The Pastor and His Time: Block Scheduling

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As I sit here typing this, I have several things in front of me. There is a sermon to finish typing, a phone meeting to prepare for, and a lunch meeting with someone who has been attending our church. Beyond that, there are emails to answer, books to finish reading, and a host of other things to work on.

All of this when it is snowing outside and our kids are home from school.

Life is busy and time is short.

Pastors, how can you accomplish all that you need to accomplish in any given week? How can you make sure you are loving your wife well, spending enough time with your children, and serving the church faithfully? Where will all these different things fit into your schedule? There are only so many hours in a day. How will it all work?

Something that works (imperfectly) for me that might work for you is block scheduling. I have an excel spreadsheet on my desktop that breaks down my entire week (the hours that I’m awake for) into 30-minute intervals. I then create blocks of time that are devoted to different aspects of my life and ministry. Into this block schedule, I work four areas of my life: family, work, Ph.D. studies, and rest. Though I’m not a slave to the schedule and some weeks are more consistent than others, this gives me a good snapshot of how much time I’m giving to each area. It allows me to see how much time I’m really blocking off for my wife and kids. At a glance, I can see on my screen how much time is blocked off for pastoral ministry and Ph.D. studies. Importantly and often overlooked, I can see if I’m working enough rest into my life.

This approach to my schedule has helped me in numerous ways. First, it has relieved a bit of anxiety. I would often become anxious thinking about all the things I needed to do. I simply did not know when I’d get around to this or that task. By using a block schedule, I now know exactly when I’ve blocked off time to tackle certain things. For instance, when am I going to have time to finish a book review for my Ph.D. seminar? Well, by utilizing a block schedule I know that I have 14 hours worked into my week for such things. Or, when will I have time to think strategically about the future of our church? By blocking time off for this beforehand, I know this is worked into my week on Tuesday afternoons from 3pm to 4:30pm. Knowing these things are scheduled helps alleviate some anxiety in my ministry.

Second, block scheduling has helped me ensure I’m spending time with my wife and kids. The block scheduling approach has freed me to work hard while I’m working without feeling like I’ll never see my family. Though some weeks may be a bit busier than others, and random things often come up, for the most part, block scheduling has helped make sure I am not an absentee husband or father.

Third, and finally, block scheduling has helped my productivity. I (normally) do not waste time sitting around wondering what I should be doing at this or that moment. I know what specific time is set aside for and therefore I’m able to hit the ground running.

Block scheduling has helped me love my wife, spend time with my kids, faithfully pastor my church, while also being a good student. It might or might not work for you. The bigger idea is to look at your life, note all the things you need to do, and come up with a plan that helps you accomplish all that you need to accomplish in Christ-exalting and people-loving ways.

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