an Organized Work space
If you have a messy work space, you will feel disorganized and sluggish. You won’t even feel like doing anything since it’s so disorganized. On the other hand, if you have a tidy and organized workspace, you’ll be inspired to get work done. Your frustration and aggravation will be reduced because you will find your things easily rather than waste precious minutes digging through piles of papers for something you saw just the other day.
Create a Weekly Plan
The most crucial part of your week is the first 30 minutes of the first day of the week. In that time it is helpful to review the week ahead and identify main priorities. Be sure to block out time during certain days for important tasks and determine the best time for meetings, planning exercises, professional study and other essential functions. Personally, I allocate Tuesdays for staff meetings, coaching sessions and certain counseling exercises. Wednesdays are for important phone or video conferences and meetings that happen out of the office and/or professional study. Thursdays are set for mentoring, evaluations, random meetings and administrative tasks. Fridays are for professional study, which for me is sermon preparation and happens at my home office where interruptions are eliminated. It is important to communicate your preferred weekly plan to any administrative assistants who can schedule appointments accordingly.
Create a Daily Plan
Once you have a weekly plan, it is important to stick to it. Of course there will be exceptions and incidental deviations, but try to follow the plan as much as possible. This means that you must plan each day before it unfolds. It is best to do this in the morning or even better, the night before you go to bed. Identify all the essential tasks and priorities of the day so you can enter your work space with specific work plans in mind.
Know Your top 3 Priorities Every Day
When planning your daily tasks, it is important to be reasonable. Don’t be overly ambitious and set a schedule so hectic that failure is likely. Identify three achievable goals for that day. This may include meetings to be had, people to call, problems to confront or tasks to complete. If you complete these three items early, then you can start on the next day’s items which will put you ahead going forward.
Prioritize: Put First Things First
Put the tasks you consider to be most important before anything else. Be mindful that there are a million different things we can pick to do. Some will be important things that make a difference while others will be unimportant things that actually don’t make any difference at all. Out of the millions of things, we must pick and choose, otherwise we’ll forever be drowning in work and never get anything done. Focus on the important and prioritize the latter.
Focus on One Thing at a Time
No matter how much you like to pride yourself on being a multi-tasker, human beings are actually not effective in doing more than one thing at a time. We may be able to work on multiple items, but chances are the work product will be low quality and full of mistakes. It’s better to focus on doing one thing with excellence at a time.
Be Firm, But Be Flexible
For pastors, we must be careful not to view people and their needs as interruptions to our ministry. The people are the ministry. For those who are not pastors, it is important to recognize the value in making time for people who have significant challenges and need our attention. Sometimes, allowing for such “interruptions” become meaningful investments in people’s lives and will engender a loyalty that cannot be obtained by mere financial compensation. When people know you care about them and their needs, generally, they will care about you and your needs as well.
Having said that, it is crucial to discern if someone is in sincere need of your attention or is simply a distraction. This is what often differentiates the good leaders from the great leaders. Great leaders recognize those crucial opportunities to invest in people whereas good leaders see such relational moments as low value distractions.
Eliminate Time Wasters
There are things that will steal your time if you let them: Facebook, texts, email, phone calls, twitter feeds and other social networks. Block out these distractions unless you use these tools to generate business. Even then, it requires discipline to not get sucked into the need to update your status with pictures of your fresh, tasty doughnut and cute selfie.
Delay Answering The Phone
Just because the phone is buzzing doesn’t mean you have to answer it now. Of course there are certain people in our “up-line” that should always have access to us like supervisors or company owners, but there are many people ringing our phone who can wait. Managing time effectively means you do not become a slave to the phone. Set up your voicemail to indicate you’ll call back by a certain time of the day or schedule a time in the late morning or afternoon to return calls. That way, you’re in control of who you talk to and when. This also allows you to review their voicemail message and prepare yourself with the proper information before you call them back.
Sometimes A Voice Is Better Than an Email
Sometimes it’s better to use email because you want to memorialize directions or make sure things are properly communicated. However, many times it's better to pick up the phone or walk down the hall and talk directly to colleagues. You can give precise direction and clear up misunderstandings quickly. This also helps to avoid future wasted time because of miscommunication or offense.
Cut Off Conversations When You Need To
Learn how to end meetings and cut off conversations that are taking too much time. If not inappropriate or disrespectful, don’t be afraid to interrupt the person speaking with a comment such as, “I have to get going,” or “I’m going to let you go” or “I don’t want to take up any more of your time” and then insert a closing remark. Sometimes you have to preempt what you know will be a long meeting or belabored phone call by informing them, “I have a hard stop in 15 minutes or 2:30 and will have to go.” Guard your time. Don’t allow people to be in control of your coming and going, unless they sign your paycheck.
Learn To Say “No”
Remember, every time we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else. If the person requesting your help isn’t a boss or supervisor, you must show discretion before agreeing to commit. Learn how to decline respectfully and without feeling guilty. Some easy responses include: “That won’t work for me right now, but I’ll get back to you if anything changes,” or “I really appreciate you thinking of me, but I’ve just got too much on my plate right now.” Don’t feel like you have to give specific detail about why your declining and don’t feel like you owe that person an explanation. Simply state that you are unable, look the person in the eye and embrace the awkward silence. Remember, you have to guard your time and resist being everyone’s problem solver.
Learn To Delegate To Others
As you are organizing your weekly or daily plan, ask yourself the question, ”Is there someone else who can do this task?” Too often, we feel important or significant because we think we are uniquely qualified to complete the task. But there’s always someone else who can do it, and sometimes better. If you are a manager, resist those guilty feelings that come with assigning tasks to others. Remember, it’s the leader who delegates that makes himself effective. Let go and let others.
Be Mindful of Manipulation
There are actual persuasion techniques that people often use when making an “ask.”
Common ones include “Reciprocity.” People often give you something before making an “ask” because they know about the psychological tendency to want to reciprocate. Then there is “Making Two Asks.” When people ask for something and you say no, they increase the odds that when they ask for something else (usually something smaller), you’ll say yes. “Well, if you can’t help out tomorrow, could you at least proof read this white page?” “Anchoring” is another ploy. They’ll say something like, “Most people donate $100,” or “Most other parents volunteer 5 hours,” and so on. Watch out for manipulative people who will try to steal your time to make themselves more effective. Remember, guard your time and stay focused on your essential tasks.