By Gail Marsh
“No time to say ‘Hello. Goodbye.’ I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!”
You probably recognize these frantic words from Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit. This harried fellow has too much to do and not enough time.
Can you relate? Many folks in ministry certainly empathize with the rabbit. In ministry, there’s never enough time. There’s always more to do, and when “more” is done, there’s still more to do!
So . . . what can be done? Experts agree: make a plan!
Begin with a plan for your week. What are four to six specific goals that you want to accomplish within the next five days? Write them down. Also, identify five or six people you need to contact, and name specific tasks you can do to move forward on larger upcoming events. Make note of scheduled meeting dates. Include personal and family commitments, too! Write everything down. This list will be your roadmap for the week.
Each morning, consult your weekly roadmap. Prioritize your actions for the day: what are three things that need to be done today? Who are the people I need to contact? If I accomplish the prioritized actions and talk to the people I’ve noted, what steps can I take to prepare for upcoming events?
Write your priorities down and begin to work. Work on the priorities, that is! Resist the urge to check email or social media accounts. While you’re fresh and focused on priorities, use that momentum to push forward on your ministry goals. Email and other media can wait until midmorning or even lunchtime, when your brain needs a break.
Make a plan and stick to it! Interruptions and unforeseen problems may come up, but having a weekly roadmap will help get you back on track. Experts have come up with even more ideas to improve your productivity. Choose one or two of the strategies that follow. Plan to implement them within the coming weeks.
- If you are in charge of scheduling meetings, set them up for the middle of the week in the afternoon—and avoid peak productivity times. Try to set regular meetings for the same day and time each week. This will give your team the opportunity to set their schedules, anticipate, and prepare for each meeting.
- Before setting up a meeting, ask yourself: Can I disseminate this meeting’s information via email instead? Or voicemail? If the answer is yes, do that! Some experts say it’s best to hold meetings only when decisions must be made.
- Feeling groggy? Hitting a productivity wall? Take a brisk ten-minute walk. The extra surge of oxygen will boost your brain’s efficiency!
- Working in a loud environment? Use noise-canceling headphones, a desktop white-noise machine, or subscribe to Focus@Will or similar service dedicated to keeping you focused.
- Check out services like Wunderlist, a web-based app that keeps all of your projects and lists on track. It allows you to share information with co-workers regarding projects, due dates, and other to do’s. Wunderlist sends reminders, too! Or consider Trello. This program helps you organize and prioritize your projects with your co-workers—from the smallest detail all the way to the final product!
- Some studies suggest that it can take as much as 25 minutes to get back on track after each interruption. So remember to turn off all alerts on your laptop and phone. Post a “Do Not Disturb” sign to alert co-workers, if possible. Or have an honest conversation about your need for a quieter work environment. If nothing else, plan to work when no one else is working. (Remember back to college days when early Saturday morning was the best time to do laundry? Get your work done in the early morning or after the 5 o’clock hour when there are fewer people around.)
- Forget multitasking! Psychologists have discovered that attempting several tasks at once can result in lost time and lessen your productivity. Stick to one task. Finish it before moving on to something else.
- Keep a “quick list”—a list of tasks that can be done in just a few minutes. Then, when you have a small bit of time say, before a meeting, you can get one or two simple jobs out of your way.
- Check out RescueTime, a free program that tracks how you spend your time. It just might help you become more productive!
- Adopt the “Final Fifteen” strategy! Fifteen minutes before you head for home, take time to straighten your desk and work space. It will help you start fresh the next day!
For even more tips about increasing your productivity, check out CTA Advantage. Search for the Mentoring Moments episode in which Ryan Frank speaks about productivity. His top tips can be applied to all kinds of ministry roles.
- Take a walk.
- “Eat the frog” first (do the hardest thing on your list first).
- Identify when you’re at your best and guard that time to do the important things!
- Master the art of delegation.
- Set aside two 30-minute blocks of time to do email.
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