By Chuck Lawless
I make no claim to an expert at time management. What I am is a seminary dean, education consultant, church consultant, and local church pastor who has been forced to learn how to budget time. Here are some time management tips that have worked for me:
- Review your calendar each night. I can easily get overwhelmed if I learn my day is already full when I get to the office in the morning. To counter that tendency, I take a few minutes each night to review my schedule for the next day. That way, I can begin planning how to use my time before I ever get to the office.
- Get up an hour earlier each day. Think about it – one extra hour each gives you essentially one more work day per week. Use that hour wisely, and you may find you have more free time throughout the week.
- Pray as you start the day. God gives all of us the same amount of time. We need His wisdom to use that time effectively and efficiently. Consider praying briefly about each event scheduled for the day.
- Do less exciting tasks first. I am by nature a procrastinator, and I typically put off the tasks I don’t want to do. When I do that, something is always hanging over my head – and I’m not as focused as I need to be on other tasks. If I do the tedious work first, though, I’m always looking forward to something I enjoy to do.
- Calendar deadlines before the actual deadline. If I have an assignment due on June 1st, I set the deadline on my calendar as weeks earlier. This strategy doesn’t always eliminate the stress of meeting a deadline, but it does provide much-needed reminders of work to finish.
- Move papers one time. Stacks of things to do frustrate me. The only way I know to avoid stacks is to deal with papers and documents quickly. If the paper needs filing, file it. If a signature is required, sign it. If it’s a bill, pay it. By its very nature, delay will hinder your finishing your work.
- Schedule time to check email. If I answered every email as soon as it arrives, I would complete no other assignments. My goal is to check email when I first arrive at the office, after lunch, and just before I leave. I strive then to empty my inbox by providing brief responses or filing the email for later reference.
- Take regular breaks. The break need not be long, but even a few minutes can help you re-focus your efforts. Take a walk, go to the restroom, call a friend, throw a baseball, read the paper, go outside – do somethingthat re-energizes you for the rest of the day.
- Close your office door when needed. I like keeping my door open, but doing so invites drop-by (often time-consuming) visits. Give yourself permission to close the door occasionally and concentrate on a task. You’ll be more comfortable with unexpected visits if you are not behind in your work.
- Limit the duration of drop-by visits by standing. If you sit with someone in your office, your body language suggests you have plenty of time to visit. Remaining standing – even going to the door and standing in the office doorway – is a simple way to say, “I’m happy to visit, but I have only a few moments.”
- Limit the duration of meetings with good calendaring. Plan meetings back-to-back, and be clear about your time limitations. A simple, “Glad to see you. I have only thirty minutes before my next appointment, so let’s use our time wisely” can quickly establish your boundaries.
- Use the telephone. Email is great, but it takes time to write and read multiple messages. I’ve spent too many hours clarifying emails, explaining my words, or denying perceived emotions behind a message. Most of the time, a simple phone call would have saved time.
- Complete at least one task per day. I won’t finish everything today, but I need to finish something. Doing so releases some pressure, and I’m usually more prepared then to face the next task. It’s also a good idea to thank God briefly when you finish a task.
- Clean your desk every day before you leave. Finish a task, and get the work off your desk. If the work is unfinished, file it for the next day rather than leave it on the desk. Beginning the day with work already on my desk implies I’m behind before I get started.
What other time management techniques have worked for you?