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 the shape of leadership

The True Impact of Time Management

How to set your personal calendar for the best use of your time

Chris Railey on August 24, 2018

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One characteristic that separates nearly every successful leader from every struggling leader is time management. When you don’t manage your time well, you will get behind, feel stressed and leave a lot unfinished. But when you get a handle on your personal calendar, not only does your day run smoother, but you also find your leadership is more impactful.

That’s easier said than done, I know. You get to work, and chances are there will be a surprise waiting for you, someone who needs to meet with you right away or some task you left unfinished from the night before that you forgot about. You roll up your sleeves and dig in, but the clock keeps moving — and before you know it, your day is gone.

What if there were a way to get on top of your schedule? What if you could leverage your calendar to accomplish more? What if you planned your day in such a way that you were not a slave to the clock, but the clock served you instead?

Here are just a few simple tips I’ve used in my own ministry and life that have been helpful. I love days when I am in full control of my time. I embrace the feeling of having enough time to finish what’s important with some space left over for what I really want to do.

Determine Your Day the Night Before

Each night, spend a few minutes setting your schedule for the next day. Pull up your calendar, whether it’s your smartphone or an old-school written planner. Go over all the important meetings and tasks. What deadlines do you have that you must meet? Where can you fit in extra time to speak into the lives of those you lead? How can you find time to take a break?

If you don’t plan the night before, you end up spending the first 15 to 30 minutes of your day trying to figure it out. Now, with a clear plan before you even wake up, you can hit the ground running. Research has shown that planning in advance can increase your productivity by 25 percent. That’s an extra two hours a day!

Now, pray over your calendar. Go line by line, asking God to help you know what is truly important. Ask the Holy Spirit to prompt you when He has something else planned. If you take the time to plan ahead, you can create space in your day for God to move.

It’s not just about planning your day. Make sure you go to bed on time and at the same time every night. And then wake up at the same time, too. A consistent schedule is not only healthier for you, it’s a way to set healthy habits. That’s key to taking control of your time.

If you take the time to plan ahead, you can create space in your day for God to move.

Prioritize Your Assignments

Get very clear about what you need to do each day. That begins with having clear vision and clear goals. With that in mind, decide what you need to accomplish.

Prioritize your tasks by setting your top three. If you can’t get to anything else, what are the top three things you must do? Without prioritizing, everything and everyone will battle for your time. You will waste time jumping from task to task rather than really drilling down on what’s most important.

Once you’ve prioritized your tasks, begin with the ugliest. Author Brian Tracy, who has written some great resources on time management, calls it “eating the frog.” We all have that one task that we don’t want to do, a task that will take the most time or that is the hardest, biggest and most burdensome thing on our plate. It’s like an ugly frog staring at us. Now, eat the frog.

By tackling the most difficult task first, you ensure that the rest of your day will run more smoothly. Now that it’s out of the way, you can turn your attention to what really energizes you.

Focus and Complete

You’ve set your schedule and prioritized your tasks. Now it’s time to get to work. Inaction is the biggest issue for those with poor time management skills. No matter how great your personal planner is, if you don’t get to work, it will never help you.

Focus single-mindedly on what you’re doing right now. Beat procrastination and eliminate distractions. Close out any apps on your phone that you don’t need. Close your laptop if you’re not using it. Close the door to your office, and get busy. It’s just that simple.

Whatever you’re working on, work at it until it’s complete. Jumping to another task and leaving the first halfway done is never a good idea. You might think you’ll come back to it later, but chances are you will never find time to finish it. So finish it now! Don’t break your concentration or open up more distractions. Get in, and get out — and get done.

Treat finishing a task like a game. When you complete something, you feel like a winner! Write down each task, and then run a red line through it as you knock it out. At the end of the day, that to-do list covered in red marks is your scorecard.

The best part of time management is the time you manage to have left over at the end of the day. Find a stopping point, and stop. Do your best to avoid taking work home. Don’t fall into the trap of staying at work hour upon hour after you said you would be home. Your first priority in this life is to your family, so don’t leave them out.

We all get busy. But you should never be too busy to manage your time. Be honest about where you are on a scale from 1 to 10, and then decide on some first steps. Right now is the best time to manage your time better.

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