This post is part of the series on Time Management in Youth Ministry. Have you ever had one of those days where the work just seemed to flow out of your hands, where you accomplished more than you’d ever thought possible and where you felt truly satisfied when you called it a day?
A perfect day in youth ministry, it’s rare, but achievable. There will always be things you can’t control, but what you can control is your daily schedule, even in youth ministry with its complete lack of routine. Here’s my advice for creating the perfect daily schedule.
Take the time to schedule
If you want to have a perfect daily schedule, it means you have to take the time to actually schedule. I usually take 5 minutes to do this the night before or at the start of my work day. Planning further ahead doesn’t work for me, because of the many impromptu things that will only mess up my schedule, though I do work with a general weekly schedule. But: whatever works for you is fine, as long as you take the time to make a daily schedule.
What to schedule
Some things will be scheduled for you (like dropping off your kids at school or preparing dinner), but other things you can schedule yourself. I always look at my to do list to see what needs to be done and then I decide on my priorities. Be sure to not only schedule what needs to be done, but also one or two things that you want to do, just because they’re fun, or because they will help you grow.
I always schedule the big things first so I’m sure I get to do those and then I move on to the rest. You’ll do wise to schedule those things that you dislike doing first as well, lest you’ll be tempted to procrastinate.
Use your biorhythm
What is your natural biorhythm? At what point of the day do you have the most energy? Adapt your daily schedule so it fits your biorhythm whenever possible. I am a morning person, annoyingly so I might add. That means I schedule all activities that require a clear mind in the mornings, like writing proposals, preparing sermons, etc. I try to schedule most of my meetings in the afternoon, because they require a little less of my concentration. Are you a night owl? Then don’t feel guilty to use the evenings for your work and just ‘hang around’ in the mornings. Schedule all creative activities at your peak and you’ll find you’ll do much better.
Group similar activities
Don’t forget to group similar activities and do them together, it will not only save you time, but you will experience more flow, concentration and creativity.
Turn off distractions
Turn off all notifications on your email, Twitter, Facebook and whatnot. Turn off your phone or put it on silent mode. Invest in an answering machine or create ‘calling hours’. Do whatever you need to do to create and schedule blocks of uninterrupted time.
Schedule meetings back-to-back
If you have meetings, schedule them back to back. Some people prefer 15-30 minutes in between so they can immediately process the meeting and even act on some to do’s. I prefer to do my meetings back-to-back because I’m sort of on ‘meeting-mode’ and then I group my ‘fast to do’s’ and do those all at once, since it saves me time. Whichever you prefer, don’t spread out your meetings all over the day since you’ll be interrupted in your workflow every time another meeting starts and you’ll get little accomplished. And naturally, also schedule time to prepare your meetings.
Rest is a crucial part of your daily schedule, if you want to stay healthy that is. But if we don’t decide to take some time off, there will always be work to do and we will be sorely tempted to give that priority over our need for rest. Take the time to do lunch or a coffee break (and catch up with a friend or some youth while you’re at it) and relax. It’ll help you refresh for the second part of the day. And schedule time to relax in the evenings and weekends (and don’t forget your Sabbath!).
Don’t constantly schedule more activities than you can reasonably do. It’s bad time management and instead of feeling satisfied and happy with what you’ve accomplished at the end of the day, you’ll feel frustrated over what you didn’t do. Be realistic in how much time activities cost and schedule accordingly. If you don’t know how much time you spend on certain activities, invest some time in time tracking for a period. It’ll give you loads of insights.
Are you happy with your current daily schedule? How did you develop it?