25 Ways to Save Your Schedule and Save Your Mind
In my last post, I shared how if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. The truth of it is, it’s not usually the fault of evil forces lurking in the shadows that cause us problems. It’s often our lack of prioritizing what’s great over what’s good.
Here are 25 (ok, technically 26) ways to save your schedule and your mind:
1. Say No Nicely—This is #1 in order of importance. It’s also #1 in degree of difficulty for most people. We say no all the time, just in a different way. When we say yes to something, we say no to a hundred other possibilities. Instead of passively saying no to opportunities we should take, learn to politely decline invitations or offers. Will people be offended? Sure. But if they’re as well meaning as they seem, they will either get over it, or eventually understand.
Say no to the good so you can say yes to the great.
2. Delegate—Unless you are on a deserted island, you can probably find someone else to help or do it entirely. Sure, somethings can’t be delegated. Likely, those are the essential things for you. But many things can be delegated. Enlist your co-workers, family members, or small group members. And if you can’t find someone to delegate to, don’t be afraid to drop it.
Delegate the good so you can focus on the great.
3. Clicklist Shopping—I admittedly haven’t tried this out. But Kroger’s has this new feature where you can shop on the app, pay for it, and have the grocery order delivered to your car, saving you hours each month in the store. Now, I’m sure Kroger’s isn’t the only store to do this, just the only major chain of supermarkets that I’m aware of. I’ll gladly pay a small fee to save this amount of time.
P.S. I personally enjoy grocery shopping. I usually do it alone. But if you have kids with you, why not try it out?
4. Family Sports—I know that this isn’t popular with a lot of people. But if you have three kids who are into sports, it’s likely that you have practice nearly every night of the week not to mention have to be in several places at once. Besides straining the laws of physics, it can strain your brain. Try to find some activities that can involve the whole family, or at least a big chunk of them.
Downside: No playoffs, no titles, not a lot of prestige. But your kids can still learn the fundamentals and develop leadership and sportsmanship qualities.
Also, these may be sparse in your area. But it may be worth a shot. The other alternative would be telling your kids “no.” Heaven forbid. See # 26.
5. Family Small Groups—Our church is in the launching phase of small group ministry. A small group is a Bible Study type of program you get into. Usually they involve lots of discussion, snacks, and meeting at someone’s home. Every church does groups a little different. But one option for you is to participate in a group where the whole family can be present. Or if that’s not your fancy, attend a group that meets the same time as your kid’s student or children’s ministry.
It saves time and may save you a couple of hours each week.
6. Limit Meetings—I’m weird, I like meetings. Wait, let me rephrase that… I like meetings with a purpose. I detest sitting around talking about things only to meet again in a few months and be talking about them again with no progress made. Life is busy and I simply don’t have time to meet with everyone who wants to. So I need to prioritize meetings. If it can be done over text or email, great.
Honestly, this area is hard for me, because as a Pastor and small business owner, meetings with congregants and clients are very important. But many things can be dealt with completely in a timely manner.
Especially if you have a family, you need to limit your meetings. Better yet, have meetings at breakfast or lunch with someone, and don’t let it linger much longer than the meal.
7. Get Important Stuff Done First—2 benefits: 1, the task is done, so if you fall behind, its less pressure on you; 2, it will give you a sense of accomplishment, helping you dive into the rest of your day/list of things to do.
8. Limit Meetings—Lots of meetings are redundant, just like this line.
9. Ask Why—This question will likely get you in trouble, whether you’re asking yourself of someone else. It can cause you re-evaluate conventional wisdom, which is usually a good thing. But to some people, it’s threatening. Again, focus on the great thing, not just the good thing. It something is pointless, why are you doing it?
10. Cook Multiple Meals at Once—Ah, food. I like to cook. It relaxes me. There is something satisfying about taking a set of ingredients and transforming them into an edible creation. We don’t cook enough. Largely because we lack time. So tonight, while you’re making hamburgers, go ahead and prepare some ground beef for tacos later in the week. Or if you’re making soup, make some extra and put it in the freezer. This way you can still have a home cooked meal that tastes good and allows you to put your feet up.
11. Work Ahead—”But Adam, I can’t do what I have to do as it is!” I know. Same situation here. But most of us can find a little margin here and there. If you’re not totally exhausted, work a little ahead. You never know when you’ll need that time invested when a crisis comes up. Life is unpredictable so being a little ahead can be a real lifesaver.
