This is SO like God: No sooner had I posted my previous entry about my recent feelings of overwhelm than I received a whole bevy of emails from friends and colleagues asking me for ideas & recommendations around effective time management. (Guess they don't read my blog!) Anyway, the emails prompted me to take a fresh look at the system I use for handling time management (and the even deeper issue, energy management) and evaluate all that's currently on my plate using that lens. Just looking at it all in this way immediately gave me the answers and direction I need! Very cool.
So I thought I'd share my own time management approach here, to maybe encourage someone else out there who's currently feeling the weight of too many "to do's." The system I use personally is based on the book, The Power of Focus, by Jack Canfield (and others)…though I have significantly modified it to tie it in more directly to my daily relationship with God. My own approach goes something like this:
1. Take time to explore your brilliance (i.e. the best, most impactful things you offer the world…the things you do better than 95% of the people out there, AND that bring you life.) List these, and begin to explore what life would look like if you spent 80 percent of your work time doing these activities.
2. Take time to explore and name your top 5-7 personal “must haves”—those things that must be present in your life on a regular basis for you to be filled up, restored, fulfilled and at peace. List these, and begin to explore what life would look like if your incorporated these into your life on a weekly or monthly basis.
3. List ALL of the administrative, logistical, or otherwise good but “not your brilliance” activities that you currently do in a typical week (or month). Begin to explore what it would look like to delegate or give away ALL (or as many as possible) of these “non-brilliance” duties you perform…so that you are never spending more than 20 percent of your work time doing these tasks. This may involve paying someone, but the time and energy it frees up for you will very quickly more than make up for that cost.
4. With all this info in hand, begin to time-block out your week (at least a week in advance; sometimes I do two weeks or even a month ahead), first blocking out time for your must haves, then for those things that focus on your life-giving “brilliance” (your 80 percent), and finally for your administrative 20 percent. It’s a good idea, especially at first, to schedule extra buffer time into each task or project to allow for unforeseen interruptions or for misjudging how long a particular activity will require to complete. As you get used to the system, you get better and better at accurately gauging how long various things take.
5. Guard your time like your guard your heart. This doesn’t mean you have to become a time-management Nazi. Rather, only make changes to your schedule based on God’s leading, rather than the needs of others. This is a big, but really important shift to make…moving from choosing the good, to choosing the best. What I do is this: Every afternoon I print out my blueprint for the next day, look it over, and simply invite God to speak to me about any changes he may want to make in my time as it is scheduled. Then I set it aside, and just sleep on it. The next morning in my time with God, I pull out the day’s plan again, and invite God to edit or adjust anything he wishes. Sometimes he changes stuff, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he actually warns me to expect a big interruption that day, or alerts me to spiritual warfare headed my way. I like the way this approach allows me to plan, but also to do life with God in a relational way. I also list out some “to-do” items in the margin that come to mind during prayer that may not be scheduled. Then, I follow the plan.
Of course, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to time management. The plan that works for me may not work for you; at least, it will likely need to be adapted to better fit your style and personality. But I thought perhaps at the very least sharing my approach could inspire your own thinking.