It is really common for youth workers to work unsociable (and too many!) hours, feel overwhelmed by the never ending to-do list and not manage to find time for hobbies or friends. All of this is a recipe for burnout (see my previous blog on how to S.U.R.V.I.V.E in youth ministry). Here are three useful tools to help when it comes to weekly planning.
1. Principle-centred planning
What principles inform my time-management and organising? This ultimately comes down to having a personal mission statement. If I want to be someone who is growing in intimacy with God and my other loved one’s – am I making time for this, or am I out in meetings and running youth groups every evening? In my work, if my vision is to be someone who journeys alongside to listen to and support young people am I making time for this or am I too busy doing a hundred other tasks?
For help developing a personal mission statement I can’t recommend enough Steve Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This should be essential reading for everyone in ministry!
Say that you decide that part of your mission statement is: ‘to be a pioneer, innovating new approach’s to work with young people’. When it comes to planning your week, how are you making time for innovation? This brings us to tool two…
2. Blocking out time
I find it really helpful to use the apple calendar as it syncs across my devices but google cal and others work much the same. I begin by blocking out time for the outworking of my personal mission statement. Next I will block out the weekly Sunday services and clubs I am involved in running, time for session prep and admin and leave space for meetings, one-to-ones and other tasks. Unlike the example above it can be useful to use colour coding to differentiate between personal, admin, meetings and sessions etc… The headings are kept fairly vague on purpose, for example I will block out a couple of hours for ‘admin and session prep’ the details of this are provided in the next step. The advantage of this method is that the most foundational parts of the week are built in first, if I am being strict then everything else has to fit around it.
Here is a helpful illustration, great for use with young people as well…
The point is to put the first things in first and to be intentional about this. Without a system like this it is so easy for the week to get filled up with sand and we then find it difficult to fit in the foundational important stones. These foundational stones are the principles identified above, the things that are vital to you and your ministry.
3. Bullet Journal
Now I know the foundations to my ministry and have scheduled these in first, it is time to get to the detail. This is essentially about finding a to-do list that works for you. There are lots of apps for this where you can assign tasks to specific days. For me I have found Bullet Journalling really helpful (more info here).
What I find helpful about bullet journaling is that it is flexible, you can customise it easily around what works for you. I won’t go into all of the details, these can be found on the link above, so let me just show you what an average week can look like.
- A habit tracker
- Weekly goal
- Highlights and lowlights from the previous week
- A ‘people centred’ to-do list ensuring that communicating and caring for people is at the centre of my week
- Daily to-do list*.
*The daily to-do list helps to break down the blocks described in step 2. For example in step two if I block out a couple of hours for ‘admin’ in my bullet journal I right down the tasks for that hour for example, ’risk assessments’, ‘emails’ and ‘expenses’.
Throughout the journal are also pages for other notes including lists of thing’s to-do all scattered on one page (a kind of mind dump) so that when it comes to planning my week I can schedule these in depending on their priority.
Although tools may vary, the principles underlying these three are crucial elements to any weekly planning system, they help:
- To know what to prioritise,
- Schedule first things first,
- organise the details.