Time Management 101: Get Meeting Happy

 

I have a recommendation for you. FILL UP YOUR CALENDAR WITH MEETINGS! That’s right. I believe this can be a very powerful tool to help you stay focused, use your time wisely and get things done. Since I’m sure you don’t want to be stuck in any more meetings than I do, I guess I better explain myself. The point of this basic time management principle isn’t to get more busy, but LESS busy, by ensuring you schedule out your week and days in advance.

Here are the different kinds of meetings you should fill your calendar with:

  • Team Meetings.
    A team meeting is any meeting that includes more than two people. It’s important you connect with the team(s) you work with. That doesn’t mean you should be in team meetings all day, every day. Limit team meetings as much as possible so that you have the time/energy in your week to process and get done what you’ve been dreaming and talking about in team meetings. I also recommend you clarify the type of team meetings you participate in. I lay out the three basic kinds of meetings in the post: The Seats of the Bus.
  • One on One Meetings.
    One on One meetings include any meeting between just you and one other person. If you manage people (staff or volunteers) you should be holding 1on1 meetings with various people in order to encourage, evaluate, and equip them for ongoing ministry. If you have a boss (or direct report), hopefully you are invited to similar meetings with him or her (if not, I encourage you to setup a 1on1 with them to talk about it). Finally, 1on1 meetings will include counselling sessions, lunch appointments, time with key staff to connect or troubleshoot problems, etc. Check out Tactical Tip: Moving to Eye Level.
  • Self-Appointments.
    The rest of your calendar should be filled in with self-appointments. These are blocks of time that you have dedicated to getting things done. Most people don’t fill their calendar in with self-appointment time. As a result, the tyranny of the urgent rules the day. Long term projects, study time, prayer time, and admin time get squeezed in wherever it will fit in – and often it doesn’t fit in. I recommend you protect self-appointments like you would 1on1 and team meetings. That doesn’t mean you become legalistic about it, just protective. For example, you might create a weekly self appointment on Mondays for 1-2 hour slot that is specifically set aside for reading or study; or perhaps a 5 hour chunk for sermon prep on Tuesdays. You could slot off a 2 hour chunk on a Thursday to work on a long term project or something that is coming up later this month. I often create self-appointments prior to 1on1 and team meetings so I can prepare for them properly.
Additional Suggestions:
Here are a few more random suggestions in regards to filling your calendar with meetings.
  • Schedule ‘Off Time’ Too.
    It’s just an idea, consider scheduling what your off hours (that means hours you don’t work – for those of you who keep hours like that) look like too? This is where you would include the obvious, like Doctor appointments and kids games. But it could also include specific time with the whole family or individual family members, down time, TV time, exercise, and more.
  • Block Flexible Hours.
    If you are a pastor, you know that any given week you need to be available to meet with people, even if those meetings aren’t setup today. Block the hours and days you will be available for 1on1 meetings. If you don’t have meetings during that block of time, work on other things. The key is to keep most of your meetings within those blocked times and protect the rest of your week’s self-appointments.

Time Management 101: Margin – A Matter of Priorities

 

I wonder what you would change in your schedule if you found out you could spend personal, 1on1 time with Bill Hybels for the next four weeks? What would you decide you could afford to ‘let go’ for a while?

  • The weekly lunch or breakfast appointment?
    Perhaps you would arrange to meet with them monthly instead.
  • A block of time set aside for counselling?
    Maybe a church elder could meet with them, or you could refer them to a professional.
  • A Bible Study or weekly church event that you lead?
    You may possibly cancel it or find someone else to lead it.
  • An upcoming special event that you know will heavily tax you this month?
    Perhaps you will cancel it or delegate it to others.
Wow. You just freed up 2-4 hours every week for several weeks in a row! That’s what I call ‘margin’. It’s ‘flex’ time that is specifically set aside to focus on Quadrant 2 Activities – the things that are Important, but not necessarily Urgent (click here to learn more about the priority matrix.) What if you knew you had at least 2-3 hours every single week that was solely dedicated to thinking, praying and planning? What if you had time to think and focus on the various problems that you generally ignore each week, but wish you didn’t have to?

