REMAINING ATTENTIVE

I realize how much more I value time than I use to. I guess it’s bound to happen as one ages. One of the great benefits of getting older is that you naturally see your need to stewREMAING ATTENTIVE OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME (1)ard this wonderful gift called ‘time’.

So I thought I would share with you a few practical ideas I use that helps me remain attentive over long periods of time. Ill start with a few quotes.

 “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful to not let other people spend it for you.” ~Carl Sandburg-Poet

 “I’m like loose change in God’s pocket and He can spend me however He pleases” ~ John Wimber – Christian leader.

Two great perspectives. We have been given a currency called time that others would love to help us spend on their behalf. Yet, the time we are given is actually intended to be spent for the benefit of others and in a means that benefits the giver of time and life.

 INTENTIONAL YET FLEXIBLE

To be a good steward of time requires us to be intentional with how we use it. However, I also see the need to remain open to serendipitous opportunities. So, how do we manage this tension of being intentional yet ready to surrender to what seems to be God’s invitation at any given moment? How do we stay the course, yet willing to step away from our best laid plans for the day, because God is suddenly altering our priorities? How do we do these things without breaking the tension between planned intention & unplanned redirection?

What I am about to share comes out of my own journey as someone who has tried to hold these two ideas without breaking the tension. Over my 45 years of employment I have experienced different settings in which to do that. I have been in business management and I have also served as a pastor for the last 20 years. Now I am a bi-vocational pastor who also provides leadership coaching and spiritual direction. All of my various roles and work settings have provided ample opportunity to try and test different systems to help me manage this tension between intention and surrender.

The problem I have with most time management ideas is that they major on ‘intention’ but discourage being ‘interrupted. That gets tricky for a Jesus Follower.

My present ‘work flow system’ has evolved from my attempts to be a responsible worker in those various work environments, whilst attempting to follow Jesus in the midst of those environments.

So here are a few of the big ideas behind what I am presently using.

Big Idea #1 Be intentional, yet flexible. I fail miserably with rigid time management systems. Life doesn’t work that way for me. However, if I don’t know what I intend to do with the next chunk of time in front of me, I squander it on activities of little or no value.
Big Idea #2: Plan every minute of the day. The trick here is to chunk out my time. For example, I will chunk out an hour that is dedicated to writing a blog. I may chunk out 2 x 2 hour blocks in my week to prepare a teaching for Sunday. I will chunk out 1 ½ hours for a spiritual direction session with someone. (that includes prep time and follow up work after the session is over)
Big Idea #3. Set a fixed work/rest schedule.  When I work, I work. When I rest, I rest. For me I begin my day at 5am and finish at 6pm. I don’t work on Saturday and I don’t work after 1pm on Sundays. (Recall, I am a bi-vocational pastor)

So, here is a peek at my work flow system.

First, here are my tools.

  • A calendar to record events and meetings. (I use google calendar)
  • A place to keep a list of tasks that I want to work on (I use google documents)
  • A spiral bound notebook to plan out every minute of my day.

Second, here is my practice.

Weekly:

On Monday morning I lay out my week in a simple text file. I include scheduled meetings. Projects I need to be working on. Time needed for writing and teaching preparations. Important tasks that need to be completed because of deadlines. My weekly plan is not a detailed map, but under each day of the work week I record enough information to provide me with a good ‘bird’s eye’ view of the week. When I’m done I email the text file to myself so that it is easily retrieved when I do my daily planning. As the week progresses I revise the plan for the week as needed and resend the revised schedule to myself by email.

Daily:

First thing in the morning I plan out every minute of my work day. For me it is from 6:30am to 6:00pm (my time between 5am and 6:30am is for personal worship). I consult my weekly plan as I do that. I use a spiral bound notebook to do this, and it only takes me about 10 minutes.

I plan every minute of my day. The trick is to plan in time chunks that are a minimum of 30 minutes and to literally schedule them into the day. For instance, part of my day today includes 1.5 hours for blogging from 10am to 11:30am.  1 hour for lunch from 12-1.  1 hour for research on a future article from 1-2pm.

Throughout the day, if something happens that takes me off my plan, I simply re adjust my plan after the other matter is done (an unexpected meeting). Remember, be intentional but flexible.

At the end of the work day, at 5:45 I take 10-15 minutes to review my day, consider what new tasks have appeared on my schedule, tweak my weekly plan and then close my computer for the day.

Monthly:

I reflect on my work flow system. I think about the processes I am using and think about what is working, and what is not working, and how can I make it better. I also scan the horizon and see what is coming up over the next 3 months to see what preparation work needs to be considered for the upcoming month.

This is a very brief over view of the system I am using now and it is continually being revised in order to serve my overarching goal…to live a life loved by God and loving others.

Here are some questions that might be helpful as you now consider your present work flow system.
  1. How you spend your first hour of the day?
  2. How do you schedule your day so that you remain flexible yet intentional about what needs to be done next.
  3. How might you benefit from ‘chunking’ your major time commitments (ie sermon preparation time).
  4. When does your work day begin? When does it end?
  5. When does your work week end?
  6. What are your five favourite ways to rest and rejuvenate when your work day is done?
  7. What are your daily, weekly, & monthly rituals for remaining a good steward of your time?
  8. What needs to change in order to stay focused on your priorities?

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