Sometimes it can seem like you have a million things to do.
Program planning, message writing, meeting parents, hanging with students, strategizing ministry, and so much more. With all the tasks that we youth workers are charged with, our time gets quickly used up – and it can seem like there’s not enough hours in the day to do all that we’re asked.
Though I can’t slow the earth’s rotation (and add hours to your day), I can suggest four ways to simplify administration and work smarter instead of harder.
Automate Mass Communication
In any given ministry week, there’s likely a good amount of information that you’d want students to know. Youth group start time, special event details, upcoming deadlines, etc. If you’re like me, ensuring all of this information gets out can be overwhelming, and sometimes I’ll simply forget to communicate – leaving students confused and out of the loop.
With applications like Hootsuite (FREE social media management), Remind (FREE mass-texting), and more – I can pre-plan mass messaging to my heart’s content. In about two hours per month, I can look at the upcoming ministry calendar and schedule when I want messages to be sent out for every important deadline, event, announcement, etc. After these two hours, mass communication manages itself and is hands off for the month!
Blocks of time
This is one of my favorite ways to work smarter. In a nutshell, I divide my week into ‘blocks’ of time. In each block I’ll focus on a very specific set of tasks. For example, every morning I’ll dedicate a 20 minute block to communication. I’ll check emails, reply to unanswered texts and Facebook messages, etc. Another common block on my schedule is long range planning. In this block, I’ll exclusively work on future sermon series, ministry calendars, curriculum, and more. Other blocks are: social media, visioning, message preparation, weekly program preparation, office organization…you get the idea!
The key to successfully using blocks as a work smarter method is to be disciplined about operating within that block. If something comes up that isn’t relevant to your current block (a new email, text from a volunteer, sudden urge to organize the student room RIGHT NOW), defer it to another time.
It takes a bit of discipline to avoid getting sidetracked, but studies show that most human brains work more efficiently when they focus on a single project as opposed to multi-tasking.
The ease of email makes it one of the biggest blessings in communication…until the inbox starts to pile up. One of my favorite ways to work smarter is to find ways to streamline my inbox. I’ll dedicate a block (as mentioned above) to e-mail twice daily, usually about 20 minutes at the beginning and end of each day. When I get to my inbox, I’ll read through each e-mail, and then handle each in one of three ways:
- Immediate reply. The e-mail is immediately replied to, then deleted.
- Deferred reply. The e-mail contains a to-do that’s tied to a program or event. I’ll file it in a subfolder dedicated to that event/program and defer my reply until the next time I’m working on that particular ‘block’ and have completed the to-do.
- Thoughtful reply. The e-mail doesn’t have a particular to-do included, but it does need a thoughtful response and can’t sit in the inbox until some later date. I’ll flag this e-mail and ensure it receives a thoughtful reply by the end of the week.
In each scenario above, I’m doing something with my e-mail besides letting it sit in my inbox. This enables me to keep my inbox clean and streamlined, making my e-mail management smarter, not harder.
Use Commute Time Wisely
This one comes with a disclaimer: Obey all local traffic laws at all times!
Let’s assume that the average youth worker lives ten minutes from work. Then, let’s assume that in a given day that youth worker drives to and from two meetings, each ten minutes away from where they work. If that’s the case, that’s a total of one hour of time spent commuting that day. Are we using this time to simply get from place to place, or to work smarter? Consider using your commute time to catch up on phone calls, listen to leadership podcasts or sermons, pray (eyes open!), etc.
Those are my top four ideas. What ideas would you add to the list?