A couple of years ago, I found myself thinking about organization. Having just attended a weekend conference that left me traveling on a Monday, I discovered that my week was about to be a very short one. Starting a week with one day down is never a good thing, especially when what you do has time commitments that can be changed, i.e. your weekly student gathering, meetings, and newsletter deadlines.
So, here's the situation that week. Monday was spent on the road, driving with a van full of good guys from Richfield, PA. It was a long ride, so Monday, usually a fairly busy office day, was gone. Tuesday, at the time, was my Sabbath Day so no work would be going on there. That left Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to accomplish all that I would normally do in a full week.
It's weeks like this that remind e of why it is helpful to be even a little organized. Because it's weeks like this when diligence, focus, and organization pay off. There are a couple habits that I try to incorporate into every week so that I can maximize my time, and accomplish what needs to be accomplished. Whether it's a To Do List or a calendar or a daily agenda, if you have more "To Do List" at the end of your week then you do days remaining in your week, then you might find these options helpful.
1. Schedule Out Your Week.
- Work doesn't always just happen. It's good to organize your week. Chart out the week by the hour, starting with the time when you normally arrive at the office. If half hour blocks are more helpful, then use half hour blocks. Now, plan your week out. First, take the things you need to do every week, such as study time, message prep, or sipping coffee at Starbucks, and pencil them into time slots on our chart. Don't feel like you have to block out 5 hours on one day for message prep. Spread it over two or three days if you want. Spreading it out will help to relieve the pressure of having to get it all done in one day. That will just stress you out.
Once you have taken care of the major projects, take a look at your small activities, such as checking and responding to email, making phone calls, or running errands for you youth group night. One extra tip is to put the things you don't like doing early in the week, so they are taken care of fast, and not lingering around for Friday.
Lastly, plan in time to do the fun stuff. Spending time in the afternoon with students, connecting with other youth workers, updating your blog, and walking the dog are fun things that you can do to fill in the rest of the week. And the fun things help to make your week more enjoyable. And always use pencil when filling in you week. It will make making changes a little easier.
2. Allow Time To Be Spontaneous.
- As you plan your week, remember to leave time for the unexpected. There will always be the unexpected phone call, or emergency visit. So be flexible and leave a few blocks of time open for such a situation. Now instead of panicking, you know that you still have time in your week to rearrange your activities. The flex time also allows for spontaneity. Sometimes, I will meet my wife for lunch, or need to pick up one of my kids at school, or watch one of the kids for an appointment. Because your using pencil, you can move things around.
3. Keep Realistic Expectations.
- You can't accomplish it all! It would be unfair to expect that you can do it all! There is only a certain amount of time in your week. Plan your week with Realistic Expectations. When you load up your To Do List with 250 items, there is no way you can realistically accomplish all of them. Planning ahead will help you manage your "must do" items in a easier way. I try to spread my list out over the five day work week. Each day I try to accomplish 5 to 8 items on my list. By the end of the week that's 25 to 40 items. By looking ahead, I can space out what needs to be done, and order them by priority.
More than an observation and not a tip, using some sort of calendar is a good thing. I use iCal to organize my week on the computer and for my Blackberry. But I also keep a printed calendar with me so I can jot things down as the arise. And don't forget, if you are married, you will want to check in with your spouse regularly. Having an updated calendar with reduce the misunderstandings and conflicts that come when you plan your youth calendar without checking with the "boss." (And I say "boss" with a little tongue and cheek.)
Planning is good. Organization is good. Diligence and hard work is good. If you want to be a healthy and effective youth worker, you need to take control of your time before time takes control of you!!