One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the jump from Marketplace to Ministry is how different calendar management is. When I think back to running a hospital as interim-President or running an IT shop as Chief Information Officer my electronic calendar was a huge key in keeping everything in my day straight.
As I tried to navigate a similar process in ministry I learned, over the course of a number of months, that managing your calendar is really different.
Ministry is all the time and non-stop and rarely the same from month to month. Ministry calendars change rapidly to adjust to the needs or opportunities in front of us. In the marketplace, while there were variations, my months were generally the same. I knew when the board meetings were a year in advance, my management team meetings were locked at the same time and things flowed on a fairly routine basis. In ministry I am planning 5 months in advance and rarely is each month similar to the last. Certainly weekend services (now 5 each weekend) can always be planned, but classes, counseling, conferences, special services small groups and team celebrations are dotted around each month. Not only am I helping to pastor a growing lively congregation of 1,400 I’m also running a homeless ministry, trying to be a good dad and husband, trying to be a good board member of an organization, and teaching at a local college.
Instead of a fully electronic calendar I’ve transitioned to a hybrid paper and electronic system. My paper system is a printout of a monthly calendar with 12 months in advance. I use http://www.timeanddate.com as the template and use a pencil to label events throughout the upcoming 5 months. I don’t write the time of the event, rather any large occurrence that day. For instance if I am teaching a class at church I will write down that class on the day’s I’m teaching. If I’m preaching on a weekend I’ll write that in. If I have a commitment with my family I’ll write that in. If I’m going to stay home with the family I write that in. I also write in days that I’ll be spending time alone with God and doing nothing else. The paper calendar is a table of contents to my electronic calendar. It helps me guide and direct future activity so I don’t over schedule myself and I don’t overlap my commitments. I give a copy of this calendar to my wife so she can also see what commitments I have upcoming.
My electronic calendar is then filled in using the paper calendar system. My electronic system keeps my on time each day. I transfer the paper system to the electronic system monthly and ensure that they are in sync regularly.
If I just relied on an electronic system I would certainly over-commit because I can’t see what is happening easily. It’s easier to project my openings when I look at a month by month paper calendar versus an electronic calendar where everything looks the same. For me, an electronic calendar, for planning purposes, looses context and meaning.
Another paper calendar option is the Do Over calendar (http://www.neuyear.net/products/do-over-year) that shows a year at a time. I love this calendar and have a copy, however it is incredibly impractical to carry around. My paper calendar is with me at all times.