I write this, in the words of the apostle Paul, “not as though I had already attained,” but as a fellow pilgrim who struggles with time management and productivity issues. After all, here I am on WordPress when I’m supposed to be working on my dissertation! Nevertheless, as one who is seeking to be more efficient and effective, I offer the following:
- Make a list of all your responsibilities (study time, visiting, administrative work, writing, family, etc.)
- Schedule every hour of your week so that each of your responsibilities have the appropriate amount of time dedicated to them. I made this template (PDF) that I use when I need to make adjustments to my schedule (Whenever responsibilities change, your schedule must be adjusted accordingly.). Be sure to schedule in time off and family time (This transcript of a discussion with John Piper has some helpful ideas on how much time to schedule off.).
- Create accountability with your schedule. Share your schedule with other trusted colleagues and friends who can hold you accountable to stay on your schedule. It is easy for a lazy man to hide in pastoral ministry. Don’t be that man!
- Eat the frog! In his book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, author Brian Tracy recounts how Mark Twain once told people to swallow a live frog the first thing each morning. That way they could be assured that they probably wouldn’t have to do anything worse the rest of the day. The point: take your hardest, most dreaded task at the top of the list each morning and get it done! Don’t spend time staring at the frog, that only makes it harder to swallow it. Tracy’s book is a great kick in the seat of the pants to motivate productivity. Highly recommended.
Of course you will have to deal with the distractions of email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and the internet in general. This is difficult because a lot of what you may need to do may require use of the internet. If you don’t need your computer or internet for what you are doing. Shut them down until you are finished. If you do need them, find a way to be accountable. Services which track internet usage might be useful here. Having friends to regularly look at your internet log might help you to stay more focused on your tasks during the day. Remember that getting your work done during the allotted time will allow more time for leisure and for your family in your off-time. But if you have to take work home, both the quantity and quality of your family time will suffer. Let this motivate you day by day!