Some time ago, I heard Bill Hybels say that most of the people he knew were overwhelmed and over- committed. I thought to myself, small world…Bill is in Chicago and I’m in Southern California and he knows some of the same people I know, because most of the people I know are overwhelmed and overcommitted.
I have probably coached 150 leaders one-on-one over the last six years. Without a doubt, the biggest single issue they all deal with is staying ahead of work responsibilities, family obligations and numerous things they feel need to be accomplished. Many, if not most, feel like they are lying on the beach being hit by wave after wave and not being able to catch their breath…sort of like waterboarding.
Some time ago I tried to capture what I’ve learned and practice regarding being a good steward of my time and energy. Here are those ideas…I call them “Priority Management Tips.” They are prefaced by two passages of scripture and a thought from Steven Covey.
Psalm 90:12 (ESV) “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
Ephesians 5:15,16 (ESV) “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best possible use of the time because the days are evil.”
The essence of time management is to set priorities and then to organize and execute around them. Setting priorities requires us to think carefully and clearly about values-- about ultimate concerns. These then have to be translated into long- and short- term goals and plans translated once more into schedules or time slots. Then, unless something more important — not something more urgent — comes along, we must discipline ourselves to do as we planned.
Highly effective people carry their agenda with them. Their schedule is their servant, not their master. They organize weekly, adapt daily. However, they are not capricious in changing their plan. They exercise discipline and concentration and do not submit to moods and circumstances. They schedule blocks of prime time for important planning, projects and creative work. They work on less important and less demanding activities when their fatigue level is higher. They avoid handling paper [and email!] more than once and avoid touching paperwork [and email!] unless they plan on taking action on it.” -Steven Covey
Priority Management Tips
WRITE IT DOWN
1. Get what needs to be done out of your mind and on paper or in a digital system
2. Write everything in daily lists in a pre-determined system and place
3. Have this “Do List” with you at all times
4. Have one list with everything for the day on it--not separate home/work lists.
5. What you should operate with, and from, is a calendar and a “Prioritized Daily Do List”
6. You should have a separate, and short, list for each day--not a long list of everything you need to do that may overwhelm you
7. Only put on your daily list what absolutely has to get done that day
8. Create the list first thing in the morning or the night before
9. Adjust the list throughout the day adding/deleting as things get done
10. At the end of the day, everything on that list needs to be done, delegated or deferred to another day
11. Never go to bed with anything left on your list…NEVER
12. Organize your list into categories such as: E-mail, phone calls, projects, preparation for meetings. Try to work on similar things in blocks of time rather than bouncing from one sort of thing to another
READ WHAT YOU WRITE
1. Throughout the day you should be constantly working back and forth between what’s on your calendar and what’s on your list
2. You need to revisit your list frequently as your day unfolds. Make adjustments by reprioritizing, doing, delegating or deferring items to other days
DO WHAT YOU READ
1. Discipline yourself to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether you feel like it or not. Work the plan you decided on in the clarity of your quiet moments of praying, thinking and planning your day and don’t be too quick to change it.
2. Don’t let more important things be at the mercy of less important things. Stick to what you originally wrote unless you have strong reasons not to do so.
3. It’s better to work your way into feeling than to feel your way into working. Discipline yourself to do what needs to be done and the good feelings will follow. If you wait until you feel a certain way before acting, you may never get anything of lasting value done.
Allow me to wrap this up by sharing my most favorite passage of scripture on feeling overwhelmed.
“Are you tired? Warn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” –Matthew 11:28-30 Msg.
What did Jesus make clearer to you as you read this post? What are one or two simple things you can begin to apply right now so you don’t drown in feelings of being overwhelmed?