Once goals are set, priorities are established, and a strategy is developed it is finally time to plan a schedule. Many people allow outside forces to dictate their schedule and then bemoan their inability to accomplish their goals. Instead a schedule must be made with goals in mind.
When planning a schedule there are several time frames to plan for. Just as some goals are long term and others are short term, so will one schedule be long term and another short term. Here is how to plan a schedule for both the long and short term.
Planning a schedule becomes more specific as events draw closer on the calendar. The planning process needs to start with long-range and intermediate goals. The goals are dated and one could list the goals to be accomplished in each of the next ten years. This gives the distant direction one is moving toward year by year.
Some evaluation needs to be done as one looks at how much is to be accomplished in each of these future years. The dates may need to be extended for some of the goals.
The planning of a monthly schedule requires the placement of the anticipated actions in the projected months. These actions are primarily taken from the planned actions on the strategy for planning worksheets for short-term and immediate goals. A separate page could be set up for each of the next 24 months. After placing all the actions planned to accomplish the immediate and short-term goals, one should review the monthly planning calendar of his ministry or place of employment. Most churches or businesses have events scheduled that will place extra time or energy demands on the staff. These should be indicated on the monthly planning sheets. Types of church events could include revivals, mission conferences, stewardship programs, and others.
Next, a brief review of the activities planned for each month will be needed. Two questions need to be raised. First, are there too many activities planned for any month? The time, money, and energy available must be considered. If the number of actions planned is unrealistic, then you need to consider reducing the goals and the actions. The second question would be, is there a reasonable balance in the planned actions for the month? Try to get the expectations at similar levels for each month in the year.
One to three days a year could wisely be spent in this type of planning. Many ministers find the Christmas holidays the best time to do this. Do not just plan the next 12 months. The next 15–18 months should be considered. By getting plans out 15–18 months, at the end of the first year, when the process begins again, there are already things in the planning process.
The planning of a schedule for each week is one of the most critical stages of this whole personal improvement program. Everyone has the same 168 hours to use. It is fairly obvious that some accomplish a lot more with their 168 hours a week than others. Here is a way to break down the hours of the week to fill in the schedule:
1. Allocate time for an ideal 168 hour week
The place to start planning a weekly schedule is to decide on the ideal time allotments for your life. The personal value system could be used here. Here one wants to list all the personal activities that need to be performed and indicate the ideal weekly time allotment for that activity. This should include personal devotions, sleep, work, etc. The total number of hours should be 168 for the week. At this point one is not deciding when in the week the activity will be performed, just how much time should be allocated to it.
One of the graduates from Liberty Seminary recently published in his church’s newsletter a response to questions about his schedule that gave priorities and time allotments. The priorities were based on Acts 6:4, Ephesians 4:11–13, and 1 Timothy 3:1–7. Although this is not intended as a suggested list of priorities and time allotments, it is a model, and shows a way to publicize it.
Priority 1 – Personal Bible study and prayer, 10 hours
Priority 2 – Sermon preparation, 20–25 hours
Priority 3 – Church administration, 15–20 hours
Priority 4 – Discipleship of new believers, 3–4 hours
Priority 5 – Staff meetings and interaction, 4–5 hours
Priority 6 – Visitation, 3–4 hours
Priority 7 – Counseling, hours vary by need
2. General Week – controlled by others
Now one can design a personal calendar of events that would be general or standard and fit any week. Make up a seven-day calendar with the 24 hours for each day, blocked out in 30 minute segments. First, block in the time for activities for which you cannot control the time they must be performed. Work time may be set by someone else. Regular church services, such as Sunday morning and evening, Wednesday evening, and Thursday night visitation should be marked. Any other regular meetings, services, appointments, classes, and such can then be indicated. These are times set by someone besides you.
