Depending on your personality, the word structure may fill you with elation or dread. For the latter, just take the Pirates of the Caribbean approach and consider it a “guideline.”
We all know the pressure of being pulled in a million directions on a daily basis. It’s probably not uncommon for you to reach the end of a workday, and ask yourself what you actually accomplished. Sadly, too many of our days pass this way while the workload only seems to increase.
But there is an approach you can take to curb this lack of productivity. With a few tweaks, you’ll feel better about reaching the end of your work week.
Structure Your Week
Depending on how far ahead you begin thinking about the following week—the Friday before, the Sunday evening before, or even that Monday morning—you probably have a good idea of the main goals you need to accomplish over that five-day period. If not, that would be the first thing to identify. Realistically, set this number between five and ten, but closer to five if the goals are big and require more time.
Next, give your week a theme. Who doesn’t love a good theme? Ministry is often very seasonal in nature, and that should lend itself well to this tactic. Perhaps its “mission trip logistics week,” or “fall retreat planning,” or “Easter service preparation.” Whatever that week is for you, identify a topic that binds your goals together. That will give you a new way to view your week as a whole, despite the other tasks, meetings and detours that may come up. Keep that theme in mind at all times, and cancel or delay anything that does not fit within your theme, if possible.
Structure Your Day
After you have a theme for your week, sort your goals by priority and start tackling those that rank highest on Monday or Tuesday. Despite your best efforts, you’ll likely be doing well if you can accomplish three large tasks in a day. But now that you have your goals rated, you can easily carry any over to the next day that don’t get checked off your list.
Your next task would be to build your day around your natural rhythms and typical work week flow. For example, you’ve probably heard this before, but if you are a morning person, those early hours are when you’re going to be your most productive. However, even the night owls would do well to make some adjustments here if distractions are common around your office. Often, people come into work and spend the first hour checking email and preparing for the day. This means that distractions are usually at a minimum because people are doing their own thing, and you can be super productive during this time.
Another thing to consider is how your staff or office operates. For example, do you have staff meetings or other reoccurring events on certain days of the week? If so, this is the best day to schedule as many meetings as possible. Otherwise, you’ll find your concentration wane as you constantly pop between meetings and time at your computer.
For those of you who have found your groove with the suggestions above, and want to go an extra mile, consider giving your days a theme like Motivation Monday where you tackle one huge goal to set a precedent for the week. Or Tech Tuesdays when you concentrate on writing, responding and scheduling emails, or taking care of the tech needs for Sunday’s service. Or Finale Fridays where you wrap up as many projects as feasible to end the week on a high note.
Another idea would be to implement time blocking. Time blocking, or batching, is when you group similar tasks together to maximize the same train of thought or repetitive actions. This could include things like managing email for one hour at the beginning and end of each day only, or setting aside afternoons for meetings, or giving yourself two hours on Thursday for personal development. The key is to create bulk time slots with a singular focus.
And, of course, we know there will be curve balls every week that you can’t anticipate. It happens in ministry and life. But practicing these forms of intentionality with your weeks and days will leave you feeling more effective, purposeful, and considerate of your time.