Your Personal Energy Management
How do you manage your energy level on a weekly basis? For example, what is your energy normally like on Mondays, and how do you plan accordingly? Are there things you strategically do to best manage your energy throughout the week? Are there things you try to do on certain days of the week to use your energy most effectively?
When I think about time management for myself, I first think of what Paul encouraged us to do with the time we have:
Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
For me, simply stated, Paul is saying make it count; we only get one shot at this life and our lives consist of what we do with the time we have. That being said, we need to have God’s perspective of what is important so that we can make wise choices with our time.
I have discovered that my personal time, by that I mean time with my family and time for me to relax and be refreshed, is every bit as important as my daily work as a pastor. If all we do is give out all the time, we will eventually have nothing left to give.
Some people are very gifted in structuring their work and prayer and study time, but I’m not gifted that way. I’m a very creative person and I need time for that part of me, whether it is in music or video production or in writing. All these things are a part of my life and ministry and they all need to have time.
As a pastor, my Sunday ministry is one of the major focuses of all I do, and I usually begin after my Sunday services to reflect on what just happened and already by Sunday night my heart is preparing for the next weekend of services. I always leave my Mondays free for whatever I like or need to do personally. On Tuesdays I re-listen to my message(s) as I have found this helps me to learn and make my preaching more effective as well as helping me to prepare for the next message.
I try to never do administration or make major decisions until I have had time to reflect on the weekend and have my direction for the up-coming ministry. This leaves the rest of the week for all the other important matters and for some creative work as well.
One final thought on this; you must learn to say ‘no’ to certain things. What I mean is, if we always say ‘yes’ to everything, we will never have time for what is really important. I have discovered that when I consider to take on something new, I first ask myself, what do I need to give over to someone else or simply cut off so that I will always have the time I need for what truly is important.
It has been said that energy management is more important than time management. With so many ministers suffering from burnout, this seems to be true. In my life, it really comes down to some basic, important choices. I learned a long time ago from a very wise, experienced pastor to observe what he called, “the Sabbath principle.” He admonished me to take one full day off every week. I was not doing that in those days. I would hear people say, “Well, the devil never takes a day off!” Well, the devil is not my example! So my wife and I take Mondays off every week. We don’t do any church work, make any church related phone calls, etc., on Mondays. This simple habit has really helped us.
Believe it or not, another habit I observe daily is physical exercise. Now, you might think exercise would drain your energy, when in reality it has the opposite effect. I feel more energized after I exercise. If for some reason I have to miss, I actually can feel a bit sluggish.
Another simple and extremely important habit is sufficient rest. Too many ministers are burning the candle at both ends, working way too late, and neglecting their rest. If you do this, it will catch up with you. I would advise getting into a rhythm regarding bedtime and when you get up. When I was younger, I was a night owl. Now that I’m a little older, I’ve become an early bird. Find what works for you.
There’s a good book on energy management called, The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr. In his book, he says this: “The quantity of energy we have to spend at any given moment is a reflection of our physical capacity. Our motivation to spend what we have is largely a spiritual issue. Fundamentally, spiritual energy is a unique force for action in all dimensions of our lives. It is the most powerful source of our motivation, perseverance, and direction. We define “spiritual” not in the religious sense, but rather in more simple and elemental terms: the connection to a deeply held set of values and to a purpose beyond our self-interest. The key muscle that fuels spiritual energy is character – the courage and conviction to live by our values, even when doing so requires personal sacrifice and hardship. Supportive spiritual muscles include passion, commitment, integrity, and honesty.”
I had never really thought of what I did during the week as energy management, but after reading this month’s questions, I realized there are things that I have done for quite a few years to help manage my energy. This is especially true when it comes to the end of the week in preparation for Sunday service. My day off is Friday, so this is my day to work in the yard (seasonal), do house maintenance, and recreation (golf). On Saturdays, if I need to be with family or church events, I limit how much I do, and I try to limit these events to the morning and early afternoon. I do this so that my energy level is at its optimum for Sunday services.
During the week I work from home on Wednesdays to pray, study, and prepare as there are less distractions then being at the office. This is my day to begin my initial preparation for Sunday. I also try to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep (6 ½ – 7 hours a night.) I also will take an extra day off periodically, especially after a heavy work load from the week before.
It is also important that we as ministers have daily and weekly Sabbaths (rest). This is so we can recharge, refocus, and renew ourselves—spiritually, physically and emotionally.
Having said all this, probably the most strategic thing I have done for 25+ years of pastoral ministry is to not overexert myself on Saturdays so that I am fresh spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
I can’t say there is any big difference of what I do from one day to the next. What I do attempt to do to manage my energy at this point in life is get enough sleep. If meetings will be late or I need to wake up early a number of times in a week, I get to bed early or try to get a nap in somewhere in the day. If I don’t have any plans on a Saturday, I will try to sleep in and get more rest that morning.
A ‘Wendy Week’: I’ve learned that taking Mondays off doesn’t work for me, but doing more low-key activities like office work from home, catching up reviewing one’s diary for the week, and the all-important mornings with the Lord for personal enrichment, is a great way to ease into the week after a full Sunday and weekend.
My mornings are sacrosanct for me and are always priority for study. Time with God has to be the highest priority. The week unfolds with delegated times for pastoral visits and meetings, and I endeavor to keep within this outline (naturally, all is subject to change as need arises). My energy levels always remain high as long as I have my allotment of time with the Lord. I’m not perfect at this, but it’s proven to be the most helpful and a healthy balance.
Having thinking time and penciling an hour at the end of each business day is a great way to organize and prepare for the next day.
I always take personal time for me toward the end of the week, and my husband and I always plan something for us together even if it’s a coffee date! Our little dog ensures we get physical exercise daily over the fields.
We love living ready (as my husband says, “born ready “)—being ready for anything at any time. Keeping to my schedule helps me to maintain energy levels and focus on the day in hand and to be aware of and prepared for the following day.
How I deal with energy levels is through the art of delegation. I choose what I like to do and delegate to others, staff, etc., what I realize is their expertise. On specific issues that involve set times, I plan those for certain days of the week.
I am older now, and for a few years now, I have learned to take naps. Sundays after church we rarely do anything. Almost always, Sheila and I take a nap after a bite to eat. Mondays is our ‘day off.’ We do our grocery shopping and putter around the house. There is a nap in there sometime.
I love the work of the ministry. I really do not watch TV, so I have plenty of time to read and pray. Short naps do not cut into my time very much. I get up very early to pray for America and revival, and then every morning about 5:30 AM I walk Gracie the dog for about an hour. These things energize me until after lunch. It is in the afternoon that I usually take a nap at the office (I think the secular world calls them ‘power naps’). I only know that they help me. During the week at the church, I almost always kneel down with my head on the chair and get a short nap. It works. In the evenings, we eat early and watch about 30 minutes of the news. After that, I read and pray. Often I stop for a little bit and take a nap.
The things of the Lord are my hobby, so there is almost always time to take a nap, leaving me plenty of time and energy to do His work.