by Lesleigh Carmichael

Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week. —Charles Richards

The Challenge

While one of the biggest challenges youth ministers face is learning how to manage their time, the skill of managing one’s time extends to each of us at all phases of our professional and personal journeys. Time management is not something one simply learns and checks off the list. The key is continued discipline with how we choose to order our lives. One could argue that people generally make time for what they choose to do. If something does not get done, it is not generally the time, but the discipline and the management of that time which was lacking.

The Distractions

In a world where we can surf the internet at any place at any time, the temptation to spend time doing things other than what we need to do is about discipline. One can find time for anything, but if you want time to do the tasks which we are responsible for doing such as work, school, or family, one must make it. Like learning to budget our finances, we also need to learn to budget our time. As Gordon MacDonald states in his book, Ordering Your Private World, “The disorganized person must have a budgeting perspective. And that means determining between the fixed—what one must do—and the discretionary—what one likes to do.”

The Need for Rhythm

Not only do we need to prioritize, we also need to plan our time out and in advance so we can maximize the time we have to accomplish the tasks at hand. A rhythmic week from Mark DeVries’ book Sustainable Youth Ministry is one of the tools we use at CYMT. The goal of the rhythmic week is to help create tasks within each block of the day (morning, afternoon, and evening) to help you be accountable and stay in rhythm instead of finding yourself trying to accomplish everything in one block of time.

You cannot stay focused and on beat if you check email, plan a Sunday school lesson, schedule a time to meet with your volunteers, and clean out the church van from the mission trip at the same time. Instead, create blocks that maximize the tasks you need to accomplish. For example, on Monday morning spend that block of time checking and inputting attendance from Sunday morning, following up with visitors, updating the Facebook page for the coming week, and writing the weekly newsletter article. That afternoon, plan a program for Sunday night or Sunday morning. Avoid bouncing between planning and administrative tasks. A rhythm is key, and it is easier kept if the beats are not changing every 10 minutes.

The Right Timing

It is also important to know what time of day you are most productive. For example, writing articles, sermons, etc. is not something that comes easily for me. Since my energy lessens as the day goes on, I should budget time to accomplish those tasks in the morning. Meeting with people is something that comes more naturally for me, so I budget tasks like writing in the morning and meeting with people in the afternoon.  No one knows my rhythm better than I do, and thus, no one is responsible for budgeting my time effectively other than me. Find and utilize a tool to hold you accountable for your time.

The Details

Finding a rhythm to our week is the foundation to the budgeting of our time. A rhythmic week allows us to control the best time for our tasks. Without a calendar and planning, one lives in a world without boundaries where anyone and anything can invite itself in and take up unexpected time. If you don’t control your calendar, then something or someone else will. It is also important to note that how we manage our time communicates a variety of things to those we work with or find ourselves sharing space with along our journey. If our world appears scattered and out of sorts, people are less likely to trust that we have control over what is going on in our ministry. They will be less likely to trust us with tasks and responsibilities.

The Blessing: Time for You

Time management is not simply about prioritizing and getting things done.  Time management is about creating time for you, for your family, and for Sabbath.  Those who are disciplined in their time management can create space for exercise, date nights, golf, and rest.  Managing your time well creates boundaries between work and home that allow you to not be consumed by work, but instead to create space to be recharged and replenished.

The Responsibility

I have found that those (graduate residents, other youth ministers, or even pastors) who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its shortness. Again, it is all about discipline. Until one learns to manage their time, they can hardly manage anything else. Having no rhythm is exhausting, and when we find ourselves in this place, everything around us feels out of order. It is not just our professional lives that pay a price with a lack of time management, but more importantly, our personal and our spiritual lives do as well.

Take control or someone else will. The only one paying the price is you. It is not about how much time we are given, it is about how we manage that time. It has been said, master your time and master your life.

Read HOW2 Manage it All: Working with a Rhythmic Week Schedule for a tool to help you manage your time.

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Lesleigh Carmichael is the Associate Director of the Center for Youth Ministry Training. She has been with CYMT from the beginning. She is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). When she is not working at CYMT, Lesleigh enjoys spending time with her husband, Jamey, and their two daughters, Anna Lauryn and Karaley. Lesleigh also serves as a lead consultant with Youth Ministry Architects.

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