One of the most common areas people ask me to coach them on is how to be organized. I like to think I live a fairly orderly life. I handle numbers well, so some of it come naturally to me and other parts I have had to learn how to be disciplined. As I was preparing for the class I teach at Bethel College, I came across some great thoughts from Gordon MacDonald in “Ordering Your Private World.” I’d like to share and expand on them a bit.
A challenge faced by many who feel they are overwhelmed with the duties of life is that they do not schedule their day. Instead, they handle each item as it comes. This is hardy efficient and makes it very difficult to get forward traction. Having unmanaged time is like having anything else that is unmanaged – you won’t use it well! From money to your calories for the day – if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. And, what you don’t manage you will lose. Here are some truths about unmanaged time:
- Unmanaged time flows towards your weakness.
If you are administratively weak, when you do not manage your time well – you will find yourself putting all your efforts into tasks that are going to suck your time away. In this process, you’ll neglect your strengths. If you neglect them long enough, eventually your strengths will become a weakness also. You need to learn to plan your day and delegate to others who are strong where you are weak. This will give you better control of your task management.
- Unmanaged time comes under the influence of the dominant people in my life.
Has your boss or a peer ever come into your office and asked “Hey, what do you have going on for the next couple of hours?” If you don’t have an answer, you can find yourself quickly pulled into some task you would rather not do! People who have figured out how to delegate work to others will use the time of others–especially time that isn’t managed. I can plan what I am going to do today and if you’re not going to do the same, I can plan your day also…it just may not be what you want to work on.
- Unmanaged time surrenders to all emergencies
The Tyranny of the Urgent is one of the greatest time wasters you will ever experience. A crisis in someone else’s life does not have to constitute a crisis in your life. As a pastor, emergencies happen in the lives of congregation members, but the trick is to figure out what is really an emergency and what is really a problem that has built up over time and finally boiled over. If you do not have a plan for your time, then the urgency of someone else will overwhelm you and you will spend the majority of your day troubleshooting or putting out fires.
- Unmanaged time gets invested in things that gain public acclaim
This one is self-explanatory. If you’re not really getting a lot of work done because of inefficient use of time, then you’re going to do something to make it look like you’re working hard. Everyone feels better when they are getting a pat on the back. What better way than doing something that everyone can see.
So how do you fix this? I’m so glad you asked! You can reclaim your time with three principles:
- I must know my rhythms of maximum effectiveness
When are you at your best? Load your hardest tasks into that time frame and knock them out. If you go with the philosophy of “Eat the frog first”, you better eat that frog when you are at your best. Otherwise you’re never going to do it.
- I must have thoughtful criteria for choosing how to use my time
Do you understand your roles in life? Do you have a list of priorities for your day? Do you have goals you are trying to accomplish? If not, you need to get some. You cannot plan your day if you don’t have anything you are aiming for. (You can read my posts about goals here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
- I manage time and command it best when I budget it far in advance
This is another obvious one. The longer look you take at something, the longer you have to plan. Give yourself enough time to think things through. Put your big rocks in first! (To understand this concept watch this.)
Start putting these thoughts into place and see how things turn around for you!