“Developing a Time-Use Plan: Ground Floor”
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 12.1
– Time Management
“The ground floor” suggests that you start your time-use planning with strong foundations: purpose and balance. One of the easiest ways to get time management–and life management–in trouble is by scheduling and planning from the smallest, most pressing things first. Do you find yourself
making “to-do” lists to cover all the little things for the day, while the big things get put on hold? We all do in one way or another.
Why not bring your time use into harmony with your life principles by planning from the bottom up, from the big things first! The premise of this series of articles, and of leading time management experts today, is that “having the time of your life” requires you to start with fundamental decisions about your life and work, and build upon that foundation. Two are dealt with in this article, and a third in SL#29.
- Purpose: What is your life mission? Ultimately, your sense of mission in life should guide how you spend your time.
- Balance: Is your total life in balance? The result of good time management should be a balanced, quality life.
- Priorities: What key life/ministry activities will help you achieve your purpose and keep your life in balance? (See SL#29 for this focus.)
Principle 1–Purpose: What is your life mission?
What kind of life do you want to lead? What principles are at the heart of your ministry and leadership roles? What ideas, institutions, and relationships have your truest commitment? In First Things First, Stephen R. Covey lists properties of an “empowering mission statement.”
On these pages, or in a personal journal, construct a mission statement for yourself. Read Covey’s list for basic guidance. Try to devise a succinct and honest account of the life you want to live. Try not to worry about scheduling and priorities just yet. Think big principles–in your life, your leadership, and your ministry.
According to Stephen Covey, an empowering mission statement . . .
- represents the deepest and best within you.
- is the fulfillment of your own unique gifts.
- is transcendent; it’s based on principles of contribution and purpose higher than self.
- includes fulfillment in physical, social, mental, and spiritual dimension.
- is based on principles that produce quality-of-life results.
- deals with both vision and principle-based values; an empowering mission statement deals with both character and competence.
- deals with all the significant roles in your life; it represents a lifetime balance of personal, family, work, community.
- is written to inspire you–not to impress anyone else. [from First Things First by Stephen Covey, p. 113]
When I served as a pastor in the 1950’s, we had a Vacation Bible School motto (adapted from John Wesley) that I accepted as my life purpose. It has served me well throughout the years: “I will do the best I can, with what I have, where I am, for as long as I can, for Jesus’ sake today!” As you work on your own life mission statement, consider what John Wesley, renowned in history for his methodical practice of biblical pietism, admonishes:
Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can.
Principle 2–Balance: Is your total life in balance?
If you just completed a life mission statement and feel a sense of neglect over one or more areas of your life that you identified as essential, you are not alone. As you begin to put your life and work into a sharper focus, the contrast between priority and reality can be startling, even painful. Jesus, in His great love commandment, fixed in place a type of balanced life plan: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (from Luke 10:27; also see Luke 2:52). Let’s turn the findings of the time-use inventory and the call for a balanced, wholeness of life into reality with the actions we take!
Where does your life need more balance? The elements of your life may differ from another person’s; but, the need for balance applies to all! It may be just as important for your well-being as the activities that fill your time. The choices you make–based on your purpose, values, priorities, and expectations–all contribute to that balancing act that is your life and leadership in ministry.
Reflection/Your Balancing Act
- Does your own self-assessment show the need for greater balance? Record your thoughts here or in your personal journal along with your personal mission statement. We’re still not at the scheduling stage.
- Make commitments to yourself about your life balance. Begin sentences with “I should spend more time doing . . .” and “I could spend less time . . .”
- Striking a balance between work and personal life is a process that requires a partnership between the manager and the employee (ministry leader and team).
- As you think about your own life and ministry, how can you put these first two principles into practice?
- Read, review, and apply these fundamental principles immediately, and start with yourself–now.
- Adopt or adapt them as practices in your own total life traffic pattern.
- Share the practices with at least one key person, to broaden that person’s time-use balance
- Make these principles part of your church/staff philosophy and expectations of employees.
- In addition to your leadership role, apply the principles to your other roles: personal, family, school, neighbor, professional groups, etc.
- This does not diminish your Christian work ethic, but it does put work into the perspective of your whole life.
© 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
A Harvard Business Review: On Work and Life Balance
Harvard Business School Press, 2000;
Article: “Work and Life” by Stewart D. Friedman, et. al., pp. 1-2, 27-29
Resource Abstract prepared by Lloyd Elder
This is a very substantive book with insightful review articles on the subject of time use; only the first article is introduced here, reflecting on both purpose and balance:
- Most companies view work and personal life as competing priorities in a zero-sum game, in which a gain in one area means a loss in the other.
- A new breed of managers, however, is trying a new tack, one in which managers and employees collaborate to achieve work and personal objectives to everyone’s benefit.
- These managers are guided by three principles with an emphasis on “what is important”:
- Clearly inform employees about business priorities and encourage them to be clear about personal priorities.
- Recognize and support employees as whole persons, celebrating their roles outside of work.
- Experiment with creative ways to get work done and to allow employees to pursue personal goals.
How to Balance Competing Time Demands
by Doug Sherman and William Hendricks
Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1989
A Study Abstract prepared by Lloyd Elder
“Keeping the Five Most Important Areas of Your Life in Perspective” requires balancing a “pentathlon” of personal life, family, work, church, and community. This is an annotated outline of a book on time management written from a Christian perspective. The purpose is twofold: (1) to introduce what the book presents;
(2) to suggest issues you may face in building your own time management plan.
1. This Is a Book for Busy People! If you’re too busy to read this book, you need this book!
Part One: Is Your Life Out of Balance?
2. We’re All in This Together.
No one escapes time demands. Here are some examples.
3. Are You Stressed for Success?
Our culture leaves God out of work–and gets work out of perspective as a result.
4. What They don’t Teach You in Sunday School.
Christians have been taught an inadequate view of work–and that works’to help them keep life in balance.
5. You Can’t Get There from Here!
Three personal obstacles can deter you from enjoying life as it was meant to be lived.
Part Two: What Does It Mean to Balance Competing Time Demands?
6. The Pentathlon: A New Way of Looking at Life
The Bible teaches a comprehensive view of life that helps us keep things in perspective.
7. But Is the Pentathlon Valid? Don’t take my word for it.
The Pentathlon is right out of the Bible!
Part Three: Putting Work in Its Proper Perspective!
8. “APPLYing” the Pentathlon
9. A: Analyze the Scriptures
10. P: Take a Personal Inventory
11. P: Plan Steps
12. L: Make Yourself Liable to Others
13. Y: Use Yardsticks to Measure Your Progress
14. Watch Out for the Enemy!
15. This All Sounds Good, But . . .
16. Don’t Stop Here!
Applying the Pentathlon: A Manual for Growth