Managing time well

The best of the best in time management systems

Jud Lake, Th.D., D.Min., is professor of preaching and pastoral theology, Southern Adventist University School of Religion, Collegedale, Tennessee.

Time-management systems abound, and the busy pastor needs the best of the best. 1 Three systems outclass all others: the Time Power System,2 the Franklin System,3 and The Seven Habits System.4 What makes these three systems superior is their value-based foundation. They teach that true time management occurs only when your daily activities harmonize with your highest values in life.

The Time Power System, developed by Charles R. Hobbs, is the best of the three. In the early seventies Hobbs pioneered the concept of managing time from values, and his original work continues unsurpassed. It is the perfect time-management system for pastoral ministry. The following is my own summary of the main ingredients of this system.

The guiding principles of the system

An articulated value structure is the foundation of effective time management. Personal values are best articulated in the form of guiding principles. A guiding principle is a highly regarded truth or value used as a guide for goal planning and making daily decisions. Examples a pastor might use are: "Love the Lord with all your heart," "Put my family first in ministry," "Lead the lost to Christ," or "Be pure in heart." Attached to each guiding principle is a clarifying statement consisting of at least one sentence or brief paragraph.5

Here is an example:

Commit to Excellence: Do your very best in every undertaking. Prepare in tensely for presentations and projects. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (Col. 3:23, NIV).

A prioritized set of guiding principles written like this can become your personal mission statement, philosophy of life, or personal constitution. Thus, this document forms the framework for every decision you make, every goal you set, and every daily task you undertake. Imagine the direction and focus this can bring to your life and ministry.


A fully articulated goal, written in the framework of your guiding principles, is a powerful life-changing force. A goal may be defined as a written statement of a specific event you plan to bring systematically under your control in the future. Notice several important elements in this definition.

First, a goal should be written. This makes it tangible and concrete, some thing you can return to again and again for motivation and guidance.

Second, a goal should be specific, measurable, and dated or regulatory. Dated goals carry a target date, such as "Introduce small group ministry to the Jackson church on Sabbath, June 7, 1997." Regulatory goals are daily, on going commitments, such as "Spend one hour alone with God every morning."

Third, a goal should be accomplished systematically; that is, one step at a time.

Fourth, consciously realize that when you accomplish a goal, you bring it under control, and in turn, bring events in your life and ministry under control.

A true goal is actually an integrated unit of goals: a head goal with subgoals and daily goals generating from it. A written goal unit would look like this:

Head goal:

A-5 Lose 15 pounds by January 1, 1997.


a-1 Schedule doctor's appointment for physical by September 5.

a-2 Eat low-fat meals daily.

a-3 Work out at fitness center 40 minutes Monday-Friday.

a-4 Avoid rich desserts at meals.

a-5 Drink six glasses of water every day.

Daily goals:

To do on September 3.

A-4 Schedule doctor's appointment for physical before noon.

A-5 Eat salad bar meal at lunch appointment.

Take a look at this example again.

The head goal is a single, concise, dated, action statement, descriptive of exactly what you want to accomplish. The subgoals are generated from the head goal, explaining exactly how to achieve them. The daily goals, generated from the subgoals, are the specific actions you take day by day to accomplish the head goal. Notice how this goal unit is prioritized using the letter-number system: uppercase for head goals, A-1, A-2, B-l, B-2, etc., lower case for subgoals, a-1, a-2, b-1, b-2, etc., and uppercase again for daily goals written in the daily to-do list. Writing every goal like this will bring focus, specificity, direction, and power into goal planning6 and thus into everyday life.

Two important issues surround goal planning.

First, test every goal unit to see that it harmonizes with your value structure.

Second, write your goal units for every major area of life.7 For personal life areas, such as spiritual, family, intellectual/cultural, physical, social, professional, and financial. And then for your pastoral work: preaching/teaching, worship, pastoral nurture/care, administration/management, leadership/ vision, evangelism/church growth, and church finances.

When one or more goal units are written in each of these areas, you will have harmony, balance, and appropriateness in your personal life and ministry goal plan.8

Using an organizer

A datebook organizer (electronic or otherwise), with its calendar, tabbed sections, address and phone directory, is a must for effective time management.9 I use the Day-Timer and find it meets all my needs as a busy pastor. Following Hobbs's Time Power System, I print out my guiding principles and goal units with my computer and put them in my Day-Timer. Since I carry my Day-Timer with me almost everywhere, my life plan is accessible. Every time I open the Day-Timer my guiding principles and goals leap out at me, calling me to action. On a particular day's page, I write out and prioritize my daily action list (to-do list) while checking my proposed actions for the day against my prioritized goal units. In doing this, I incorporate into my day activities that are responsive to my long-range head goals, as well as taking action on pressing items for that day.

Keys for making the system work

Three keys for successfully working this system are:

1. A daily planning time early in the morning,

2. Frequent reviewing and editing of your action list throughout the day, and

3. Checking off daily goals and other items in your action list as they are accomplished.

This threefold practice induces a sense of urgency to the high-priority daily goals on your list and will motivate you to accomplish them. It really works!

1. Judson S. Lake, Jr., Time Management in the Ministry: A Study of the Charles R. Hobbs Time Power System and Its Application to the Ministry (D.Min. dissertation, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Miss., 1994).

2. Charles R. Hobbs, Time Power (New York: Harper and Row, 1987).

3. Hyrum W. Smith, The Ten Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management: Proven Strategies for Increased Productivity and Inner Peace (New York: Warner Books, 1994). See also Richard I. Winwood, Time Management: An Introduction to the Franklin System (Franklin International Institute, Inc., 1990).

4. Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989). Sec also his latest best-selling book on time management coauthored with A. Roger and Rebecca R. Merrill, First Things First (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994).

5. Hobbs's system is fully explained in his book Time Power (see note 2). Please note I have changed some of his terminology, but not the concepts.

6. For full details on writing guiding principles, see Hobbs, pp. 33-40. Smith, who once trained under Hobbs, gives a helpful discussion of what he calls "Governing Values" in his book, pp. 46- 64.

7. Hobbs gives the most complete discussion of goal planning ever written, pp. 41-66. In First Things First, pp. 136-153, Covey offers helpful ideas on goal planning that supplement those of Hobbs.

8. For an excellent book on wholistic goal planning, see Gary Ryan Blair, What Are Your Goals?: Powerful Questions to Discover What You Want Out of Life (Del Mar, Calif.: Wharton Publishing, 1993).

9. Datebook organizers have five major parts: a ring binder, monthly calendars, monthly filler books, an address and phone directory, and a tabbed section for data tailored to personal needs. Thus, you have a complete system to manage your life and its details.

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Jud Lake, Th.D., D.Min., is professor of preaching and pastoral theology, Southern Adventist University School of Religion, Collegedale, Tennessee.

June 1996

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