Time Management Series

“Taking an Inventory of Your Time”

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

Psalm 90:10, 12The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away . . . Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

An essential step toward developing personal time management strategies is to take a self-inventory of your time. Becoming honestly aware of your present practice will illuminate your constraints, your shortcomings, and your opportunities for synchronizing your life mission with your daily activities. In The Effective Executive –a leadership book I started using three decades ago–Peter Drucker has an excellent chapter titled, “Know Thy Time.” He claimed then:
“Effective executives, in my observation, do not start with their tasks. They start with their time. . . . They start by finding out where their time actually goes. This three-step process includes: recording time; managing
time; and consolidating time.” (
Drucker, p. 25) This article emphasizes an inventory on three levels to be investigated in the following material:

Measurement – “How much time is there?”
Everyone has the same amount of time; it is a limited resource.

Accounting – “How do you actually spend your time?” Logging how you actually spend your time is the most important self-revelation you can make in your time inventory.

Pricing – “How much is your time worth?”
Whether you realize it or not, your time does come at a cost. Is a particular activity worth the cost of doing it? Should it be left undone? Could it be delegated to someone else? Would a cost-efficient method help?

    1. Measuring Your Time–“How much time do you have?”How many years in a life? How many hours in a week? Our task as servant leaders for Christ is to be good stewards of whatever time we do have. It is quite a task because time is finite, at lease in this transitory segment of our lives! How much time do you have? Seemingly never enough, but scan these obvious time units: One life to live; 1 year; 4 seasons; 12 months; 52 weeks; 365 days; 8,760 hours; 525,600 minutes; 31, 536,000 seconds.
      Have you ever helped to take any kind of inventory? The purpose and benefits of such an inventory illustrate this concept of time management: “How much time do you have” –one life at a time?

      Glossary: “inventory”– (from the American Heritage® Dictionary)

      1) A detailed, itemized list, report, or record of things in one’s possession, especially a periodic survey of goods and materials in stock; the process of making such a list of the quantity of goods and materials on hand. 2) An evaluation or a survey, as of abilities, assets, or resources.

      An old adage/new words–Let me paraphrase an old rhyme about the use of money:

      “It’s not what you’d do with the decades
      If old-age were to be your lot.
      It’s what you’re doing this moment
      With the only time you’ve got.”

      This “time ditty” may oversimplify the concept of measuring your time, but it does focus on the need to be specific about time issues.
      What are you doing with your time–starting now?

    2. Accounting for Time–“How do you spend your total time?” Begin to think about how you use your day. Using these broad categories of functions, estimate how you allocate the 24 hours in an average day. Save the detailed accounting for later–we’ll get to that next! When you’re satisfied with your estimation in all of the categories, add them up–and then level them out to be a whopping 168 hours. You’ll want to return to this when you’re building your time-use plan. One national survey indicates that the average work-week for professionals and executives is 54-56 hours. More recently, a survey discovered a 41-hour work week. How does this compare to your practice? Thomas A. Edison died in 1931 at age 84. He had said, “I’m long on ideas, but short on time. I expect to live to be only about a hundred.”The next pages ask you to estimate how you use your total time of 164 hours per week. You could just guess at your time-use for a “normal” week (if such exists). To evaluate and clarify your numbers, create a time-use log sheet by dividing your days into 30 minute blocks. Assign each block to one of the categories below based on how you spend your time; do it every day for a week. Write in the weekly totals in the form below.

      Personal …………._________




      Secular Work……._________

      Church Ministry…_________


Weekly Total…….._________

  1. Accounting for Work Time–“How do you use your ministry time?”Now, let’s get more specific! Taking the daily estimate from the previous page, determine how many weekly hours you spend in your paid ministry/leadership position. This list will give you some ideas for work categories. Put everything else in the other category–but make sure you know what all the “other” stands for!

    Worship/Preaching …………._________



    Pastoral Care/Visiting….._________




    Denominational Service…_________

    Prof. Development……….._________


    Weekly Work Hours………_________

  2. Pricing Your Time–“What is your work-time worth?” Do you spend most of your at-work time at activities that are worth what you are being compensated? Time is money; it is not possible to save it–only to spend it wisely. Fill in the following table to calculate the cost of your work hours. It helps if you already have a position description. If not, from
    your experience develop a list of your employer’s expectations. Change the categories listed below to reflect your assigned tasks and write in the numbers. Once you’ve completed this activity, the net cost/price of
    each hour of your ministry/work will be estimated at the bottom of the table.
    Do you spend each hour wisely?Compensation per Work HourAnnual Salary…………………….._________Value of Housing…………………_________

    Other Compensation……………._________

    Total Yearly Compensation….._________

    Comp. per week (div/52)………_________

    Weekly Work Hours……………._________

    Price per Hour ……………………._________

    (Weekly Comp./Work Hours)


This Time Inventory may be “for your eyes only”; or, you may decide that it fits your purpose to discuss it with a friend or mentor. However you chose to express your reflection, the following questions are primarily for your benefit:

  • Does your time inventory indicate that you are living true to a worthy purpose?
  • Does the way you spend your time represent a balanced life including family, personal, and your chosen ministry?
  • Are you using your time to achieve desired results identified in your priorities?
  • Are you using your work time in a way that represents your assignments and tasks?
  • Do you spend most of your “at-work” hours in ways that return a “fair market value” to your church or other employer?

© 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

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