Time management is a challenge that every pastor faces, especially when you’re leading a growing church. The good news? Computer science has some fascinating insights that can help you manage your time more effectively. Brian Christian did a TED Talk some time ago that offers some different – even some counterintuitive – tools to keep mission focused and get the important stuff done. Let’s dig deeper into these concepts and see how they can be applied to your pastoral duties.
The Scheduling Conundrum: Avoiding Decision Paralysis
Brian Christian’s TED Talk starts with a compelling story about a NASA spacecraft that froze because it had too many tasks to complete in a limited amount of time. This phenomenon is known as decision paralysis, and it’s something that many pastors can relate to. When you have a multitude of tasks and no clear plan, you risk becoming paralyzed, unable to decide what to tackle first.
To avoid decision paralysis, create a “Mission Control” dashboard. This could be a digital tool or a physical board where you list your church’s key objectives alongside the tasks that contribute to those objectives. This dashboard serves as your roadmap, helping you allocate your time effectively and avoid paralysis.
The Priority Trap: The Linux Lesson
In the Linux operating system, tasks are not meticulously ranked by importance. Instead, they are divided into different priority buckets. This approach prevents the system from spending too much time deciding what to do next, allowing it to focus on execution. The lesson here is that while prioritization is important, over-prioritizing can be counterproductive.
Divide your tasks into three categories: A, B, and C. Your A-list should consist of mission-critical tasks that directly contribute to church growth, such as community outreach, effective invitations, and strategic planning. Your B-list could include important but not urgent tasks, and your C-list could be for tasks that are neither urgent nor important.
The Cost of Interruptions: Context Switching
Brian Christian points out that every time you switch between tasks, you incur a “context switch” cost. This is the time and mental energy it takes to shift your focus from one task to another. For pastors, this is particularly relevant because your role requires you to wear many hats, from sermon preparation to community outreach.
To minimize the cost of context switching, batch similar tasks together. Allocate specific blocks of time for each type of task. For example, you could designate Monday mornings for community outreach and Tuesday afternoons for sermon preparation. This allows you to dive deep into each task, making your efforts more effective and efficient.
The Counterintuitive Approach: Embracing Randomness
One of the most surprising insights from Brian Christian’s talk is that sometimes tackling tasks in a random order can be more efficient. This is particularly true when tasks are of equal importance. The randomness can actually help you break free from routine and discover new opportunities.
Once a week, designate a “Random Task Day.” On this day, pick tasks from your B and C lists and tackle them without overthinking the order. This approach can yield surprising productivity gains and may even help you discover new priorities.
The Church Growth Connection: Aligning Tasks with Mission
Effective time management enables you to focus on what truly matters: reaching new people and growing your church. When you’re not sidetracked by less important tasks, you can invest your time in high-impact activities that align with your church’s growth goals.
Identify one mission-critical activity each week that aligns with your church’s growth goals. Make this your A-list task for the week and allocate dedicated time to it. This could be anything from planning a community event to strategizing your social media outreach.
Time management is not just about completing tasks; it’s about aligning your tasks with your mission. And when that mission is as vital as growing your church and transforming lives, you can’t afford to waste time on the wrong things. So, take these computer science principles to heart and apply them to your pastoral duties. Your future self—and your congregation—will thank you.
Ready to take the next step? Download my Get On Track workbook to get started. Get On Track Workbook
Until next time, keep leading and growing!