During my time as the General Director of North American Missions for the United Pentecostal Church, I worked with an Executive Coach to balance the various realities of life. In spite of having been an executive in secular employment and even though I’d been a somewhat effective pastor. I needed this coaching. I discovered that the skill set I needed to be an effective pastor were unlike the skills needed to be an effective religious executive.
Jane Klieve, my coach, helped recalibrate me regarding my use of time. With her help, I began to apply a “priority filter” for the many opportunities that came. What Jane was trying to do was have me place value on my time and prioritize the way it was used.
The system we came up with is color-coded and denotes anywhere from a level 1-5 in value. I later added a 6th level. Today I use an adapted version of this process. The goal is to feel empowered to say, “No,” to certain opportunities because they do not fulfill my purpose in life.
Here are six filters for your time.
Level 1 = non-negotiable
Level 2 = Optional opportunity with a high return on the time invested
Level 3 = Optional opportunity with mid-range return on the time invested
Level 4 = Optional opportunity with low-ranger return on the time invested
Level 5 – Good for my spirit
Level 6 = Sabbath
Now, let me show you how this worked for me.
– colored purple on the calendar
These responsibilities are non-negotiable. Most often duties that are part of the job. We do not have a chance to negotiate about whether or not we do these things. On my calendar or on tasks these are denoted in purple. When my place of service was directing a missions program, this list of non-negotiables included General Board meetings, North American Missions Board Meetings, designated District Conferences, and such.
As a pastor, non-negotiables include preaching/teaching, funerals as they come, teaching Home Bible Studies, disciple-making and developing leaders.
Notice that the list of non-negotiable level 1 responsibilities is short.
It is really after considering level 1 responsibilities that a person makes decisions about what you will do with your life. For some years, while at North American Missions my schedule stayed overly full, but many of the things I was doing were trite. In essence, crazy busy but without meaningful accomplishment. This is where the filtering began to help me. I had to think about the return on the investment of time, energy and effort. None of us can do everything. We must decide where to say, “Thanks, but no thanks!”
– colored green on the calendar
– High return optional opportunity
These are optional opportunities but offer a high return on the use of time. For coding these tasks and dates – we used the color green. In working with missions, optional opportunities included seminars or an invitation to teach or preach an event.
As a pastor, a hospital visit to someone connected with the church may be a level 2 opportunity, or being involved in a community effort where one will get acquainted with people in the church’s neighborhood.
– Colored blue on the calendar
– Mid range return optional opportunity
Mid range return on the investment. For me, these were colored blue. An example of a mid range return would be: if I’d been to a particular event in this year, I’d likely not return though invited, unless there was strategic intent. There’s always benefit gained, but with my focus on all of North America, other events also needed an investment of my time.
As a pastor, level 3 use of time has included attending a Sunday School kid’s elementary school recital, particularly if this is a chance to connect to the kid’s parents and further extend my influence into that family’s life. Any opportunity to spend time with new converts has significant return on the investment. Weigh these carefully. Jesus did!
Note: I’m more likely to attend the recital of a bus kid than of the child of a deacon or trustee. Why? The child of the deacon or trustee already has people cheering him on, the child who rides the bus or has little parental involvement in life needs to know somebody believes in, and is interested in what he/she is doing. It’s about the eternal return on investment.
– Colored red on the calendar
– Little/no return optional opportunities
Little or no return on the investment. These were of course marked in red. As an executive a “level 4” included, being a “famous face” at someone’s church dedication. Simply to be there, to be noted as somebody important and sit on the platform was not enough return on investment for me.
As a pastor, level 4 items include “appearances” at events like birthday parties, 8th wedding anniversary, and such. I just don’t do these! Pastor, here is the deal – if you do one such event, you just created a precedent and MUST then attend all such events! Of course, if you are in the early stages of planting a church use every opportunity to connect with people. I’m glad to attend 50th wedding anniversaries, or someone’s 80th birthday party – but even then I’ll not stay long. Time is too valuable to spend on beauty appearances.
– Yellow on the calendar
– Good for my spirit opportunities
“Good for my spirit” opportunities. My color here is “yellow” meaning take caution to not schedule anything on top of this. “Good for my spirit” is anything that helps my mind and spirit. Grandchildren may have saved my sanity. Kaden, Wyatt and Elsie Adara get “Good for My spirit” calendar time. Of course, we let their parents tag along too!
Beyond that, a Murder Mystery is good for my spirit. Louis L’amour western – good for my spirit. TURNING OFF EVERY COMMUNICATION DEVICE THAT HAS AN ON/OFF SWITCH – really good for my spirit. Getting back attuned with nature, and my body and brain by riding my bike – good for my spirit. Norma and I taking a Friday to do a day trip looking for Amish pickles – good for both our spirits. Attending a seminar that stretches my brain – good for my spirit. Being with people I call “laughing friends” – good for my spirit.
The past twenty years, I did too little that was good for my spirit.
For me a Sabbath is doing things that don’t have to be done. For me a day fishing or hunting is not Sabbath. Unless it is an exceptional experience like being on a river in the Yukon territory or fishing for Halibut off Alaska.
A golf course might be Sabbath, or sitting in the swing with a good book might be Sabbath. Scanning in some interesting stories or quotes can also be Sabbath, if it is something I just decided I wanted to do it. When I don’t have to do it, but just decide . . . it is a Sabbath experience.
Take some time to think of what you need to do to focus as much time as possible on where there will be a return on the investment. To make such decisions requires critical thinking and not simply flowing along down the stream of life. Filtering out the “essential” and “beneficial” from the not important or impactful.
You may have tools you use to manage time and make decisions. Please share. You can help us all.