Time Management Series
“Scheduling Your Time” (SL#30)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 12.1
Time Management

“Having the time of your life” includes making time choices inside your life’s total framework. This article is organized into six topics. You make the most of your time and the quality of your life when you do your scheduling from the large picture to the small components and back again. The same Lord who taught us to “work for the night is coming” also went often to be alone in spiritual retreat.

Schedules are important to paraphrase what Woody Allen once claimed: “Showing up is 80% of life,” and being on time helps. This article will help you with guideposts and resources for short- and long-term planning. You may want to supplement this section with the support materials within the series of articles
or from other sources. You can use your own calendar tools as guides for personalizing your plans.

Glossary: “schedule” (from The American Heritage®
Middle English “sedule,” slip of parchment or paper, a note; a list of times of departures and arrivals; a plan for performing work or achieving an objective, specifying the order and allotted time for each part; a printed or written list of items in tabular form; a program of events or appointments expected in a given time.

  1. Strategic Priority Planning
    “Every moment spent planning saves three or four in execution.”
    (from Crawford Greenwalt Dupont, 1972) Consider these suggested actions:

    • Set time frame: 3-to-5-year planning; even 5 to 10 years for setting directions.
    • Pursue the “compass connection”: setting directions.
    • Begin with strategic thinking about kingdom service.
    • Plan out of your vision, values, and principles.
    • Involve the congregation in strategic time/ministry planning.
    • Focus on the mission/vision of the church.
    • Express objectives and goals of the church together.
    • Translate multiyear projects/activities into specific calendar dates.
    • Give priority to strategic time needs rather than operational.
    • Keep a multiyear desk calendar for personal engagements and assignments.
    • Maintain assignment files for continuous work.
  2. Annual Calendar Planning
    “The Calendar doesn’t care how you spend your time.”–(from Carlton Sheets, 12/20/87) Continue to make this function effective:

    • Operational may include two years.
    • Hang the “church calendar” on the wall; use the computer.
    • Develop the church calendar with staff and lay leadership in the optimum cycles.
    • Show the “road map” of the major stops along the way.
    • Transfer related church dates to your own calendar.
    • Add your personal schedule: family vacation, holidays, personal engagements, professional development, etc.


  3. Monthly Calendar Review and Update
    • Specific actions should be completely planned.
    • During the second or third week of each month, make a thorough review and update of next Month’s church calendar (do so with church staff, lay leaders, etc.).
    • Review and update your personal calendar–write it down!
    • Write time estimates into your calendar for preparation of major assignments, projects, meetings.
    • Prepare and/or maintain file folders for forthcoming assignments.
  4. Weekly Schedule: Use Your Own Calendar Tools
    • Implementation is the key focus.
    • Start the week with reflection and planning–pen in hand.
    • Develop a weekly calendar and translate it into daily tasks and responsibilities.
    • Schedule a “weekly staff meeting” (even if it is a volunteer or part-time staff).
    • Include the required church meetings in your weekly schedule.
    • Allocate time early in the week for sermon/worship preparation.
    • Maintain an information/action file for that week’s special events or projects.
    • Delegate assignments early in the week.
    • Designate a “day off” or “time off” and stick to it.
  5. Daily Appointments : Your Daily Planner
    “How does a project get to be a year behind schedule? One day at a time.”
    –Fred Brooks, IBM, chief designer. What habits already serve you well?

    • Work with a pocket calendar, “daytimer,” computer, or desk calendar.
    • Start each day with a personal quiet time with the Lord.
    • Focus early on your mission, the church’s “big picture.”
    • Develop appointment procedures.
    • Establish guidelines for appointment priorities ahead of time!
    • Delegate extensively and early in the work day.
    • Schedule appointments an hour or more after the office day begins.
    • Start on time, stay on time, stop on time.
    • Do not allow interruptions, especially the telephone, during appointments.
    • The clock is ticking; but don’t let it overtake you.
  6. “Do-It-Today” List
    See also my Study Resource toward the end of this article:

    • Write a “must-do-today list,” either the evening before or first thing in the morning.
    • Include known tasks, responsibilities, appointments, and all-essential prep time.
    • Number items in order of priority.
    • Start with the most important things first.
    • Tackle hard tasks well before the end of the day.
    • Group related tasks and do them in a timely sequence.
    • Be realistic and allow for contingencies.
    • Cross off completed tasks from the list.
    • Revise and add to the list as needed.

Conclusion/Reflection/Application–The $25,000 Question
(Quoted in many publications, apparently first in The Time Trap by Alec MacKenzie, 1972)

The usefulness of planning a day’s work is seen in a well-known story about Charles Schwab (1880-1939). When he was president of Bethlehem Steel, he presented this challenge to Ivy Lee, a consultant: “Show me a way to get more things done with my time, and I’ll pay you any fee within reason.”

