The Secret to Winning Time Management

Clocks

Do you want to increase your productivity, simplify your life and get more done?

Great, me too!

On a quest to improve my time management skills, I discovered a few things I want to share with you.

Most people (myself included) fail at time management because they approach it the entirely wrong way.

We think better time management means that we will get more done every day. Makes sense, right?

So instead of taking a lunch break, we keep working. We log off of social media and silence email alerts on our phone. Or we just put our hands to the plow and work even harder and faster. And it works, we get more done.

However, the problem is not that we aren’t doing enough. The real problem is that we are doing the wrong things. It doesn’t matter how many of the wrong things we get done in a day if at the end of the day we didn’t accomplish anything important.

We have to shift our perspective.

The key to winning at time management is not to get more done. It is doing the right things – doing only important things and eliminating everything else.

The 80-20 Rule

You may have heard of the 80-20 rule before (also called the Pareto principle). The 80-20 rule basically says that 80% of the output is determined by 20% of the input.

It is a common business and leadership principle. Applied to the church, we could say:

  • 80% of the offering comes from 20% of the congregation.
  • 80% of the life-change comes from 20% of the ministries.
  • 80% of the complaints come from 20% of the people.
  • 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people.
  • 80% of what you are doing as a church only makes 20% of a the difference.

Get the point?

Although the actual numbers will vary a little, you will find that these numbers will generally be true.

Applied to time management, the 80-20 rule says that 20% of the tasks you do accomplish 80% of your ministry. Therefore, the other 80% that you do only makes 20% of the results.

The key, then, is to identify what is the 20% that you are doing that accomplishes 80%.

Once you have identified your most effective tasks, eliminate or delegate all other tasks (the other 80%) and focus primarily on the 20%.

Track Your Time

Have you ever actually recorded how you use your time each day? You might be surprised at what you discover.

This is a common time management practice that I highly recommend. For the next week or month, simply fill in a spreadsheet with the time of day and what you did with it. The more thorough you are with your documenting, the more you will get from this exercise.

Once you are done tracking, note how much time you spent doing things that really make an impact (the 20%). Then ask yourself, “Where is the waste?”

How much time did you spend on Faceboook? Checking email? In meetings? At lunch? Driving? On the phone? Watching TV?

Here is a sample sheet to get you started.

Eliminate or Delegate

Once you have identified the time you waste and the 80% of the things you do that aren’t critical, you have a choice to make: eliminate or delegate?

This is a tough one. You have to be brutally honest. You may need to seek an outside opinion. Many things you do have an emotional attachment to you or people in your church. Eliminating a ministry, a program, or even a weekly task you enjoy will be challenging.

However, if you want to make the most of the time you spend – to properly steward the gift of time God has given you – there are some things that must go.

On the flip side, there are some things that you are doing that are still needed. They don’t produce the 80% of the results, but you cannot get rid of them. These things need to be delegated.

The problem most people run in to with delegating is that they try to delegate tasks. They think, “Here are some tasks that need to be done that I don’t want to do anymore, so I will pass them off to someone else.” That is the wrong way to see this.

Leaders will not thrive if you dump tasks on them. And do you want leaders in your church, right?

Leaders will feel unimportant and unnecessary if you just give them tasks to check off. They will eventually leave your ministry and go somewhere else they can actually do what they do best – lead.

The way to delegate to leaders is to give them not tasks, but authority. Do you see the difference?

Giving a task is saying, “Take out the trash every Monday.” Giving authority is saying, “You are in charge of the trash. Do whatever you think needs to be done to handle the trash situation.”

Do you see the difference? It’s huge!

Tasks make you feel like a slave. Authority lets you to lead. Delegate authority.

No multitasking!

Now that you have freed yourself up, think of one word: FOCUS.

Stop multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is synonymous with distraction. The effective way to get things done is focused chunks of time.

Set aside an 30 minutes or an hour of single-minded focus on one thing.

This means shutting out any possible distractions. Silence your phone. Quit your email program. Shut the office door. Get some noise cancelling headphones or ear plugs if you have to. Just do whatever you need to focus purely on one single task.

You will be surprised with how much more you accomplish in a shorter time period when you focus your time, then when you allow distractions to continuously side-track you.

One piece of advice: don’t chunk for too long.

Have you ever stared at a computer screen for so long that your head feels foggy? This is why you need an occasional break. You will actually accomplish more if you take a ten minute break every hour to walk around, stretch and let your brain settle before jumping back in.

Simplify your to-do list

If you are like me, your to-do list is miles long. Just looking at it overwhelms you.

All a large to-do list does is distract you from working on the most important things.

The important things take time. So for the sake of knocking a few quick things off the list and feeling productive, you probably do some of the easier, quicker tasks first. But before you know it, you have spent most of your day doing things that aren’t important. Oops.

Instead of working off your large to-do list. The first thing you should do at your desk in the morning is ask yourself this: What 5 things, if you got them done today, would make for a productive day?

Write them down. Then do those five things one at a time.

Go ahead and keep a longer to-do list for stuff that needs to get done that you don’t want to forget (I use Wunderlist). But each day, boil your list down to the 5 most important things for today.

I like to write my 5 on a sticky note and put it on my desk. Sticky notes are less distracting than a to-do app on my phone or computer.

Then, once you knock out the big 5, if you have time to spare hit another item from your larger to-do list.

Seriously, don’t knock it until you try it. This system has worked wonders for me. I hope it helps you you too.

Now quit being distracted and go get something important done.

QUESTION: What is the biggest productivity killer for you?

Other Posts from the Best Year Yet Series

  1. Make This Year Your Best Year - Start Here
  2. 5 Characteristic of Goals that Work - Set Goals
  3. The Secret to Getting Ahead on Sermon Preparation - Get Ahead
  4. How to Eliminate Bad Speaking Habits. Umm… Like… You Know? - Speak Better
  5. Lose Wight; Preach Better - Healthy Body
  6. Why a Healthy Ministry Requires a Healthy Family - Healthy Family
  7. Out of the Overflow of the Heart the Preacher Speaks - Healthy Spiritual Life
  8. 41 Ways to Risky Preaching - Try Something New
  9. You Don’t Have Time Not to Read - Read More
  10. The Secret to Winning Time Management - Accomplish More of What Matters
  11. Do You Make This One Common Preaching Mistake? - Step Away From your Desk

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