Managing your time with no office is part science, but it’s mostly art. Here’s how I do it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
- Divide Your Day into 5 time slots. You obviously have more than that, but when you don’t have an office, you don’t have the ability to capture 15 minutes here and there as easily. Staying productive requires staying put most of the time. So, you don’t want to have to move more than once a day. I have: morning (8-11:30), lunch meetings (11:30-1:30), afternoon (1:30-5:30), pre bed-time for the kids (5:30 – 8) and evening (8-10:30). Each of those is distinct, with different responsibilities and energy levels. Leveraging your energy spurts is vital to productivity.
- Know Thyself. What times of day are you really productive? What times of day are you nearly brain-dead? If you know you are much more productive the mornings, schedule that which requires that type of energy in there. For me, it’s sermon preparation. So, sermon prep gets 3 morning slots per week. Basic meetings, processing of to-dos, creative time, phone calls, even exercise–those go in the afternoon when I’m not at my best mentally but have good physical energy. I end the day with exercise most days. We’re in the soccer-game time of life. So, evenings and Saturdays are family-oriented, with the exception of our Growth Group night (Thursday).
- Set a few key boundaries. These are things you must do. For instance, a doctor told me about five years ago that I needed to keep recreation and fitness as a key part of my life. If I didn’t, I would get fat, melt down, and perhaps die young. For me, it’s nearly as vital to my overall being and ministry as sermon preparation. I’m not out to get ripped, so it doesn’t take much time. But, it’s vital. I feel better, I have more energy, and I’m a nicer person because I’ve taken out any aggression on the weights instead of those I’m around 🙂 So, I block out family time, fitness, and sermon preparation. Everything else must fit in around those things. Those are my “big rocks.”
- Never eat alone. I realized I wasted my lunch hour by eating by myself. There are a lot of people in your church who would love to spend some time with you. There are people you need to get to know and people who need pastoral care. I decided that I’ll eat by myself one day a week–wasting time for the sake of mental recooperation. Other than that, I proactively seek lunch appointments with people. In our world, you can do it via conference call, Skype or Google Hangout with anyone, anywhere, and just brown-bag your lunch.
- Aquire true knowledge of the tools you have. A lot of people have all the tech gear, apps and software, but continue to be “C” students in their use. This really hurts productivity. If you use a tool, make a pact with yourself that you’ll learn to use it to the black-belt level. Go through the cheesy on-line tutorials, and practice. It’s worth the up-front time investment. When I learned that Evernote had features that could take pictures, search PDF text, read text in images and transcribe recorded voice messages, it added significant dimensions to my productivity.
- Syncing capacity across all platforms. One of the reasons I use Evernote is because it’s available and syncs on the web, IPhone and IPad. There is an “Add to Evernote” (or something like it) on all web browsers. It is also available on the platforms everyone else uses. I use this as an example, because if you can’t use your tools in some settings, your system won’t work properly. If you use a combo of paper and electronic planning, it adds a layer of complexity and the potential for major hiccups. If you use ICal but don’t have access to it unless you’re on a Mac, that won’t work for you when you don’t have access to a Mac or IPhone. That’s yet another reason why I use the Google apps. They are everywhere at all times.
- If you are part of a team that works with no office, I would suggest a minimum of 2 extended time slots per week for a meeting 3 hours in length or so with a break in the middle. We typically meet on Monday morning and Thursday afternoon. Mondays meetings tend to be more strategic with a little task thrown in. Thursdays are mostly task with a little strategy thrown in. When you have no offices, meetings are important for team-building, accountability, and a sense of movement.