Time management is always a challenge for me. I have to be very intentional about it in order to be effective in my work and personal life. The fact is, if you don’t budget your time with your own expectations, there will always be others who will place their expectations on you. Your spouse, your parents, your employer, your friends…all of these people have certain expectations about what you should and shouldn’t be doing with your time. Some of these expectations are legitimate and some are not.
I read a post by Michael Hyatt that speaks to the issue of workload management and it is worth the read. You can find it here. He shares some very helpful insights into managing workload in this post. He highlights the Franklin-Covey method of prioritizing tasks which I think if very helpful. He says that we can categorize our tasks by the following tags in order to determine the order in which to “attack” them…if we do so at all. Here is the tagging system:
A—urgent and important
B—important but not urgent
C—urgent but not important
D—not urgent or important
How you categorize your tasks has a lot to do with the relationships and responsibilities you have. For instance, if your responsibility is to accomplish task “X” for your employer, and your coworker asks you to accomplish task “Y” as a personal favor, obviously task “X” takes priority. Your responsibility, in that situation, takes priority over your relationship. In another scenario, a friend asks you to have coffee with them to discuss a problem and yet, your spouse is sick and needs you to bring home some medicine, the spousal relationship takes priority. Now, I realize these are simplistic examples, but you get the gist of my point…relationships are always a part of our time management and our prioritizing of tasks. If you work in a highly relational field, such as ministry, you will find the clash of these two areas happens often. Sometimes relationship is the priority, sometimes responsibility takes the priority…sometimes relationship IS the responsibility. You have to be discerning.
Regardless of where you find yourself in needing to manage your time efficiently, let me encourage you to read Michael Hyatt’s blog post and to consider the following tips for your life and work.
- Determine an overall hierarchy of priorities. For me it looks like this: 1) Relationship with Jesus, 2) Relationship with spouse, 3) Relationship with children, 4) Ministry/Job responsibilities. This is not to say that there aren’t times I have to make sacrifices to accomplish my ministry goals. However, my goal is to never compromise my walk with Jesus or my relationship with my spouse by consistent neglect. For me, it isn’t a matter of balance, it is a matter of priority.
- Be willing to say “no.” In order to accomplish the things we need to, it is often necessary to say “no.” The “D” category above should always receive a “no” reply. We may have to tell a friend or co-worker “no” in order to get things done. We may need to say “no” to opportunities that are good, but not best for us at the moment. This is hard to do, especially when we view that opportunity as a good thing, fun and confidence boosting. But it is essential to know when to do so.
- Maintain proper boundaries. John Ortberg, in his book The Me I Want to Be, says that in order to be the “Me” I was designed by God to be, I may have to disappoint certain people. Everyone has an agenda for your life…expectations that they have placed upon you. Sometimes those are good things when you have people in your corner, cheering you on and encouraging you toward the goals you’ve chosen (God’s leadership in your life). However, sometimes the expectations of others are not for you. The doctor wants you to live healthier, the local gym wants you to exercise more, the restaurant wants you to eat more food, the credit card company wants you to spend more money. You see, if we listen to the voices around us, we’ll become overwhelmed by all the expectations that others have for us. Obviously, there are certain expectations of others (our employer, for example) that we must accept. But, there are others which we do not have to, and should not accept. Setting proper relational boundaries in our lives will help to protect ourselves from that trap.
- Use practical methods. Systems are only as good as the person’s ability to use them. Whether you are following the Franklin-Covey system, the David Allen system, or Action Method, it will only be of help to you if you put it into practice. I’ve found that the only systems that work for me are those that I find practical and useable. If it makes sense to me and I can utilize it without a lot of resistance to my personality or thinking style, I will likely adopt it more readily. Look for strategies of workflow and time management that make sense to you and are practical in your way of thinking. They will be more easily adopted into your routine and, therefore, be more effective.
I am, by no means, a time management guru. However, I do know what works for me and I am continually looking for ways to improve my strategies. These are just a few tips that have helped me to be more effective. I hope they are helpful to you. Please share your strategies and tips in the comments below. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.