Here’s the problem: Most of us don’t prioritize ‘margin’. We read books, watch seminars and go to conferences that remind us that we should set time aside in our weekly schedule to dream, plan, problem-solve and pray, but rarely do we actually set that time aside. The ‘Tyranny of the Urgent’ keeps us off balance. Our ministries stay unfocused. We have become semi-comfortable with being overwhelmed and overworked.

Margin isn’t something that shows up in our calendars all by itself. It’s planned. It’s prioritized. It’s meticulously protected; but you DO HAVE WHAT IT TAKES to build margin into your life. You just need one key ingredient and it’s yours for the taking: You need to change your priorities. 

Somehow, you’ve convinced yourself that everything you’re doing this week and next week and the weeks after are more important than several hours of strategic planning and prayer. I know they aren’t more important. Note: I didn’t say the things you do aren’t important, I said they aren’t AS important.

Don’t believe me? Let’s participate in a short exercise to find out. Let’s pretend for a moment that a great and respected pastor or leader called you out of the blue this week and told you that he or she would be willing to meet with you, privately, once a week for the next month for a few hours. Perhaps it would be someone like Bill Hybels, Robert Morris, or Beth Moore. Think of the person you would absolutely love to spend time with for a while. You know where this is going . . . would you be able to reorganize your life and schedule to accommodate them? 

If you answered ‘yes’ then you just proved my point. The fact is that you may actually get MORE out of a few hours of focused planning and prayer each week for the specifics of your ministry than you would in meeting with these highly respected and seasoned leaders!

Steal 15 minutes from your schedule RIGHT NOW to build margin into your schedule. Cancel, reschedule, shift and reorganize whatever you need to. I know you won’t regret it.

Tactical Tip: Reminder Calendar

Last Friday I received a text from my wife informing me that the inspection was overdue on our minivan. We decided a long time ago that things like vehicle inspections are my responsibility in the home. Oops. So I called the garage and got an appointment for Monday morning. I got a little chuckle from the auto mechanic as I left the garage. Evidently he sees a lot of ‘overdue’ stickers there!

So I did what I should have done long ago, I added a reminder into my “Reminder Calendar”. I don’t think I’ll forget again.

The Reminder Calendar is perhaps one of the coolest reminder systems I have ever stumbled across – and it’s super easy to setup and use. Even better, it’s free! This is not to be confused with the Appointment Calendar! I keep them totally separate because I don’t want to store all kinds of ‘reminder’ appointments on the calendar I look at every day for real appointments, like meetings and such. In fact, I never actually look at my Reminder Calendar!

Let me define what I mean be a reminder calendar. Basically, it’s a calendar that is specifically designed to send you very timely emails or text messages.I use my Reminder Calendar to remind me to get up extra early in the morning for a breakfast appointment, change the oil in the car, take the garbage out, check the church website to make sure it’s relevant and up to date, and to remember when a task I assigned someone, or myself, is due. Here are a couple other examples to stimulate your thinking:

  • I asked someone if they would draft a proposal for me regarding our online streaming service. My goal was to be able to hear back from him no later than two weeks from that date. So I set myself up a reminder in my Reminder Calendar to shoot me an email in two weeks letting me know that I should have the proposal by now.
  • I wanted to find something out from a friend and discovered that he would be on vacation until August 13. So I set myself a reminder in my Reminder Calendar to give him a call around August 15.
  • My boss is on vacation and I will be leaving for a few days the day after he returns. I don’t want to forget to ask him an important budget related question before I leave. I created a reminder email for about 9am that morning.
  • My boss asked me to give him a call at 2pm while he was travelling on a certain day. I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t be at my desk and I didn’t want to forget to call him. I created a reminder that was setup to text me at 1:55pm so I would remember to make the call no matter where I was at.
  • I want to remember to begin planning for the Christmas Eve program no later than June of every year. I created a reminder appointment that will email me on June 1st to get the ball rolling.


