Time Management Series
“Developing a Time-Use Plan: Getting Specific”

by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 12.1
Time Management

With your personal foundation taking shape through mission statements and commitments for balance, this article asks you to think about specific ways those principles might be a part of your daily life, and your long-, short-term plans. Sometimes making your actions and your principles align in time management can be the
hardest step of all. So, keep your mission statement close at hand and your life-balance commitments in mind while you explore the things you can do now, and in the near future, to honor those personal conclusions you have reached. Here you will take two more steps in the time/life planning process:

  • Priorities: What key life/ministry priorities will help you achieve your purpose and keep your life in balance?
  • Ministry Time-Use Plan: How will you spend your time?

Principle 3–Establishing Priorities: What matters most in your life and work?

What activities matter most in your life/ ministry? With your mission statement and life-balance commitment in mind, what are three to five priorities you have for the next 12 months? Decide which functions and activities will most help you achieve that vision, either through a new commitment or a recommitment. Once you’re satisfied with your thoughts on your priorities, write them down for your continued action planning.

Golda Meir (1887-1978) reportedly expressed her practical perception of life priorities in a graphic way: “I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.” Do your larger priorities guide your daily choices of what is important, what needs to be done as the higher good? Stephen Covey reminds us that activities contributing to balance in life and in tune with our mission are a most important “true North” in a profound way. Why don’t we do them all the time and nothing else? That’s an excellent question for most of us. There are three potential counter-influences to doing the most important, most life-balancing things all the time:

  • operational assignments
  • time-wasters–which are addressed in articles SL#31 and SL#32
  • urgent demands

Moving Toward the Important

What’s true of most leaders is perhaps especially true of ministers: we don’t feel in control of many of the pressing demands on our attention. Responding to urgency drives much of our day-to-day work. It is an essential function of leadership, not to be avoided; they don’t call it “urgent” for nothing! But there may be ways to diminish the toll of stress and time that can occur when the urgent rules; for example:

  • Learn to delegate! Do you try to take over every brush fire? Train and trust your team member to deal with many situations. This will help you build a competent, empowered team that will assume ownership of the ministry with the right encouragement!
  • Develop efficient systems! Ever notice the urgent demands that keep coming up? Have procedures in place for dealing with crises. It will still require your attention, but the less you have to scramble for resources, the better.
  • Practice good time habits: schedule time for the unknown in your planning. Keep organized notes in your file; don’t make yourself relearn a situation every time it arises.

Ministry Time Management Matrix

The diagram below, an adaptation of Stephen Covey’s “Time Management Matrix,” divides activities into four quadrants–pairing the “urgent” and the “not urgent” with the “important” (in the deepest sense) and “not important.” You spend some time in each
section, but, in which do you spend most of your time? Should you move more of your time toward the important? Do your purpose and life-balance guide your decisions?


Ministry Time-Use Plan

How many hours do you plan to allocate per week toward each ministry function in order to live a productive, balanced life, following your priorities? If you do not set your priorities and plan your schedule, others will do it for you. (Compare to inventory in article SL#27.)


Time-Use Practices

In addition to time-use principles, there are three practices that contribute to effective time-use planning:

  • Performance zone: discover when you are the most productive and schedule your most demanding, creative work in this zone; don’t open mail during that two to four hours.
  • Task consolidation: run errands and meet appointments on a timed route; return six phone calls in one short chunk of time.
  • Pace yourself at a project with concentration (say two hours), and then break your schedule into a less demanding task.


© 2006 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership


The Executive at Work: A Guide to Successful Performance

by Fred DeArmond: Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1958, (pp. 110-124)
A Review Abstract by Lloyd Elder from Chapter 7

The Great American Alibi: “I’m too busy!” or “I haven’t the time.” It is offered as the excuse for all sorts of shortcomings. The president of a large company said that each day at least 3 executive hours out of 8 were nonproductive. Why? Examples:

  • Waiting for a conference because someone is late: 12 minutes for 6 persons.
  • A proud parent shows and introduces his boy around the office for 40 minutes.
  • Looking for a lost chart removed from the file: 15 minutes for executive and secretary.
  • Ten-minute coffee break stretched to 25 minutes to hear about the fishing trip.
  • Two-hour luncheon to go across town and look at a hunting dog.
  • One hour for writing a formal report when a 3-sentence memo would do.

Eliminate the Unessential

  • Arnold Bennett writes in How to Live on 24 Hours a Day: Don’t be ruined by attempting too much and failing in the principle endeavor.
  • Don’t have too many outside interests, failing to stick to the main business.
  • Take stock of waste motions–analyze how you use your time.
  • Don’t steal your time by over-listing, ready-volunteering, and extracurricular activities.
  • Make more time for the essential things.
  • Don’t do things others can do for you.

Accent the Essential by Choosing, Planning, Concentrating

  • Center on the present pain, not the headache to come or the next task.
  • Be deliberate: don’t tarry, don’t hurry–avoid unnecessary mistakes.
  • Escape the tyranny of the clock–don’t be a clock watcher.
  • When there’s a big job to do, then do what must be done.
  • Fill in those time interludes with short tasks that need to be done.
  • Use your calendar pad–write it down, schedule, then make time to do it.
  • Use your phone more and your legs less.
  • Use your commuting time–for some, 1 to 4 hours each day.
  • Time your job arrivals and departures.
  • Train your [spouse] about trivial phone calls or office visits.
  • Budget your time–analyze actual allocation to tasks.
  • Don’t become a slave to the clock.



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