Handing Schwab a piece of paper, Lee said, “Write down the most important tasks you have to do tomorrow and number them in order of importance. When you arrive in the morning, begin at once on No. 1 and stay on it till it’s completed. Recheck you priorities; then begin with No. 2. If any task takes all day, never mind. Stick with it as long as it’s the most important one. If you don’t finish them all, you probably couldn’t do so with any other method. Make this a habit every working day. When it works for you, give it to your men. Try it as long as you like. Then send me your check for what you think it’s worth.”

Some weeks later, Schwab sent Lee a check for $25,000 with a note saying that he lesson was the most profitable he had ever learned. In five years this plan was largely responsible for turning Bethlehem Steel Corporation into the biggest independent steel producer in the world.

List the six categories of time planning/scheduling.

  • Where are you the strongest in time scheduling?
  • Which area do you need most to improve?
  • What actions will you take?


A Study Resource: Creating Healthy “To-Do Lists”
by Lloyd Elder – 7/28/06

This list of a dozen tips on the habit of creating “to-do lists” grows out of years of practicing this discipline, poorly and with success, and from published resources–such as Marshall J. Cook’s Time Management, pp. 27-36. It could contribute to your taking continuous action on your priorities within a balanced schedule. Hopefully, it could also reduce your frustration. It is one tool to obey the injunction of our Lord in John 9:4 — As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

  1. Tell yourself and the list that it is just a tool–not your master.
  2. Don’t put too much on the list–jamming it is a recipe for frustration.
  3. Put some air in it; back-to-back scheduling may cause a blowout.
  4. List possibilities and priorities, but few imperatives; focus on the important more than the urgent.
  5. Don’t carve the list on stone tablets–keep it flexible to fit your real time.
  6. Order the list creatively to take up high priorities before you drown in the small stuff.
  7. Break the large tasks (boulders) into manageable size (pebbles). Two hours a day for four days may be better than an eight-hour-day project.
  8. Keep it personal–schedule some breaks, goofs, time-out time, and reward time; keep your days and your life balanced.
  9. Balance your personal and strategic objectives as well as the daily goals/tasks. “What’s scheduled usually gets done.”
  10. Stand ready to chunk the list; something in your life–joy, sorrow, opportunity–may become so much more important than “the list.”
  11. You don’t have to make a list every day–or in the same way, or at all; make sure it serves you.
  12. Remember to include your personal and family priorities on your daily “to-do” list; that helps to balance your life.

© 2006 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership


Study Resource: “The Clock and
the Compass”

from First Things First – by Stephen R. Covey
A Fireside Book, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995 (373 pages)
Review excerpts by Lloyd Elder from Section One

Covey starts by asking the question, “If you were to pause and think seriously about the ‘first things’ in your life–the three or four things that matter most–what would they be?” (p. 11). One of his strongest strategies to help answer this question is the analogy of the clock and the compass. The clock represents our commitments, appointments, schedules, goals, activities–what we do with and how we manage our time. The compass represents our vision, values, principles, mission, conscience, direction–what we feel is important and how we lead our lives (p. 19).

In an effort to close the gap between the clock and the compass, Covey turns to the field of “time management.” He introduces the concept of what could be called the three “generations” of time management (pp. 21-22). Each generation builds on the one before it and moves toward greater efficiency and control, even toward a fourth generation.

First Generation. The first generation is based on “reminders.” It’s “go with the flow,” but try to keep track of things you want to do with your time–write the report, attend the meeting, fix the car, clean out the garage. This generation is characterized by simple notes and checklists. If you’re in this generation, you carry these lists with you and refer to them so you don’t forget to do things. Hopefully, at the end of the day, you’ve accomplished many of the things that you set out to do and you can check them off your list. If those tasks are not accomplished, you put them on your list for tomorrow.

Second Generation. The second generation is one of “planning and preparation.” It’s characterized by calendars and appointment books. It’s efficiency, personal responsibility, and achievement in goal setting, planning ahead, and scheduling future activities and events. If you’re
in this generation, you make appointments, write down commitments, identify deadlines, note where meetings will be held. You may even keep this in some kind of computer or network.

Third Generation. The third generation approach is “planning, prioritizing, and controlling.” If you’re in this generation, you’ve probably spent some time clarifying your values and priorities. You’ve asked yourself, “What do I want?” You’ve set long-, medium-, and short-range goals to obtain these values. You prioritize your activities on a daily basis. This generation is characterized by a wide variety of planners and organizers–electronic as well as paper-based–with detailed forms for daily planning.

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