Master the Art of Prioritization:  From Must-Do to What's Good for Carlton

Master the Art of Prioritization: From Must-Do to What's Good for Carlton

In this instance, confession must precede suggestion. This is an area where my struggle continues. However, being aware of the problem increases my mindfulness (at times) of how I’m dealing with time.


Six Filters for Time

 The statement, “I don’t have time,” is incorrect. All have the same amount of time. The statement should be, “I choose not to use my time that way.”

  • Good money managers budget their money knowing the income and outgoing.
  • Good time managers and most effective leaders are better than average at knowing how they use time.

For such wise managers, whether money or time, their behavior is not instinctive, instead both involve a conscious decision.  

 Time Spent is Never Equal

Concerning time, everything does not have equal value. During my time in an organizational leadership role, an Executive Coach worked with me to balance life's various realities. 

Her help was needed. Despite having been an executive in secular employment and a somewhat effective pastor, I discovered that the skills needed to be an effective organizational executive were much different than those required to be a good pastor.  

Jane Klieve, my coach, recalibrated my use of time. I began applying a "priority filter" for life's opportunities. Jane trained me to place value on my time and prioritize how I'd use it.

The system we created was color-coded and denoted as levels 1-6. I continue to apply an adapted version of Jane's process. The goal was (and is) for me to be empowered to say "No" to opportunities that do not fulfill my life’s purpose. 

Consider this to apply for yourself. 

Level 1:  Non-negotiable.

These duties are part of the job. In varied roles:

  • Developing a budget for the Budget Committee.
  • Fulfilling the legal requirements of a Church Business Meeting.
  • Preaching a funeral message for a long-time saint.

 I’m looking at this from the perspective of a preacher and pastor, but regardless of where God has you serving, or what you are involved in there are non-negotiables.

 On my calendar and task list, non-negotiables are denoted in purple.

 As a pastor, the non-negotiables include preaching/teaching so that people learn and grow in Christ, teaching Home Bible Studies, disciple-making, and developing leaders. 

Use Ezekiel’s four shepherding verbs:  feed, lead, seek the wandering, and heal the hurting. These are the pastoral non-negotiables I wrote about in The Science of Shepherding - Pastoral Care for the 21st Century. The book has a 4.8 star rating and is imminently practical. 

The list of non-negotiable, level 1 responsibilities is always short. 

 Decision-Making Begins

 Only after considering level 1 non-negotiables are there the questions of decisions. For some years, as a religious executive, my schedule stayed overly full. But on examination, much of what I was doing was trite.

 In essence, I was crazy busy but without meaningful accomplishments. Can anybody relate? It was like Israel being busy in the wilderness but going nowhere. This is where filtering helps.

It led me to make decisions based on the return from investing time, energy, and effort. None can do everything; we must decide where to offer some variation of "Thanks, but no thanks!"

Level 2 - Optional opportunities, but it seems there is a high return on the use of time.

To code these tasks and dates - we used green. In working with missions;  opportunities could be as varied as teaching seminars to church planters and an invitation to preach an event in the Philippines.

Since my mission work was focused on North America, it was the right thing for me to say "No" to the Philippines, and go train church planters. For my goal the latter had a higher return.  

As a pastor, a hospital visit to someone connected with the church may be a level 2 opportunity, as may be getting involved in a community effort that will cause you to get acquainted with people in the church's neighborhood. 

Level 3 - Mid-range Return on the Investment 

These were colored blue. An example of a mid-range return would be: if I'd been to a particular district to teach or preach one year, I'd likely not return though invited. The exception would be if there was strategic intent. Benefits could be gained by the second visit, but other districts also needed an investment of my time.

As a pastor, a level 3 use of time has included attending a Sunday School kid's school recital, mainly if it is a chance to connect to the kid's parents and further extend my influence with the family. Any opportunity to spend time with new converts has a significant return on the investment. Weigh these carefully. Jesus did!

Note:  I'm more likely to attend the recital of a bus kid than of the child of a deacon or trustee. Why? The child of the deacon or trustee already has people cheering him on; the child who rides the bus or has little parental involvement in life needs to know somebody is interested in what they are doing. It's about the eternal return on investment. 

