How to take charge of your day

What do you do when you first walk into your office each day? Answer emails? Listen to voice mail? Meet with your team?

What if you started your workday by thinking first?

I know, there’s a lot to do and you’re wondering why I’m advocating just sitting still for a few minutes. Here’s the deal: If you’ll take 5 minutes at the start of your day to think through what you need to accomplish, you’re much more likely to actually get those things done. Let’s say you have 15 items on your to-do list. Chances aren’t great you’ll finish all of them today, so you take 5 minutes to prioritize.

  • What absolutely must get done today?
  • What items are others waiting on so they can finish their work?
  • What has your direct manager asked you to finish today?

Move those items to the top of your list. Put them in order of importance and start moving down the list. Check email 3-5 times throughout the day but not constantly.

Now, I realize others will interrupt you. You’ll get requests for information or to help with another project. Each time that happens, ask yourself if this new item is more important than what you’ve already prioritized for the day. If so, it’s time to reprioritize. If not, you may need to politely decline. You can’t be an excellent steward of your time and responsibilities while saying yes to everyone.

When it’s about time to head home for the day, take the last 5 minutes to wrap up any loose ends and think through tomorrow’s to-do list.

Now, you might be thinking I’m naïve and idealistic in advocating this approach. Actually, I’m a realist and this doesn’t work out everyday for me either. There are plenty of days where I’m running from one fire drill to the next wondering what happened to my to-do list.

However, just because my ideal day doesn’t always happen doesn’t mean it’s not worth shooting for. I should eat healthy 100% of the time and exercise every day too, but that doesn’t happen either. However, if I have a “cheat meal” or miss a workout, I don’t decide to just give up on being healthy. I chalk it up to being human and try again the next day.

It’s the same thing with how we manage our time. Yes, things may get out of control today. No, you may not get everything done.  It’s still worthwhile to start each workday by taking 5 minutes to plan. Work your plan and be flexible as needed. If you get your top tasks done that day – great! If not, consider what went awry, learn from it, and move forward tomorrow.

I’ve worked in ministry long enough to know we tend to be too hard on ourselves and that plans often get thwarted. Here’s how I approach it: Plan, pray, work diligently, and don’t let an off day prevent me from trying again tomorrow. Those days when the planning works out are worth striving for and, no kidding, really are possible.

What helps you manage your time?