Tom Shefchunas

8 Simple Steps for Remodeling Your Calendar

by on in Leadership, Strategy.

Have you ever remodeled your kitchen?

Think for a second about when you moved into your current home. Think about what it was like to unpack your kitchen.

That looks like a good place for the silverware… the cleaning stuff should go there… let’s put plates and bowls over here.

But then life in your new kitchen started. You loaded and unloaded the dishwasher a few times, you got up early for the morning routine of packing lunches and getting the kids off to school, you cleaned up a few times at the end of the day, and then you realized…

There was probably a better way to organize this.

Know that feeling? But here’s the thing. While we may realize there are better ways to organize our kitchens, we rarely do it, because it would take so much work!

YOUR CALENDAR IS THE SAME WAY.

Everything in your life, at least your business (church) life, is driven by your calendar.

When you were first setting up your calendar (like unpacking your kitchen), you placed meetings where there was room. You scheduled things where you thought they would work best. You did your best. But now, as you work through every day… you know you could spend your time more efficiently.

But you don’t do anything about it… because it’s so much work.

Today I want to talk about two things.

First, I’m going to try to convince you that remodeling your calendar is worth the time. Then, I’m going to give you 8 simple steps for remodeling your calendar. 

So, here we go.

Look. Your time is the most important resource your ministry has. Think about investing your time like you would invest your money. NEVER spend it on something that isn’t important or meaningful. You probably have a bunch of meetings that seem important. But I’ll bet when you back up and look at it from a 10,000-foot-perspective, you might see that you can get the same thing done with less meetings. 

So… DO IT!

1. Schedule a WHOLE DAY for your remodel.

If you’re going to remodel your calendar, you have to do it all at once. It will take longer than you think. Don’t let anything distract you.

2. TAKE EVERYTHING OFF your calendar.

Just like renovating a kitchen… before you can begin remodeling, you’ve got to take everything out of the drawers and rip out all of the appliances and cabinets. Start with a blank slate.

3. PUT BACK the things you can’t do anything about.

In a remodel, certain things must stay where they are. The sink has to go where the drain is, for instance. That is true on your calendar as well. In my world, there are only 2 recurring meetings that I can’t do anything about. Andy gets me every Tuesday morning and Bill (my direct report) gets me for lunch once a month. Besides that, I have some input into what goes where and when.

4. Think about your month IN WEEKS.

For example, “1st and 3rd Mondays.” I never make an “every other week” appointment. First, my computer calendar is terrible at scheduling those. Plus, those months that have “5th Mondays” end up being a bonus free day. And I love those. So… I build a chart that has “Sunday – Thursday” across the top (horizontally), and “Weeks 1-4” vertically. That gives me 20 business days a month to plan for. I realize your schedule may look different than mine, but you’re smart enough to figure out an adaptation.

5. Think about your RHYTHM.

When do you do your best “seat time” work? When do you do your best “creative” work? When are you most prepared to engage with people socially? Once you figure out your rhythms, you’ll be able to schedule things at prime times. For me, I write and work alone best in the morning. So, even though I love to have breakfast meetings with people (because I love breakfast) I make that my “seat time” and schedule my meetings for lunch and the afternoon.

6. Put back all of your REPEATING MEETINGS.

These are those really important meetings that happen regularly. I will post about how I approach these in another post. But, for now, just get them on the calendar. Remember, it’s much easier (and appreciated) to cancel a meeting than it is to schedule a new meeting with a bunch of already busy people. Ask yourself, Do we really need to be meeting as often as we do? We recently cancelled about half of our meetings, and things are going great. We had to learn to be more efficient, but it was worth it!

7. Create “WHITE SPACE” in your day.

This “white space” is the time where you actually do your job. If you don’t put it in your calendar, your calendar will fill up to the point that you have no time to actually do the things you need to get done each week. This is probably the biggest single thing I’ve done for my own sanity and productivity in the last year… It’s awesome!

8. Add THE REST of the stuff back in.

This sounds simple, but it’s not. By the time you get to this point, you will realize you don’t have enough time to do all of it. There will be some standing meetings that will need to be cancelled (or at least cut back to quick touch-points, rather than long meetings).

So, who’s with me? Who’s going to renovate?

  • John

    Great post. Something we think about a lot. I’d be very curious to hear what regular recurring meetings you’ve kept and how you cut them in half.

  • Joe

    Shef, great post and very practical and important. I work with some good friends of yours (Kenny and Elle) and love them and what they do. I’m a team leader for about 22 people and I often use this method above to measure my personal ministry capacity. I have also encourage other team members to do this to measure theirs as well and determine what things they may need to stop doing, do more efficiently, or if they have space to add responsibilities. What recommendations do you suggest for assessing an employees work capacity? a