Leveraging one’s schedule is vital to effective ministry, and there’s one tool that’s helped me a lot: blocking out certain times for “whatever.” It’s not an elegant name for it, but it accurately describes what can be done during those times. Whatever. This way of scheduling my day changed my attitude toward “interruptions” in my hardened schedule that had little margin. Here’s how I do it:

Over the years, I’ve found I divide my work days into 4 work chunks mentally. 8:30-11:30, 11:30-1:30, 1:30-3:30, 3:30-5:30. That’s the rhythm of my day, physically, and it tends to fit that of church members and fellow pastors as well. I give my best time slots to important meetings and sermon prep. For me, that’s the 8:30am – 11:30am time slot.

Try this: create at least three “whatever” slots per week that remain open for “whatever.” It might be something you’ve been putting off or a last-minute meeting, a pastoral care visit, talking with a critic, helping someone who needs a last-minute letter of recommendation…whatever. If these slots are here, you won’t find yourself preparing last-minute sermons, not returning phone calls, etc. You’ll also feel more on top of your stuff and less inclined to panic as stuff piles up on a busy week.

I plan one “whatever” slot Monday, one Wednesday, and one Thursday. These catch all sorts of things and allow for “whatever” comes up. Before I starting planning in “whatever” times, I would get frustrated when the unexpected would come up. I would find myself either having to put off things that shouldn’t have been, or doing things last-minute that shouldn’t be done in haste. Planning for interruptions makes interruptions feel more like opportunities for ministry, not interruptions.

Go ahead and try it. I hope it will bless you as it has me.