Posted on 31 Comments

Six filters for your time

Is everything you do of equal value?

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.

Level 1

– colored purple on the calendar
– non-negotiable

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!”

Level 2

– 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.

Level 3

– 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.

Level 4

– 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.

Level 5

– 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.

Level 6


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.

Managing your time is really managing your ministry. My book Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask covers a number of other similar practical matters in ministry. Buy it here.

My 20th book, Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper has been a best seller!  You can have revival where you are. 

31 thoughts on “Six filters for your time

  1. Bro Coon,

    Thank you for sharing this great read. I’m currently in a time where I feel overwhelmed all the time so I end up using procrastination as a coping mechanism.

    I am thankful to attend a church where we still have 2 services on Sunday, we have Prayer Meeting on Tuesday, church on Wednesday and then I serve as Mission’s Director and I am on the church cleaning team. I also work full time with at least a half hour commute each way.

    I’m not able to give Mission’s the attention it deserves and I feel awful about it. I would also love to get healthy and attend some workout classes but the classes I love most interfere with prayer meeting and church cleaning. We don’t have many volunteers in our church so there is no one to currently hand Mission’s and cleaning to.

    How do I balance all this without guilt of feeling selfish? The Lord keeps giving me the passage of scripture “why sit ye here till ye die” but I keep sitting because I don’t know what to do.

    I’ve heard these same issues from other Apostolic women. How do we balance church obligations, home, jobs, kids and health while also releasing ourselves from the expectations of others?

    Thank you for your time.


    1. Lisa, Your question is important. (1) You will have to decide what to turn loose of, and turn loose without guilt. An elder told me, “You can’t accent every syllable of life.” Decide what is important and what will most properly use your ability. Use the bulk of your effort, time and energy there.(2) Paul’s priorities to Timothy were: 1. God, 2. Family 3. Church. Important to realize that God and church are not the same thing. Your family, particularly when little ones are part of the home, is your priority above anything else. Don’t lose your children while doing a work about the church. So make some decisions. You’ll burn yourself out if you don’t

  2. I have enjoyed a murder mystery now and then because they are interesting and thought provoking, but I’m not sure that I would describe a murder mystery as “good for my spirit” … can you explain that?

    1. It is a term that I am using to refer to allowing my mind to escape from something rigorous.

  3. Great article!! I will be implementing.

    1. Bro. Sistrunk, with what you have accomplished I imagine you should be writing a post about time management for for church planters. As a matter of fact, how about doing so and I’ll use it as a guest blog post. You can help others.

  4. Absolutely important to all pastors! Thank you for sharing! It is essential to “redeem the time”!

    1. Yes. It is easy for time to slip away.

  5. Great stuff! Thanks for sharing. As a bi-vocational Pastor, it is easy to find yourself spending what little time you have on things that yield little if anything.

    1. Pastor,

      That is well-said and we’ve done too little to equip the bi-vocational pastor to recognize the things that pay dividends, or to empower that pastor to say, “No,” to some opportunities.

      c. coon

  6. Bro Coon, You’ve always amazed me by the outstanding knowledge that you have.With me balanceing school, bible studies, work out times and more more of life’s challenges, these 6 steps will help me out tremendously.
    Thank you

  7. Bro Cook, You’ve always amazed me by the outstanding knowledge that you have.With me balanceing school, bible studies, work out times and more more of life’s challenges, these 6 steps will help me out tremendously.
    Thank you

    1. Richard, I trust you are doing good. Calvary is growing a bit. Moving toward that “Greatest Revival . . .” Season that Jesus has talked with us about. Pastor C.

  8. Bro. Coon,

    Thanks for posting this. I feel that keeping balance and time management is not just a struggle for me, but it is for many others as well. Thanks for your honesty and your willingness to still invest in our ministries.

    Bro. Spagnuolo

    1. I trust all is well in the north-land. You guys, and those who follow will always be part of us. Let’s roll.

      c. coon

  9. Wonderful article. Thank you for sharing. God bless…

    1. Jeff, you are kind. Glad it was a benefit.
      c. coon

  10. Insightful and thought provoking….yet more changes I will be making. 🙂

    1. Rev … you already have most of this figured out.

  11. Pastor Carlton:

    I appreciate your great work and dedication to our Lord. May God continue to provide strength, wisdom, knowledge and discernment for your work of love.

    The purpose of my email is to suggest an additional time saving device in your great list of six time priorities.

    Working in a large workplace environment with several hundred employees, I was challenged to maintain an “Open Door” Policy where anyone may visit my office and ask a question. As you may imagine it became very time consuming with little return on productivity. Instead I had an hour glass 3 minute egg time and when they entered it started the “sands of time” clock. It forced an employee to have thought through his question and frame it concisely including writing it down for submission. It saved hours and encouraged participation of staff and employees.


    1. This is a great idea. I understand the “Open door” concept, but don’t do my best work in an environment of interruptions. Sometimes it is good to go “hide” at the library or a coffee shop. Thanks for sharing the 3 minute egg timer idea.

  12. Great article, wise advise from a very well known man of God! I have struggled my entire life to learn how to manage my time. And you arrived just on time as always! I like the practical way of setting up priorities 1-5 and 6. I only need to settle it for my life style and presto!

    1. I think many folks have this challenge. Using the color codes and numbers is huge. What this really does is empowers me to say “No.”

  13. I have just had a week off after working 7 days a week for 7 weeks……I took 2 books to read…..I read both…..their titles were deceptive and they both spoke about rest, the sabbath, resting in God….now this article pops up……God is good! I got the message and now He uses you to give me practical help! Awesome! Thank you bro Coon.

    1. Sis. Imarisio, You are kind. Like you, I’ve read some things that were not helpful. Try reading the book “Running on Empty.” It is quite good and gives some practical concepts. Hope all is well in Australia.

  14. Excellent!!! Thank you for this timely and useful article.

    1. Bro. Sanders . . . blessings, time is a challenge.

  15. Bro. Coon, thank you for sharing! Thank you for your openness and transparency. I gleaned much from this article and many of your other publications.
    God bless you!
    Marvin Arnold

    1. Bro. Arnold, you made my day. clc

  16. I like this six filters for my time article. I probably need to do this. Do you do this on a written calendar or on a Microsoft word page?

    1. Bro. Mohlenpah,

      To gain control of it we had to use hard copy. I now am able to do it with the online calendar I use (which is Google Calendar). That being said, I do better with hard copy. My challenge with using the computer based calendar is that it does not really capture the amount of “stuff” surrounding a particular date. I notice David Bernard using a pocket calendar, as does Darrel Johns. These are two of the most effective and time conscious people on the earth.

      I sent some of our people to your website a few weeks back. You are a great asset to the body of Christ.

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