Any time I meet with bivocational ministers the number one problem they identify is time management. Virtually every bivocational minister I meet struggles with responding to all the demands on his or her time. As I say in my book The Healthy Pastor: Easing the Pressures of Ministry, time management is really life management. The better we can organize our lives the more efficient we will be with our time. One simple life/time management technique is to work from a clean desk.
As an act of editorial honesty I must admit that I often affectionately refer to my desk as "the landfill." Papers cover much of the desk top. Bills, books, receipts, tape, magazines, etc. are all interspersed across my desk top. Periodically, I have to stop and take the time to completely clean the top of my desk so I can concentrate on the work I need to do. When I do that I find that I am much more efficient in everything I do. I've come to the conclusion that a cluttered desk leads to a cluttered mind, and a cluttered mind does not lead to efficiency.
I began thinking about this today as I finished re-reading Organized for Success: Top Executives and CEOs Reveal the Organizing Principles That Helped Them Reach the Top. The author found that these top executives refuse to allow paperwork to remain on their desk. Seldom will they allow anything to remain on their desk overnight, and many of them strive to deal with it within the hour after it reaches them.
One of the reasons we sometimes feel overwhelmed with all the demands on our time is that we allow things to build up. We don't deal with things promptly until several items accumulate that require our attention. As we begin to search for the paperwork or other material that we know is somewhere on our desk we lose valuable time making us much less productive. Even worse, we miss deadlines because the paperwork associated with something we needed to do found its way to the bottom of a stack and was forgotten.
We've all heard the advice to handle a piece of paper only once. Either file it, deal with it, delegate it to someone else, or pitch it. Good advice, but many of us don't do it, and it costs us valuable time. If it's good advice why don't we take it? For me it's a lack of focus. I allow myself to get overwhelmed with many things demanding my attention and fail to focus on dealing with one task at a time and staying with it until it's completed before moving on to the next item.
I hope by posting this article I can not only help my readers but will also help affirm in my own mind the importance of working off a clean desk. Now that I've published this post I need to clean up my landfill.