Something I’ve been struggling with for a while, especially since taking on more responsibility and oversight for a number of different areas in my job, is about managing my time better. Generally I have a good sense of what is important, and usually manage to achieve what is needed in the right timeframe, however I know that I’m not always methodical or organised in my approach and often waste time by doing too many things simultaneously.
From my limited experience, I think this is an issue for many youth workers. Because (generally speaking) we are practical, hands-on, relational people; the admin, planning and organisation don’t always come at the top of our list (or maybeÂ approached in a reluctant battle-focused manner)! RecentlyÂ I’ve been working through my own systems and challenging myself to work smarter. Here’s a couple of things I’ve learnt:
Switch off push email
Owning a smart phone is great for many reasons, but I’ve found having my phone buzz and beep every time a new email arrives is very distracting. I would often catch myself opening the email and replying to it immediately, in spite of what I was currently doing. I would end up flitting from one thing to another without properly focusing or finishing each. It also had the added issue that people were starting to think that I was available to them at any time as I would respond instantly. A few weeks back, I turned off the push notification. I can still get email instantly whenever I need it, I just have to tap the button to open the app. It’s been hard to resist temptation, but I’m now starting to limit how often I access my email. Ideally I want to only check and respond once or twice a day.
Structure my calendar better
I’ve been sharing online calendars with my family and work colleagues for years, so people are able to see what I’m doing or when I’m available. The thing is, if there is no particular meeting or event the day looks empty and I end up doing whatever is most urgent on my task list, and not always being too productive. Recently I’ve been experimenting with blocking out times for certain tasks each day or week and putting my focus into that. For example, Monday mornings are staff team and church leadership meetings. Because I’m in the office, I’ve started blocking out the rest of Monday to stay in the office working alongside the team and hitting the general admin like reading the post, responding to emails, etc. I know it’s a little thing, but structuring the day and setting aside that time has really helped my productivity.
There’s been some good blog posts on this subject from well-known leaders recently that caught my attention.Â Michael Hyatt posted aboutÂ How to Better Control Your Time by Designing Your Ideal Week, andÂ Doug Fields recently did a 3-part series outliningÂ 5 Steps toward the death of â€œto-doâ€ lists. A big part of it is about structuring his calendar:
- He defines his main roles within his work.
- He then lists all the most important tasks for the upcoming week under those role headings
- He estimates a time frame for each task
- Then he blocks out any meetings & events on the calendar
- and works out a time slot around the meetings for each task.
It’s essentially prioritising the most important things and then ensuring there’s a set time to get it done.
Talking of important things, the Urgent Vs Important dilemma is very relevant to youth work. I learnt about this a number of years ago, but Michael Hyatt does a good job of explaining why you need to focus on important and ignore the urgent. Check outÂ Is That Task Important or Merely Urgent?
So what about you? How do you manage the many demands for your time? What tips can you share?