For over 20+ years in ministry, I have exercised the practice of categorizing my time into each of the following four categories and then making time for each. The key is to plan my week in large chunks of time, full or half-day units. When I try to fit more than one “R” into one block of time, I experience frustration and defeat. My stress goes up and my productivity goes down.
(1) Rest Time – Focusing on Your Spiritual and Marital Health
I start with day 7! God built into creation a universal need for rest and He recommends and even commands one day per week. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work” (Ex 20:8-10).
Pastors are some of the worst violators of this divine principle. On a quality day of rest, I do absolutely nothing related to the job. Nothing. No phone calls, no email, no job-related reading, no quick stops at the church “just to check on one thing.” My goal is to dedicate the day to refreshing my soul and my marriage.
(2) Results Time - Focusing on the Unique Role God has for Me Personally in Advancing His Mission
I dedicate Results Time to doing my “main thing.” My main thing has three defining characteristics.
First, it is mission critical, essential to the health and growth of the ministry.
Second, it is top priority. It is important to set priorities and have them affirmed by the leadership team or board. I have learned to ask the church leadership to affirm any priority adjustment. They serve as a buffer between me and the member who thinks my priorities are out of line. Then, with integrity, I can say (for example), “My priority right now is preaching and leadership. The board has asked me to limit my counseling in light of the growing needs and to use our referral network instead.”
Third, main things grow out of my unique abilities, which are the convergence of my God-given gifts, passions, and experiences.
Knowing that my Results Time is protected and dedicated to my main thing allows me to be more productive during the other times of the week.
(3) Response Time – Focusing on Administration and Follow Up
Response time is defined by two terms: clean-up and follow-up. During Response Time, I tackle all the stuff that is still important, but not critical to the mission. As a servant-leader, I realize that the people I serve have their own agendas, their own needs. I want to be responsive to them, as long as I first protect the Rest and Results Times.
Response activities are a lot like debris. I am tempted to pick up a little here or there, but if I sweep them all together into larger piles, then attack the piles in a good-sized block of Response Time, I’ll knock it out faster and more efficiently.
(4) Refocus Time – Focusing on Evaluation of My Priorities
This final “R” is the most commonly overlooked. Refocusing is working on the ministry, not just in the ministry and includes time to assess, adjust and innovate for the future. Life and leadership are dynamic, not static. Even if the organization appears stable, the world all around is in flux. It is the opportunity to make the fine adjustment needed to keep life in balance.
When I break away from my routine, ask God questions and reflect on my ministry, I always get fresh insight for maintaining the elusive equilibrium of servant-leadership. I use three types of refocus time to gain new perspective on my life and ministry: weekly, monthly and annually.
I ask myself “Am I resting as I should, maintaining my marriage and family to the glory of God?” “Am I protecting my prime time for my main thing?” “Am I responding with a servant heart to those who need me most?”
This framework for organizing my week has been crucial to maintaining a life while still producing excellent work. In future posts I will dive deeper into each of the 4 R’s but this overview should help you begin to think more proactively and intentionally about how you spend your time each week.