12. Give Kids Chores—For any kids reading this, I apologize in advance. Now most kids have age-appropriate chores. But it is surprising to me the number of kids I know who have very little household responsibilities besides cleaning their room. Hey, some kids don’t even have to do that. I hated chores as a kid. But as a parent, I now realize those little household jobs can really add up. If you have kids, give them responsibility. That’s the only way they learn it. And yes, that means you’ll have to check to make sure it got done, but over time it can develop your child’s work ethic. And it can save you some time.
13. Keep A Notebook—I was diagnosed with ADD as a kid, before it seemed like everyone had it. On top of that I struggle to remember things anyway. If you add those two together you get the perfect storm of poor follow-through. Many times I simply forget. I’m learning the importance of keeping a notepad with me at all times. Yeah, I don’t look so cool. But I’m becoming more productive and less busy at the same time. Working from a list keeps you engaged, speeds up your day, and you’ll have more time and maybe even more energy at the end of the day.
14. Get Some Sleep—This seems obvious, but you can’t function well if your body isn’t well rested. I love the new Bedtime feature on my iPhone. It’s a conscious reminder that I need to wind down my evening, go to bed, and get some rest. And I’m waking up earlier and more refreshed because I am getting a good night’s sleep. Why is it we work hard to get our kids on a good bedtime schedule and then neglect doing that in our own lives? I like the occasional late-movie date-night, but I can’t function well on less than 9 hours of sleep.
Rest well so you can tackle the great thing God has for you.
15. Get Up Early—Yikes! I was never a morning person until the last year or so. We have three kids, and I largely work from home, so quiet time is at a premium around here. If I get up at 5 AM, I have between 2-3 hours of uninterrupted time to study, write, read, pray, you get the picture. Yes, it takes time to cultivate the habit, but my morning coffee and Bible reading are becoming precious to me. It’s also my most productive hours of the day.
I’m not advocating everyone get at 5 AM. If they did, it wouldn’t be quiet time for me. But I am advocating getting a head start on the day. There is a positive psychological effect to having accomplished more than half of a work day before noon.
16. Do Small Tasks in a Rush—My wife is the queen of this. When it comes to cleaning up after the kids and just the craziness of the day, my wife can clean more in 15 minutes uninterrupted than I can in 2 hours. This could be anything from sorting laundry while starting a load, combining errands into a single trip, or handling all your email quickly at one time.
I read somewhere that the constant checking and replying to emails is a huge time waster. Doing it all at once maybe twice a day can really save your schedule. Get the good things done and out of the way so you can focus on the great thing God has for you (notice how I keep saying something like that? Hmmm… It’s like I have a theme or something).
17. Listen to Some Good Music—I get distracted easily, which makes some tasks take longer than they should. If you see me with my headphones or earbuds in and I seem to be non-responsive to you, I’m not being rude. I am doing what I need to do to be productive. Pick your favorite music and get to it. Personally, I find soft piano or classic rock works best. I love praise and worship music, but sometimes I get caught up in it and forget what I was doing.
It’s about what helps you to focus on the great things.
18. Hire Out What You Can—I realize not everyone has lots of money. Truth is, I’m not what you would call wealthy by American standards. But there are some things that aren’t worth the hassle or time commitment of me doing myself. If that means paying the neighbor kid to mow the lawn (mowing is sacred to me so that’s not something I would do) or paying someone to do your taxes, or paying for a part-time assistant, do it.
You may think it’s cheaper to do it yourself, but I think you’d be surprised. If you did a cost-benefit analysis of some of the tasks you do, what it costs you in lost productivity or peace of mind, it may be worth hiring it out.
19. Consider a Digital Assistant—This is something I have considered but have not done yet. Our church employs a great administrative assistant who saves my bacon weekly. But she’s only 6 hours a week. I need someone constantly, for my church work and for my side business. I don’t have the luxury of being able to afford one right now, but there are some great options out there.
Belay is one company that is making a huge impact by offering numerous services, including personal assistants who work remotely from their home or office space. For a reasonable rate, they can help with all sorts of tasks. If you work in the business or non-profit world, they could be a real time saver and problem solver for you.
20. Pray—Pray. “Adam, you’re a pastor. Of course you’re going to berate me about spending too little time in prayer.” Ok, easy, calm down. Maybe you feel convicted because you do need to pray more. But that’s not what I’m really getting at.