And, I think it is what Jesus Christ would do. 

Level 4 - Little or No Return on the Investment. 

These were, of course, marked in red. As an executive, a "level 4" included being "somebody important" at a church dedication. To be there, sitting on the platform as a tin trophy provided no return on investment for me.

As a pastor, level 4 items include "appearances" at events like birthday parties, 8th wedding anniversary, and such. I don't do these! 

Here is the deal - if you do one such event for anybody, you just created a precedent and MUST then attend any such event you are invited to. 

Of course, if you are in the early stages of planting a church, use every opportunity to connect with people. I'm glad to attend a 50th wedding anniversary or someone's 80th birthday party - but even then, I'll not stay long. Time is too valuable to spend on beauty appearances.

 Level 5 - "Good for my Spirit" Opportunities.

My color here is "yellow," meaning take caution not to schedule anything on top of this. "Good for my spirit" is anything that helps my mind, spirit, and body.

Grandchildren may have saved my sanity. Kaden, Wyatt, and Elsie Adara get "Good for My Spirit" calendar time. Of course, we also let their parents tag along (at times).

 Beyond that:

  • An Agatha Christie type Murder Mystery is good for my spirit.
  • The sort of western written by the late Louis L'amour is good for my spirit.
  • TURNING OFF ANY COMMUNICATION DEVICE HAVING AN ON/OFF SWITCH - good for my spirit. Back to confessing, I'm still working on this. 
  • Getting back attuned with nature and my body and brain by riding my bike - good for my spirit.
  • Norma and I taking a Friday to do a day trip looking for Amish pickles - good for both our spirits.
  • Attending a seminar that stretches my brain - is good for my spirit.
  • Being with people I call "laughing friends" - is good for my spirit.
  • Burying my head in a section of scripture and thoroughly absorbing it - is good for my spirit. 
  • A conversation with someone who challenges me, in the sense of iron sharpening iron - is good for my spirit. Iron sharpening iron creates lots of noise and there may be some sparks - its good for my spirit. 

I've done too little that was good for my spirit, I feel it and probably look it.

With that in mind, does anybody have any information about playing catch-up? If you have experience with this, share with mehow you managed it.

Level 6 - Sabbath - for me, Sabbath is doing things that don't have to be done. For people of my temperament and interests, a day fishing or hunting is not Sabbath. Fishing is not my deal unless it is an experience, like being on a river in the Yukon Territory or fishing for Halibut off Alaska.

 A golf course might be Sabbath, or sitting in the swing with a good mystery might be Sabbath. Scanning in some exciting stories or quotes can also be Sabbath if it is something I just decide I wanted to do. Chopping wood could be someone's Sabbath, if it was not something they had to do. 

When I don't have to do it, but decide . . . it is a Sabbath experience.

 Looking back on this blog post, I don't know if it makes sense or is communicated. If it is unclear, think of what you need to do to focus as much time as possible on where there will be a return on the investment.

Making such decisions requires critical thinking and not simply flowing down the stream of life. By observation, more people are floating on the stream than moving toward a specific destination. Is my observation wrong? I’d like it to be, but it seems more folks are riding tubes than paddling canoes. 

Recommended books on Time Management:

If you choose to purchase any book using a link, this ministry will receive an affiliate marketers stipend. These are books I've read and benefitted from. 

David Allen - Getting Things Done David Allen’s approach was so helpful that I invested in attending a day-long seminar where he was the instructor.

 Steven Covey – First Things First Covey teaches the quadrants identifying what is important contrasted to what is important. A good book.

 Harvard Business Review Time Management: Increase Your Personal Productivity And Effectiveness (Harvard Business Essentials)  The Harvard Business Review books are always good, challenging and have specific ways to apply the concepts presented. They are quick reads which is always nice.  

Carlton L. Coon Sr. – The Details Matter Yep, I’m calling my own number. This is required reading for ordination with at least one church organization. I do not enjoy administration but understand its importance and learned how to be effective. Me learning how means you can too.  


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