These 5 time management tips for anyone, but I think they are particularly helpful for those who work in a creative setting.
1. Have a clear vision
It seems obvious, but one of the biggest time management mistakes we often make is a lack of clear vision. You might have a vague concept of what you want to achieve, but that is not necessarily going to be enough. Know exactly what you want to achieve in a given time period. Consider making SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed.
For example, a worship pastor might want to grow their worship team. This is quite general and it’s hard to evaluate success. Instead, a SMART goal could be this: “I want to recruit two drummers by April 2017.” This is much more specific, it’s measurable, it’s achievable (depending on your setting), it’s realistic and there’s a clear deadline.
Clear vision and SMART goals help to add focus to your daily routines. Rather than working on something that might be vaguely beneficial but not urgent, vision keeps our eyes fixed on the more important tasks at hand. Have a solid idea of what you want to achieve in the next day, week, month, year – and although you should chase those things with laser focus, don’t be discouraged if the plan changes along the way.
2. Be a list maker
Make lists. Lots of them. If you have a Rainman like memory, that’s phenomenal! I don’t.
There was a brief and fairly overwhelming phase where I was studying two degrees, leading worship on a touring team, working for the college I attended, mentoring two people and dating my future wife (as well as all the random day-to-day stuff that inevitably popped up). It was a struggle. My friends would often ask how I did it. Well…
I wrote down everything.
If someone asks me to do something, I get them to email me or write it down immediately. Otherwise, I’ll forget. I keep three lists at any time:
Every task I have goes into a website called “Asana“, which is bookmarked on my browser (so I don’t miss it). It organizes tasks by the due date which I find helpful.
Each week (usually Sunday), I open my ‘Notes‘ app and assign tasks to each day of the next week…then stick to it.
Finally, I use the ‘Reminders’ app on my phone to alert me about the key tasks that I would otherwise forget (eg. “text mum Happy Birthday” or “Email John Doe to organize a meeting”). Each morning, I spend about 10 minutes planning out my day as best as I can, recognizing that things will inevitably come up during the day. I strongly recommend being disciplined with lists – I’m infinitely better at time management than I was for it.
One last comment. My motive in sharing my busy season was not to brag about my time management prowess, but rather to highlight that if I can balance this stuff, you definitely can. I think we are all capable of getting much more done than we think we are!
3. Always evaluate and reevaluate your processes
Know what is sacred, and what isn’t. Constantly assess the way you do things and see if you can speed up the process. When I first became a music director for a church, a huge part of my job was scheduling the teams and making chord charts for them. Now, that process takes about a quarter of the time thanks to Planning Center Services.
How can your meetings be more effective? How can you lessen the steps in creative processes? Evaluate the motive behind a tradition in your church – why is it a tradition? If a tradition exists for a Godly, biblical motive, absolutely keep it. However, if the answer is ever “that’s just the way we’ve done things”, take a good look and see if you can simplify or streamline that process to free up valuable time elsewhere.
4. Don’t be a lone ranger!
One of the biggest time management killers is a lack of delegation or inclusion. You might be good at something in your church, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be the one to do it. People want to serve their church community; give them an opportunity to! Ask yourself this question: “what is the most valuable use of my time at this exact moment?”
In a previous church, I would spend about an hour and a half setting up the stages and practice spaces for our rehearsals each week. Of course, I was happy to do it and I wanted it to be perfect, but other tasks were getting dropped. A colleague reminded me that while other volunteers could set up the rehearsal spaces, only I could complete some of the other tasks. Some of the teenagers in the youth band loved the opportunity to take on responsibility, and they thrived. The rehearsal spaces might not have been perfect, but I found myself working a lot more effectively, and a lot more got done.
Find ways to train people. Spread the load that you are shouldering and let other people serve the church too. Sometimes in the short term, we need to sacrifice overall quality just a little bit to really flourish in the long term. Where can you get people to help you?
5. Know when to take a break
Lastly, know when to stop. When I was about 20, I was desperate to prove myself to the church I was working at (for all the wrong reasons), so I worked lots. There was a season where I was working 80+ hour weeks; I want to be clear that no one asked that of me. It was dumb. I nearly burnt out.
Then, with the help of some solid mentors, I started to learn how to work smart.
I took breaks, started to get enough sleep, and began to plan ahead. The outcome? I worked about half the hours but accomplished far more. During the 80+ hour weeks, I was a walking zombie; my mind was frazzled. Knowing when to take a break kept me sharp and much, much more effective.
Something I am a big fan of is the Pomodoro Technique. Essentially, you force yourself to take regular, short breaks which help you stay focused for a much longer period of time. This helps combat procrastination and keeps you on track and ultimately, far more effective. I have to admit, I’m not the best at this – but when I stick to it, I immediately notice the difference. Why not try it?
Good time management can make a huge difference to both your work and home life. Why not try some of these tips and let me know what you think?