Yes, pray and ask God to help you make better use of your time, to focus on the great things instead of the good. But you should already be doing that.
No, I’m talking about the purely selfish reasons to pray. Study after study by secular researchers show that praying, meditation, or a similar discipline not only increases productivity, it also reduces stress. Reduced stress will save you time as you feel less worn down.
21. Move Up Deadlines—Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? Bad idea! Why not do today what isn’t due until next week? Again, you’re making extra time in your calendar and you’ll have a head start on everyone else. So if the paper isn’t due until next Friday, start working on it like it’s due this Friday. You’re not preaching until Sunday? Get that message ready by Friday night.
You’ll build discipline, earn the respect of your colleagues, and hey, maybe even get a raise.
22. Schedule Social Media Usage—If you’re a business owner like me, you know important social media can be to your business. It builds your client base and keeps you in contact your customers. Just like idea #16, you can schedule several posts at once using a social media managing app like Buffer or Hootsuite.
Also, resist the urge to check your phone every 5 minutes. Schedule time. Like for our church, we use several social media accounts and platforms to communicate
announcements, prayer requests, and for me to keep in touch with the congregation. It’s a great tool. But it can be overwhelming if I’m checking it constantly. It could be all I get done in a given day. As part of my morning routine, I will take about 20 minutes to scan my newsfeed, see what I need to respond to, and do it. Then I can go about my other tasks.
Again, focus on the great things not just the good things.
23. Calendar Everything—I am by nature perhaps the most disorganized person on the planet. Calendars and me don’t have a great track record. Day planners have been purchased only to be used for like a week, and then discarded.
But with each new update for iOS for Apple, they’re improving calendar features and making it easier for my wife and I to sync our appointments. It’s not just Apple Calendars. Google has some great resources.
Have trouble with keeping a priority a priority? Schedule it. Put Tuesday evenings down as family time and make it repeat forever. Scheduling your priorities makes it easier to tell people no. When someone asks you for a meeting Tuesday evening, you can honestly say, “I’m sorry, I’ve got a commitment that evening.”
As a pastor, it’s rare I have a slow or peaceful weekend. It’s my busiest time. So I try to take Mondays as a day off. But I find that if I don’t schedule it on my calendar, tasks and people tend to creep in on the time I should be holding as sacred.
24. Clean Your Desk, Dresser, or Work-space Each Day—A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind. When I sit down at my desk, the last thing I need to do is try to remember what I was thinking yesterday with stacks of papers.
I truly stink at this. But hey, I at least keep the spot in front of my keyboard clean.
Even if you stuff it into a file marked “to do”, you’ll find yourself less stressed and feeling ready to tackle the day.
25. There’s An App for That—No, seriously, there probably is. Whether it’s mobile banking, a calendar app, an app that allows for collaboration between team mates, use it. By the time you read this post, the Apple App Store will have more than 3 million apps. 3 Million! And sure, lots of them are glorified time wasters, but there will be some that help productivity or with scheduling. My favorite time saving apps are Facebook Messenger, Hootsuite, and Dropbox.
26. Tell Your Kids “No”—See #1. Look, I get it. It’s hard to tell anyone no, especially your kids. You brought them into this world and you would give them anything. But just as we need to learn the discipline of saying no and choosing the great over the good, we need to instill this in our offspring.
Unless you have a rough home life and a negative family situation, your kid does not need to be in every sport, event, class, group, club, or organization. I know, Scouts, 4-H, Lacrosse, and Little League are good. They teach life lessons, provide amazing opportunities, and instill important values. Not denying that. But what I do deny is that every child needs all of them to have a worthwhile existence.
In our culture today, many of us engage in what I would call child idolization. We put our kids first, on a pedestal that belongs only to God. Or we’re trying to make our kids have the childhood we never had. If we could read most of our kids minds, what they need is what we do, love, respect, and self-worth. They don’t get that because you give them everything. Learn to balance. Tell your kids no. Teach them to focus on the great instead of lots of good.
I realize not all these tips may help you. There is no magic pill or silver bullet to make your schedule less hectic or reduce the stress you face. But if you will pick a couple of these, consistently apply them, and focus on the great, not the good, I believe you’ll start to see significant improvements in just a few weeks. Dialogue with me: What tips would you add? Which one has worked for you?