3. General Week – personal control of time
Some large blocks of time should be left. These remaining segments are what you will have control over. As a student, or as a pastor, some large parts of this time need to be devoted to study. A pastor might estimate an amount of time needed for sermon preparation. Twenty hours might be blocked in for the three main services each week. A pastor might also estimate time requirements for personal evangelistic outreach, ministry to church families, and church administration tasks and allocate time segments for these. These are times that you will have more control over, but scheduling time for them will assure time made available.
In the planning of this general weekly schedule, some considerations must be given to a person’s basic value system. These are in order of priority: God, family, ministry, self, Christian world, and community. Does the general weekly schedule of activities reflect these values? Does the schedule show that God is first and family second? This calendar could then be reproduced and used for a time period.
A person must also consider their personal rhythms and when they have peak periods of energy. Some people are definitely more alert in the mornings, and some in the evenings. Activities that require mental alertness should be scheduled in a person’s prime hours. Most people are more creative in the morning. Use this for study time. Later morning hours may be good for administrative tasks. Afternoons may be best for meetings, counseling, and visitation.
4. A specific week
The next step would be to plan for the specific weeks. The general week should have several large blocks of time left, probably some every day. That is not all “free” time. This is the flexible time that must be scheduled. It would be wise to make copies of the general weekly schedule to use for planning and evaluating each specific week.
Leaders need to look at the monthly activities that are to be scheduled to meet the goals established earlier. Estimates of the leader’s time must be made for every activity. These estimates must then be inserted into the copies of the general week calendar. This could be done on a weekly basis, or it could actually be done several weeks ahead, almost as a part of the monthly planning. Estimates of time needed for a project is probably one of the most difficult parts of the process. Quite often priorities and goals will have to be reevaluated because the time demands exceed the time available.
It will be necessary to build some flexibility into each week. Some set aside blocks of time and actually leave it for unplanned events that come up during the actual week. Two evenings a week might simply be blocked out as time for others. At least one of these might be saved for something that comes up on the day before. If nothing develops you could have some time for extra projects such as reading a magazine or book, doing house repairs, spending extra time with the family, or visiting someone.
The leader who will plan the use of his time will always make better use of it. There is a problem with planning and that is: too many unplanned events occur to spoil the plan. Those in the ministry are always having emergencies to come up to alter their plans. The planning for unplanned events above will help, but sometimes you simply do not have enough planned time for the unplanned events.
Sometimes the weekly schedules for a month can be shifted so that no priority has to be changed. This is the best way. The schedule is re-shifted, and activities for several weeks are adjusted, but the same amount of planned time is made available for all of the planned actions. For example, if in one week a pastor has five deaths in his membership instead of an average of less than one a week, then his schedule is in trouble. Maybe he had allocated twelve hours a week for church family ministry and now it is necessary to spend 30 hours that week. If he can divide the extra 18 hours over the next four week period, he can maintain his same basic time allotment. Those extra 18 hours can be taken off at the rate of 4½ hours a week for the next 4 weeks, still leaving 7½ hours each week for church family ministry. Whatever activities the extra 18 hours were taken from can then have them added back during the next 4 weeks. A student with extra exams could also follow the same procedure. If you have to drop your family night one week, then take an afternoon and night or two nights the next week. Sometimes priorities will have to be realigned and something dropped. Don’t do it without rethinking all of your priorities.
A successful life is composed of a succession of successful days. A really simple process has been suggested by many for daily planning. First, make a list of things you need to do. Most office supply stores have special memo pads prepared for this. The weekly calendar should be consulted, of course. Second, number each action according to the order of real importance for the day. This establishment of priority continues to be a major part of planning. Remember the six questions to ask about assigning priorities. Next, start to work on the first priority and work on it until the job is finished. When it is finished, move on to the next priority item and continue the same process all day. The process is continued all day, not necessarily until the list is completed. If the list is not finished, at least the most important jobs were finished. Add any unfinished item to the list of things to do in the next day. Do this before priorities are assigned. There will be some things which may not be important enough to ever get done. There will also tend to be more jobs delegated to others, thereby freeing the leader and developing the assistant.