aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

More clerging

My mentee (I hate that word; it sounds like an aquatic mammal or a julep) wanted some advice on time management. He has been told that he has to keep track of the hours he spends in his student appointment. I shared with him some of the survival tips I have discovered or developed over the years.

1. The waking hours of the day are divided into thirds: Morning; Afternoon; Evening. Unless you are very pressed, do not work more than two of them. If you have a busy morning and evening meetings, it's okay to take the afternoon off. If you were up late last night, it's okay to sleep in, do hospital calls or office work in the afternoon, then go back for a round of meetings in the evening.

Trying to track your work in the equivalent of "billable hours" is impossible. So many of the things we do are not trackable in such small units. A ten-minute hospital call that you have to drive thirty minutes each way for is not a ten-minute call, but an hour and a half (once you've added in the hassle of gathering your stuff to go and getting settled in when you return), all of it work. The emotional drain of doing shut-in calls means you simply can't do six of them in a day and give them your full attention.

So some Thirds of the day will be packed full, and others packed light. It all evens out in the end.

2. Make to-do lists. Update them frequently. When you have a Third of the day without places to go or things to do, whack off a few of the items on your list.

Manage your calendar, so you know what's coming up. Learn to backdate: if the retreat is in six weeks, you've got to have everything ready to go BEFORE it starts. When you're juggling three or five different programs in different stages of readiness, you've got to drive all these things abreast at the same time. Update your lists, set aside time to get these things done on your calendar. Drop the stuff you can't get done.

3. Set realistic goals for yourself, especially in terms of pastoral calling. Being accountable to others is important; so is exorcising the Demon of Work Guilt.

Definition of a "call": Any significant contact on the parishioner's turf. Some are scheduled, some just happen as you move about the parish. The important thing is to meet them on their home ground. So church trips and programs don't count, nor having them over to your house or seeing them in your office. Meeting them at their homes, their workplaces, their schools, the hospital, the funeral home, even chatting in the grocery store (depending on the depth of your contact) are all on their turf, and have the same impact as a set-piece call.

Remember, your flock is out there, not in here. Some of them will be shocked to see you. They think you live in the church (especially kids). When you set foot in their worlds, you make an impact.

As for the number of calls to be made, I set my goal many years ago as averaging four calls per week. I check those numbers and report them quarterly to my Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. I chose that number because it's high enough to be defensible, but low enough to guarantee that I could meet it.

In fact, I usually average 6-8 calls per week, easily. I have only failed to meet that goal (or barely scraped it) a couple of times in fifteen years. (I was sick and/or exhausted.) The upshot of this is:
a) The PPRC has received my goals (and approved them by receiving them), so they are on board with that number -- and when I make that goal (indeed, more than make it) quarter after quarter, they see that I'm doing a good job;

b) Whenever I get tired and start beating up on myself that I'm just not cranking it out, I can look at those numbers and say, No wonder I'm tired -- look at all I'm doing! (and Mr. Work Guilt has a stake hammered through his heart).

4. Unless you're in a very large church, do not feel tied down to the office. In large churches, people want to be able to drop in on the minister in an inviting atmosphere, which is what maintaining a good office culture is all about. That's fine.

But in most parishes of moderate or small size, they may SAY they want you to keep office hours, but what they really want you to do is to share their lives. Check in regularly. Use cell phones and/or call in for messages, whatever it takes to keep up on people trying to reach you. But don't be a slave to the office.

The pastor is an entrepreneurial worker. He sets his own schedule, and must be responsible for getting stuff done in it. I carry the entire address list of my parish, the leadership directory, and the budget with me at all times in my calendar. I don't have to tag up at the office or study to find somebody's address while I'm out tooling around. The pastor must do the job he knows is important to get done, and not be run ragged by other people who think they know what his job is.

5. Finally, learn to say No. Your NO is what gives value to your YES. If you say Yes in order to shut people up, you will fail to deliver much of value to them in the end, you will feel like a failure, and you will always be dodging criticism. Let your Yes be your Yes, and your No be your No.

And make sure that your Yes to your spouse is as important as any other Yes in your calendar. "Ministers schedule everything," I once said with a knowing leer to a friend. Well, you've got to. Schedule your spouse in. And if someone wants you to do something else that afternoon or evening, just say, "I've got another meeting." Yes, you do, and they don't need to know who it's with.

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