Five Ways to Strengthen Your Time Management Skills
Making Kidmin Excellent Even When Many Tasks Take Your Time
Working in a smaller church as a kids’ pastor can be really tough. Yes, I have fewer kids than most of the larger churches, but I also wear a lot of “hats” in addition to children’s ministry director. These responsibilities can include building maintenance, pastoral care, event production—the list could go on and on. With all these other responsibilities, focusing on children’s ministry can be difficult. I’ve heard many first-year children’s pastors ask the question, “When do I actually get to work with kids?”
The truth is, within a 40-hour work week, you may work with kids anywhere from 2-6 hours per week, depending on how many services your church runs. That’s about 10 percent of your time spent in doing what you love.
Over the years I’ve dealt with this problem, and discovered some strategies that have helped me maintain ministry excellence while also getting everything else done. Below are some of these strategies:
1. Set your priorities.
Sometimes I ask people, “What are your priorities?” I hear, “Everything!” Unfortunately, we’re not from Planet Krypton, and we can’t do everything. One time I triple booked myself for the same Wednesday night. It was a mess, and a lot of apologies had to be made. Take some time in prayer and write out 5-10 priorities, and put them in order of importance. What’s more important? God, family, ministry, kids, education? You must decide now, so when the distraction comes, you’ve already made the decision.
2. Prioritize your week.
On Sunday night or Monday morning, I sit down and make a to-do list for the week. I look at my calendar and see what’s coming, what I need to work on, what I didn’t get done last week, and plan what I want to do this week. It takes about 5-10 minutes once you have a system. I keep my to-do list in OneNote, so I copy and paste from the previous week. This way, I’m not rewriting the same thing every week, or frantically looking for my list that got buried under last week’s receipts.
3. Prioritize your day.
In Colin Powell’s autobiography, he said that every day he looks ahead and determines the three interactions that can make the biggest impact. I can’t say I do this every day, but I do put my week into rhythms. Monday is meeting day, Tuesday is writing day, Wednesday is project day, and Thursday is prep for Sunday. I have found that knowing the theme of the day makes planning at the beginning of the day far easier. When someone on Monday asks me to help them with a project, I can tell them I can help on Wednesday. I’ve already made the decision before they asked, and it lets me focus on what I need to do that day.
4. Set appointments with yourself.
There is always someone who needs help, an email to respond to, a phone call to make, or many other things that beg for your attention. Set up specific times when you don’t want to be disturbed, and that work with your most productive time. If someone asks for (fill in the blank), then you can say that you have an appointment, and you can help later. Very few people will ask what your appointment is, and you get to work in peace and accomplish something.
5. Evaluate your week.
It’s great to set priorities and plan your week; but if you never go back and look at how you did, you’ll never know how to improve. As I said earlier, I use OneNote to track my to-do list. Another free option is Evernote, which I highly recommend. At the end of the week, you can go back and see what you accomplished and what you didn’t accomplish, and adjust for next week. I also use an app on my computer called Rescue Time. It keeps track of everything I do on my computer and categorizes the items on a scale from unproductive to very productive. On Sunday night, I get an email telling me what I spent the most time on and how productive I was throughout the week. Whatever you do, use what works best for you.
No matter who you are, you only have 168 hours in a week. Some people run international companies. Some wonder where their week went. The most successful people make time for what matters and can bring the most impact. We should do the same. I think Jesus said it best in Luke 16:10 (NIV):
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
Be faithful with the small things and watch God bless you with far more.