Who Wants More Time?

Who Wants More Time?

Want more time?  Who doesn’t?

I’m going to share one practice that has made the biggest difference for me in managing time. When I made this change, it was almost like someone handed me an extra day or two each week.

I had struggled for years to balance my time.  While I experienced some advances over the years, the biggest shift for me happened a few years ago when I moved to a fixed schedule. While this isn’t a particularly new discipline or astonishing insight, it took me a long time to get there. Most colleagues I know still struggle with balancing time.  The most effective leaders I know have mastered this.

Because what I do is so open ended (it’s ministry…you could have meetings all day, write all day, pray all day, work strategy all day or I suppose figure out other ways to spend your time) rather than seeing all my time as open, I created a master schedule for my work and life, and committed myself to it.  I decided to spend my time the same way every week; I committed to a fixed schedule.

For me, I landed on spending 40% of my time meeting with people and 60% of my time out of meetings.

Deciding to spend 60% of my time alone, writing, creating messages, working on strategy, leading and creating was very liberating;  like you, I have enough meeting requests and opportunities to spend 100% of my time in meetings and never attend to some of the most important work I do: lead, reflect, pray, write, plan, create and develop.  And the urgent requests to meet always seemed to be more pressing than the important things I needed to get to but didn’t have time for.

So I simply decided ahead of time to spend over half my time doing the things a leader should be doing but no one ever asks me to do (people only ever ask you for meetings or attention to their needs).  No one ever asks you to book time to write a message, think, advance the mission or create something new.  So I just decided to book it for myself.

While everyone will be different, here’s how I organize my time:

Monday: Writing day – no meetings (message prep, blogging, meeting preparation, brainstorming, time for reflection, leadership projects)

Tuesday: Meeting day (various staff teams meetings, all day)

Wednesday:  Writing day – no meetings (message prep, blogging, meeting preparation, brainstorming, time for reflection, leadership projects, sometimes a coaching call with another leader or mentor)

Thursday: Meeting day (direct report one on one meetings most of the day)

Friday: Float day (often I work on messages and if I travel, I often make it a Friday-Saturday)

Saturday: Off

Sunday: Teach and lead

The game changer for me in this is that when people used to request meetings, I would usually feel obligated to book them into any and all free space in my calendar. Now I don’t.  Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays are legitimately ‘busy’ days…spent working on the things no one ever asks you to work on.  If people want to meet in person, my assistant keeps two breakfast slots (Tuesday and Thursday) and one free slot a week open.  I usually spend that time with our staff, elders or someone who is new to faith or going through a significant life transition.  Everyone else gets referred to someone who can better help them with what they are going through.

One final tip: when people ask you for an immediate appointment, you or your assistant can legitimately say you have no available time that week.  That’s not mean, that’s just true; you’re working on what will best advance the mission you’ve all committed yourselves to.   And with some wide open slots in your calendar, you haven’t completely cordoned yourself off from the people you love and serve.   This is not an excuse for isolation, laziness or inaccessibility.  It’s just the best way I know how to ensure you spend your time advancing the mission.

Every week I still get more requests than I can handle, but people are patient.  Sometimes other people in the organization are better suited to meet with them anyway.  At other times, the issues that were so pressing the day they asked resolve themselves by the time a spot in the calendar is open.  Plus it frees me up to work on what is best going to advance our mission, which should benefit everyone, including them.

The details are far less important than the principle: decide ahead of time how you can best spend your time, create a fixed schedule, and stick to it.  No guilt.

What are you learning about time management?  What’s your best insight?  What do you still struggle with?


  1. Jorge Martinez on February 21, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Great idea, thanks.

  2. Scott on September 27, 2012 at 2:32 pm


    This is a great help to me as I look at my desk full of family ministry items. I serve at a mobile church currently hitting 400 in our weekend environments, and I serve as the Family Pastor, which covers from cradle to grave including adult life group leadership. Love what I am doing, but crazy busy at times without an assistant of my own. So with that in mind.

    If you number 2 person or other pastoral staff use this type of tool/set schedule would you ask them to maybe add here what their’s looks like? Or maybe what would your Associate Pastor’s set schedule look like?

  3. Brodie on January 14, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Thanks Carey – really appreciate the well-thought out response. Very helpful!

  4. Brodie on January 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Hey – saw this tweeted yesterday, but didn’t get TIME to check it out till now! Great practical advice. I actually wrote out a similar plan for me in my context a couple of years ago but forgot one key step… implementing it. Anything you can say about moving it from theory to reality? You obviously did it. Is it as simple as Nike would have us believe? Also – how do you (and others) deal with emails/tweets/phone calls that are often enriching/helpful/or necessary, but also time consuming?

    • Carey on January 11, 2012 at 11:27 am

      Brodie. I love your question. Thanks. I spent months figuring out what the best spend of my time was. The question I kept asking was “where do I add the most value to Connexus?” The answer that came back is in vision casting, communication and leadership. So I tried to structure my time around those activities.

      I also decided who I wouldn’t meet with. The way Connexus is set up, my only direct reports are to staff and elders, so I spend most of my meeting time meeting with them. Which means other than those couple of slots a week, I don’t budget a lot of time to meet with other people. They are best served meeting with other team members who can help them more.

      I think of my days as blocks of energy as well as blocks of time. My best energy is from 7 a.m. – 11 a.m. So I try to do writing, key correspondence and such then. I leave more routine work to this afternoon when my energy level is a bit lower.

      I also have an assistant and she deals with some of the outside requests that aren’t my most pressing priorities.

      Tweets, email and phone calls I deal with personally…doing those between daily projects on my agenda or meetings I’m in. I don’t give out my cell phone number generously so only people who tend to need to talk to me have that kind of access, but I answer all my email, Facebook and tweets personally (except my assistant handles my email when I am on vacation). Email, FB and twitter gives access everyone who wants access and I’m at the place where I can still handle that personally.

      I do all my outside work (Orange, speaking, writing) on personal time.

      And at the end of the day, I just decided to bite the bullet and did it…telling the staff and elders that I was pulling the trigger. We then evaluated monthly, then seasonally and now annually. Every one thinks it’s working really well several years into it.

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