HERE’S HOW TO SETUP YOUR REMINDER CALENDAR:

  • Log into your Google Account.
    Log in to your Google account or create a Google Account for free. It’s important that you associate the account with the email address that you want to receive emails from.
  • Go to your Google Calendar.
    Once you’ve logged in, select “Calendar” from the top menu of options. This will take you to your calendar, specifically associated with that email address.
  • Create a NEW Calendar & label it as your Reminder Calendar.
    This option will allow you to keep your primary Google calendar as your appointment calendar. To create a new calendar, click the very small “Add” link in the “My Calendars” section to the left of your screen.
  • Enable Mobile Notifications
    Once you have created the calendar, click the “Settings” link right next to the “Add” link to take you to your Calendar Settings Screen. Next, click on the “Mobile Setup” tab. Follow the instructions on that screen to associate your cell phone with your Google Calendar. This will give you the option to receive text reminders from your calendar.
  • Set the Default Reminder Setting in Your ‘Reminder Calendar’
    You are almost finished. Now you should tell your reminder calendar what you want the default reminder mode to be every time you create a reminder appointment. I have mine set to email reminder. This way, all I have to do is create a reminder appointment and it will automatically email me for every appointment. I can still manually go in and disable the reminder or set it up to text me if I want to instead. To do this, click on the little drop-down arrow next to your Reminder Calendar and select “Calendar Settings”. Find the Notifications tab and click the “Add a reminder” link.
  • Start Creating Your Reminder Appointments!
    You are all ready to go! Now just create ‘appointments’ at the designated day and time that you want to receive your reminder. You can even create recurring reminders for every week, month, or year. To create your reminder simply highlight the appropriate day/time, type in the appointment and press ‘enter’. You just created a reminder appointment set to your default reminder method. To change the reminder method, add additional information, or set the reminder as recurring, double-click the appointment to open it in a new window for updating.

Notes for Newbies:
If you are new to Google Calendars then you may want to note a few of these details as well:
  • Make sure you have the right calendar selected.
    Since you have more than one calendar in your Google Account, you need to make sure you create your reminder appointment in the appropriate calendar. On the left of your screen, make sure that ONLY your Reminder Calendar is selected. You may also designate which calendar you want the reminder to be posted to in the appointment details.
  • Consider which reminder method you really want.
    There are three reminder options. Email, Text, and Popup. You probably won’t want to utilize popup unless you will always have your calendar open on your computer. You WILL want to make sure you designate which method you prefer for your reminders. You may also select BOTH if you want.
  • You can also use this same reminder system for your Appointment Calendar in Google. 
    OK. So you tend to be late for or forget meetings. Simply set a reminder for each of your appointments to send you a text 10 minutes before you’re supposed to prepare to arrive at the meeting.
  • Don’t give up.
    If you find yourself getting stuck, don’t get frustrated and give up. Like anything new, it may seem complicated at first, until you get the hang of it. Eventually, you’ll figure out how to make the system work and serve you the best.

Time Management 101: The Priority Matrix

The Priority Matrix

You’ve heard the phrase, “The Tyranny of the Urgent”. Perhaps you live that phrase every day. I hope not. Let me introduce you to ‘The Priority Matrix’. I honestly don’t remember where I learned this, and it’s quite possible you’ve seen it before, but need a gentle reminder of it’s relevance to your ministry and daily life.

