A few years ago I had a friend tell me I should write a book on organization… It’s not a book, it’s a blog, but I still hope it helps!
I’m sure you’ve been there too – looking at your calendar like it’s a giant jigsaw puzzle to be rearranged and contorted so that everything you feel you need to accomplish has a space and a time. Ministry has a different schedule all to itself. It isn’t nine to five like most jobs. It happens at all times of the day – morning, afternoon, evening and even night! Sometimes it is overwhelming to try to keep track of everything and stay sane at the same time.
In your quest for organization, I would suggest keeping one master calendar. For me I use my Outlook on my laptop as my master calendar. It’s important to put every engagement on this calendar. It doesn’t really matter how small the event. Having a master calendar will help you evaluate where you are really spending your time. I can tell just by looking at my calendar if my schedule is in balance or not. Different events are color coded as work and personal. The great thing about electronic calendars is most come programmed with reminders. Some things I know I forget more easily than others, so these are things I intentionally use a reminder for. Some people prefer to use their smart phones, some prefer the day planner and some use their computer. Whatever works best for you, make sure to keep it handy and updated!
I keep in my purse a little notebook. This is my random notes book. If someone asks me to remember something and I’m worried about forgetting, I jot it down. I find that just the act of writing it helps to cement it in my brain. This notebook is good for random thoughts, making lists, pulling a piece of paper out and sharing information with another person. I find many uses for it. Once it gets filled up with my scribbles it gets tossed and replaced with a new notebook. Many phones come with a note application that you can use just like this, but for me there is something about the paper that helps.
There are many books out there with grids and charts to help you process what to prioritize in your day. I’m not a huge fan of charting out my priorities, but I have found this to be an important exercise. When my routine schedule changes or I feel like my plate is getting full, I take time to reprioritize. During this process I write out my commitments (the things I have to do) and I write out what I want to (the stuff that makes me happy). When I write all these things out I can honestly see what I have on my plate. Recently, I’ve had to learn that if I’m adding something to my schedule I might have to take another thing off my schedule. This really helps me focus on what is most important to me. Often as women in ministry we feel we have to be super human and be at all places at all times. The truth is I am human and I am reminded of this often. I can’t do everything. Through a process of prayer and planning I can sort through my schedule and keep it in place with where my energy will get the most impact and effectiveness.
Once on the path to organization you might feel the pull to use every second of every day. Just like prioritizing what ministries and people you are going to pour yourself into you, there also needs to be time built into your schedule for you. In a culture that doesn’t under the Sabbath concept, we must remember to build rest into our lives. If you don’t build it into your schedule then no one is going to do it for you. As an introvert, I have built quiet times into my schedule so I can read and reflect. For an extrovert, maybe you need to schedule time with family and friends outside of a ministry context to just have fun. When you schedule time for you to be you and do the things you love, you’ll have more energy when tackling the other activities on your calendar. It’s important that you don’t get lost in your own calendar.
So say good bye to frantic planning, post-it notes everywhere, and overbooking. It’s time to take a realistic look at your schedule. The more you evaluate it and it keep in line with your calling; you’ll find it rewarding and not daunting to keep up with. Your schedule should be defined by you and not the other way around. The energy and empowerment you’ll find from getting a grip on the calendar will help to push you forward into new heights of effectiveness.