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Freeing Up Time for Your Most Meaningful Work

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I’ve had many conversations with leaders across sectors this new year. Regardless of industry, they consistently cite workload challenges as a significant hurdle to their long-term well-being, and the research backs this sentiment up. This article will discuss aspects of workload leaders can discern, change and control for a more sustainable workload.

Essential Questions to Free up Your Time

  1. What Responsibility, if you did not perform it each week (or month), would get you fired?

    This question always surprises leaders and quickly clarifies their most important work. For pastors, this is often preparing and presenting the Sunday message. 

  2. When do you typically schedule this task during your workweek?

    Interestingly, many leaders tackle their most important tasks later in the week and feel the crunch. Doing this makes them feel stressed and unsatisfied with their outcomes. 

    I recommend that leaders schedule their most important work early in the week when their energy is high and they are least likely to be interrupted. For pastors, this might mean blocking off Mondays for researching and preparing their message and scheduling time for practicing. If Mondays are unavailable, perhaps it’s super early on Tuesday morning before anyone else arrives at work. On the other hand, if they are night owls and find their focus highest in the evenings, they may schedule critical work at night. 

  3. Outside of your most critical responsibilities, which of your tasks could you eliminate?

    This question tends to upset leaders because their work feels consequential. However, when applying Pareto’s Principle that asks, “which 20% of your work creates 80% of your results,” they begin to see tasks that do not warrant the time and energy to complete. Note that results are not always numerical; they may include life change, relationships, and discipleship. Leaders who eliminate these tasks have more time for their most meaningful ones. 

  4. Of your remaining duties, which can you delegate?

    In larger organizations and churches, this question is easier to answer. In small companies or churches, it can be more complex but still achievable. For instance, a lone pastor of a congregation may delegate more responsibilities to lay leaders. A solopreneur or leader of a small company may bring on a college or seminary student for a project, placement or thesis. If funds allow, churches and organizations can hire co-op students from a local university or employ a virtual assistant for administrative tasks. 

  5. Which of your tasks can you automate?

    This is an area where many leaders struggle, especially within churches, simply due to lack of exposure. However, just about any formulaic task can be automated rather than sapping precious time. Here are a few free or low-cost apps and app categories to consider.

    Clockify time tracker
    Later for Instagram posting
    Mailchimp for email marketing (Free up to 500 recipients. If beyond that, consider a different app for cost-effectiveness).
    Canva for social media creation. The basic version is free. The paid version is worth every cent.
    Canva for slideshow creation. The paid version offers much more robust slideshow options than PowerPoint or Keynote and can be converted into PowerPoint presentations.

  6. How can you complete your remaining responsibilities with the greatest amount of joy?

    When leaders reach this point, they can see which responsibilities are most significant and worthy of their time. I recommend time-tracking based on projects, noting when their energy and joy were at their highest at the end of each day. Over time, they identify the tasks that bring the most fulfilment and difficulty. With this knowledge, they can discern if draining tasks are essential and, if so, consider delegating or automating. If they are people-focused tasks, ask, “Is there an easier way?” It’s surprising how often this question can free up leaders’ time and energy. 

    As a leader, your work is vital. However, if you are overstretched and overburdened, set aside time to discern answers to these questions. Eliminating, delegating, automating, and scheduling your work for effectiveness frees you up to focus on your most meaningful and purposeful work. 

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