Here’s a brief description of each quadrant:

  • Quadrant #1 – Urgent/Important
    This quadrant demands attention now. These are things that need done now or within the next few hours. They are also things that are a vital part of ministry. For example, a church member was in a terrible car accident. It may be both urgent and important that you initiate whatever care steps you have in place, including possibly setting aside a chunk of your day to care for the family.
  • Quadrant #2 – Not Urgent/Important
    This quadrant is perhaps the most important quadrant of your day, week, and month . . . and the one that is likely least attended to. It represents the important things that you need to do eventually. There is no practical urgency to get them done so we tend to put them off until it’s either too late to do them, or they become a Quadrant 1 activity – in which case it probably won’t get done properly. The ‘Tyranny of the Urgent’ dictates that you never do anything in this quadrant. Quadrant 2 activities might include strategic planning, developing or creating systems to better serve the church, honoring and appreciating your volunteers, and relationship building.
  • Quadrant #3 – Urgent/Not Important
    This quadrant is where most people live, unfortunately. There is little value in the tasks that are completed in this quadrant. They seem very important to accomplish, but usually aren’t. They also tend to have a sense of urgency to them. A good manager of time spends less than 10% of his day in this arena. Examples of common Quadrant #3 activities include unnecessary interruptions from other people and emails.
  • Quadrant #4 – Not Urgent/Not Important
    This quadrant falls into the category of the wasteful use of your time. It basically includes tasks that will add little to your life or ministry. Please note this one important distinction: genuine rest and relaxation that actually fills your physical and emotional tank should not be considered a quadrant 4 activity. Examples may include excessive tv/games, surfing the internet, social media, etc.

Time Management 101: Eat the Frog

Perhaps you’ve heard me talk about the book called “Eat That Frog” by Brian Tracy. The premise of the book is that you should try to always begin your day doing your least favorite or most dreaded task first (like eat a frog). A simple concept, but not so simple to do. However, it’s still worth our time and consideration.

Watch this 90 second video by Brian Tracy
to get the full picture.

Image source honewatson.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Getting Things Done by David Allen

I just finished reading this book. It’s very well done and an important read for anyone in leadership. It’s not a leadership book. It’s a time and life management book. It’s about Getting Things Done.

How To Know if You Should Read This Book: You should get and read this book if ANY ONE of the following are true:

  • If you are not very organized. 
  • If you find yourself letting tasks, meetings, projects, etc. to get lost in the shuffle. 
  • If you miss deadlines. 
  • If you are ever late to meetings. 
  • If you miss meetings. 
  • If your inbox is full of emails you haven’t (and won’t anytime soon) read. 
  • If your inbox has more than 75 items in it at any given time. 
  • If your desk has piles of papers that you know probably have important things for you to do. 
  • If you ever have a nagging feeling in the back of your brain that there’s something you should be doing, but you don’t know what it is. 
  • If you go home every night feeling overwhelmed with your work. 
  • If you have received write-ups or reprimands from your employer because of poor work habits. 
  • If you have a lot of ideas about how to improve your life or ministry, but often forget them and rarely do them.
Author David Allen has laid out some very practical and usable principles to help you manage your projects and time in todays society. Note: the book was written a few years ago, but don’t let that fool you.  It’s relevant. I’d like to give you a few suggestion to keep in mind while reading it though:

  • Current Tech: Realize that the book was written before smart phones and the ipad really hit the market hard. Some of his methods (not to be confused with principles) will be better applied with current technology.
  • Current Applications: Realize that there are several software and web applications which may be very helpful in utilizing the principles that Mr. Allen proposes. Mr. Allen’s website also includes some software applications designed to utilize his methodologies and there is also an app for the iphone which I am told is very helpful as well.
  • Microsoft OneNote 2010I have found Microsoft OneNote 2010 to be one of the most meaningful and useful applications for organizing and sorting my thoughts, ideas, projects, and tasks than anything else. If you have Office 2007 – 2010 installed on your computers, it’s already bundled and installed, ready to use. Try it out.
  • Dry Topic: Don’t give up while reading it. Time management is not a topic we all get super fired up about. It’s mundane and sort of boring – though extremely critical in our overall productivity. This book is a GREAT read, but it’s a little dry and long-winded. Still I haven’t seen a better one on this topic anytime recent. I was turned onto this book after reading Craig Groeschel’s blog about it.
So don’t procrastinate. You won’t have time to read this book until you read it, so just find the time and read it – how’s that for a conundrum?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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