Juggling Sheep
Welcome to Juggling Sheep, Jay Perry's blog about time management and personal productivity for pastors. Learn to balance work, life, family, and personal spirituality.

Share your best practices, tips and tricks, processes, sermon planning ideas, and resources. Feel free to email me: jaylperry[at]gmail[dot]com.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Finding/Making Time to Read

A couple of days ago, I posted some book summary sites as a way to get a grip on the volume and breadth of reading a pastor really should be doing.

Calvin writes:
As a 4-month newbie to GTD, I want to ask how do you find time/ make time/ plug
in time to get the reading done you need (even with executive summaries)? It is
my #1 frustration in ministry. (OK, that may be an exaggeration, but it is up
there AMONG the top frustrations in ministry).

Making time for reading is one of those Quadrant 2 things that we're just going to have to intentionally make time for. It's not urgent (it's not screaming at you, begging for attention), but it is important (if you want to continue growing, leading, and thinking).

I used to read 50-70 books a year (not book summaries. books). But then we bought a TV. And then we had kids. And then I started blogging. So now I'm down to about 20 books and 20-40 book summaries per year.

The whole trick to making Q2 work? Make the hard decision up front to replace something less important (American Idol?) or something urgent/not-important (interruptions, junkmail, too-frequent email, phone calls, some meetings, visitation with long-winded members) with something very important (in this case, reading).

I think part of the problem with pastors (in general) is their uncanny ability to spiritualize every part of their job and artificially force it into Quadrants 1 and 2. We really think every phone call might be life or death. We really think we're building the Kingdom of God by letting a church member waste our time with stories about their great aunt Martha. We think there is something innately spiritual about being at everyone's beck and call 24/7. Jesus didn't fall into that trap and neither should we.

In my life, three major Q2 areas stand out - reading, prayer/devotion/spiritual disciplines, and family.

So here are some ways to make time for reading:

1. Calendarize it. Make it an unbreakable appointment on your calendar. Try to do this first thing at work (after devotional time), so all of the emails and phonecalls haven't claimed all of your time yet. If someone needs an appointment with you, schedule it at a different time (you have an appointment then, don't you?). Same thing is true with all Q2s.

2. Make it accountable. Ask someone to keep you accountable on a weekly or monthly basis. You choose the person. Choose what specific things you want them to ask you about - how many books? how long? what genres? what interesting or mind-stretching have you read? what are you reading now? etc.

3. Start/join a reading group. This has been very fruitful for me. I meet with a group of church planters 2X per year. Our meetings are based around a book that we've all been reading as an assignment. So there's 2 books per year that I'm forcing myself to read so I don't look like an idiot. My wife and I set aside time every other week to read a relationship book together and discuss it. Locally, I meet with 2 other pastors every week and discuss a leadership/spiritual growth/preaching book we're all reading.

4. Keep an @reading list. When I wrote down all of my "current" reads in my @reading list, it turned out I was trying to read 8-10 books at the same time. I've since gotten that down to 5 books that I'm keeping open on my list. (1 church planting, 1 relationship, 1 preaching, and 2 others). Minimize the open loops.

5. Take a reading retreat. If you just can't make yourself read at home or work (you probably also can't pray there), take a reading retreat every month or quarter where you blast through 1-3 books over a couple of days.

6. Don't leave home without it. Always keep reading material with you. If you have to sit in the waiting room for 30 minutes, don't waste your time with whatever magazine hapens to be lying around. Read the book or article that you brought (or one that's on your Palm Pilot). If you have to sit outside the changing room while you're shopping with your wife, use the time reading.

That's how I make time to read. What works for you?

1 comment:

Frank Meeuwsen said...

Hi Jay
Thanks for the great tips. I still have the same problem with all my reading material. What I also did was just look at the magazine subscriptions I had and asked myself "do I really really need them?" So I unsubscribed to all of them and now I just see for the coming year if I really miss the magazines. If I do, I resubscribe to the ones I want. If not, happy me!