Everyone seems to share this common problem: we feel like we don’t have enough time to give our best to our God-given areas of responsibilities. That’s the case if you’re in full-time ministry, a stay-at-home mom, a teacher, a plumber, or a high school student. All of us know the feeling of being behind on a project, forgetting an important deadline, or letting down someone on the other end of a commitment. While I’m not an expert on the time management, here are a few time management “hacks” I’ve learned that have helped me tremendously:
- Have a System
One of my guiding principles when it comes to time management and organization is assume that you won’t remember later. This one principle can be a real game-changer for a lot of people! If you have a system to record items that need to be done, you can then make it your first instinct to write down those tasks as soon as they are assigned to you or they come to mind.
Here’s what I mean by a task-management system: a central location to record and schedule every future task. Your system could really be anything, as long as it’s a central location where every task is recorded: you could use a legal notepad, an app, or a planner. For me, it’s helpful to use an app on my smartphone because those tasks are synced between my phone and computer, it’s more affordable, and a lot more portable.
There are plenty of apps that can function in this way (Apple Reminders, Wunderlist, and Todoist), but I have found Todoist to be the most user-friendly. Todoist works well for me because it shows me each day what tasks I have scheduled for that day. It also allows me to set recurring reminders for tasks, such as a reminder every Wednesday to update the sermon audio on our church website. Having a system where I can record everything has truly been a life-saver.
- Start with a Plan
As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This is especially true when it comes to daily time management. Something has to fill our waking hours, and that something is rarely meaningful if we aren’t intentional about how we will spend our day.
Here’s how I go about starting my day with a plan. Before I begin my work day, I do a quick “Daily Review”. During this review, I do a small number of things to help get me ready for my day:
- Check my calendar for any scheduled meetings or obligations
- Look over my task list and mark the most important tasks (it’s my way of telling myself, “Don’t procrastinate on these!”)
- Decide if there any tasks that can be done immediately (see number 4) or delegated.
This daily review rarely takes more than 5 minutes, and it is 5 minutes that have always been worth the investment.
- Prayer Increases Productivity
It was Martin Luther who said, “I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.” I would guess that many of the readers of this blog would agree with the importance of prayer, but how often do we fail to practice its importance in time management?
I’m starting to learn that the most productive days are those in which I spend time praying for God’s help to accomplish the tasks that are in front of me. Here’s the thing: in my power, a biblical message can only get done so fast. In my own power, I often sit at my desk in frustration, trying to finish a media project for my church. In my power, I am less effective, less productive, and less patient, but God’s grace enables me to do more than I can do on my own! While I’m nowhere close to spending the first three hours of my day in prayer, I have incorporated a daily time in my morning routine to pray over what needs to be done that day. Personally, I’ve seen a major difference since I began this habit.
- The 2-Minute Rule
Some of my most common failures in the area of time management have happened when I failed to do a task that would have taken me just a few minutes to do. This is why the 2-minute rule has helped me so much. The 2-minute rule says that anything that takes less than 2 minutes to accomplish should be done immediately.
If an email lands in my inbox that only requires a brief response, then I take care of it immediately. If something comes to mind that needs to be put on my to-do list, I input it that moment. If the Lord prompts me to text somebody, then I try to do it right away. If my wife asks me to take out the trash, well…sometimes I still procrastinate! If it is going to take less than 2 minutes, just get it done now!
These four time management hacks have helped me tremendously. Incorporate them into your life and you’ll likely see some major changes in your productivity as well!
What tips do you have for managing your time?