For more than thirty years, I have started my Monday mornings with a simple task—making a list of everything I need to accomplish that week and even beyond. I begin with my schedule and a list of priorities, and I finish the list with people I’m praying for in regards to work-related issues. It’s become a habit that helps guide my time for the coming week and helps me maximize my productivity.
Part of my motivation stems from knowing if I don’t plan my work priorities, someone else will be happy to do it for me. Of course, I know the Lord guides my steps and His interruptions have often changed the course of my plans, but if I don’t think about how I can be the most productive each day, I have a feeling I will become a slave to the demands of others.
Work and productivity are not bad things. In fact, it’s a biblical thing. God set Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and gave them meaningful and purposeful work. While sin contaminated that original design for work, you can find great value and fulfillment when you are being productive. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people” (CSB). Your hard work should be heart work—a work that is done from a place of gratitude and desire to honor the Lord. As 1 Corinthians 10:31 reminds us, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”
As a leader, how can you make the most of your day? Whether it’s making a list or designing your calendar to block off various times for different tasks, here are a couple of principles on how to accomplish more with the time you’ve been given.
First, create a set of rhythms for ongoing tasks or routines. Most likely, you have certain tasks or meetings that happen around the same time each week. For me, there are certain things that normally happen on Monday morning—some weekly communication to my teams, a hard look at my calendar, and a dedicated time to pray for certain people. On the first of the month, I know I have a scheduled writing assignment, and I check to see if there are any birthdays I need to remember. I attempt to schedule ongoing meetings around the same time each week so they become a natural part of my ongoing rhythm of work. It’s not perfect, but it seems to work most of the time.
While setting rhythms for work, don’t neglect setting aside the rhythms of personal time with Lord, exercise, and time for rest. Have a plan for your daily Bible reading and be consistent with your sleeping patterns. Some of my rhythms have changed in the past six months since I’ve been working completely from home. I get up early and head first to the coffee pot. After settling into my home office with coffee in hand, I spend around thirty minutes reading Scripture and journaling. I work for a few hours and then take a break where I go for a walk with my dog, pray for others, and refocus for the rest of the day. I go to sleep at almost the same time each evening, end my day with prayer, and begin the next day at the same time each morning. This has worked well for me during this season of COVID-19, but each person is different and must determine what works best for him/her.
Delegate tasks when possible and know your limits. I know I’m not capable and not designed to do everything, so I have to consider the talents and capacity of other people on my team. It is not a way to push work off on someone else, but it’s an opportunity to see others lead and utilize a skill you might not have. For instance, I know my limits when it comes to technology. As I recently faced a huge project at work, I knew it was going to be better if I assigned two of my team members to work through some of the details that I often miss. I counted on them to ask all the questions and connect with the right people who could help accomplish the task. I’ve watched both of them shine and navigate a difficult project that is much better than anything I could have done on my own.
The other side is to know when to raise the flag when you are maxed out. Unfortunately, I failed to do this in the past week. I was asked to complete some tasks that weren’t difficult, but they did require concentrated time. After unfulfilling the task for several days, I had to confess the job wasn’t done. Maybe I didn’t make the task the priority I should have, but I could have evaluated my schedule more thoroughly and been more transparent about my limitations.
Above all, when my schedule is challenged and interruptions happen, I must rest in the knowledge of Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Give your schedule to the Lord and allow Him to direct your steps.
Kelly D. King is the Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training for Lifeway Christian Resources. She is the author of Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide for Leading Women in the Local Church. You can hear Kelly at Lifeway’s You Lead events that are held in several cities around the country or listen to her co-host the Marked Podcast with Elizabeth Hyndman.