Friday, June 02, 2006

I got rhythm---well, sorta, maybe

What work rhythm works for you? I haven't seemed to be able to hit the sweet spot here in my new place. For six years I was working part time, and I basically just worked frantically on whatever was most urgent during the few hours of the day I had childcare. Since I was the only one in the church office, it didn't matter much whether I worked from there or from home: church folks knew to try both places till they got me, and on days I worked from home, I checked the church answering machine at regular intervals.

Now I'm back in a church office well populated with other staff and that keeps regular business hours. Before I arrived, I heard that a major complaint about one of my predecessors was that, "he was never in the office and no one knew where he was," so I'm trying to be at the church more often than not. But I do find it hard to do creative thinking there--too many distractions, interruptions, people to chat with, etc. I find myself sort of scattered, my attention jumping from one thing to another--feeling at the end of the day that I've not really done much that was worth doing.

Do you have ways you divide up your day for maximum impact? How much time is a legitimate amonut of the work day to spend out of the office? Where do you write your sermons? Where do you do your "creative thinking?" Are coffee shops acceptable "auxilliary offices"? What about local libraries?

If you are a lay person, how do you feel about these issues? If you ran into your pastor at the local cafe at 2:00 on a workday, would you assume she was slacking off or doing important contemplative reflection??


net said...

this is what works for me:

since i am a 'morning person' - and do my best thinking then, i do most of my reading, writing and studying between 5 and 7am. time for a bit of housekeeping, a shower and then i commute 15 miles to my office. i'm in the office 9 am-12pm on mon, tues, thurs. most afternoons i do visits or work on bible study, natural church development, etc. stuff. on the days i don't have evening meetings, i leave around 5pm. wednesday mornings i work on bulletins and sermon prep at home. i'm off to the church to check on messages and do bible study at 7pm. thurs afternoons i have off to do housework so i can spend fridays with my husband. saturday is finish up sermons and wash (since i do my best thinking in blocks).

of course, i have grown children ... but Daughter#2, John and I eat supper together at least three times a week.

this works for me. i try to "work" between 50 & 55 hours a week.

hope it helps!

cheesehead said...

This is kinda long, sorry!

Monday: Often a "monastery day" for me. Also a good day to visit shut-ins, nrsing home residents, hospitalized people, etc. I check the church phone mail/e-mail often and catch up on whatever administrivia can be dealt with remotely. I go into the office only if absolutely necessary. Office Admin is not there, either.

Tuesday: at church by 9:00 at the latest. (Office admin is there 9:00 - 12:30.) Two Tuesdays a month I have afternoon/evening meetings, and five Tuesdays a year the whole day is shot at Presbytery. On the others, I try to be home by 4:00.

Wednesday: at churh by 10:00 at the latest. Plan bulletin so Office Admin can start to put it together at 12:00 when she comes in. She stays until 3:00. Two Weds a month I have afternoon/evening meetings again.

Thursday: At church by 8:30-ish, Office Admin and I have an informal "staff meeting" over breakfast. She and I both leave at about 12:30 and I come home to study, read, etc unless I have some vists to make to tide people over until the next Monday.

Friday: off. Most weeks this is a reality.

Saturday: Sermon writing in earnest. Self-imposed 2:00 pm deadline. Then, family time.

Sunday: at church by 8:00 for 9:30 worship. Home by noon, back at church by 3:00 for confirmation at 4:00, home by 8:30.

I am the first pastor in about 60 years at St. Stoic to have an office and an office admin. Before, they were part of a parish that shared clergy and had an office off-site. The fact that there is warm body there 4-5 days a week thrills them to pieces!

reverendmother said...

I basically just worked frantically on whatever was most urgent during the few hours of the day I had childcare

I resemble that.

I like what others have written here, and would add my favorite tip from David Allen's book Getting Things Done (the whole book's great)--organizing the to-do list based on 'location' rather than 'work/home/personal' whatever. For example, I have a list of phone calls, and they include work *and* personal calls I need to make. (I also put the phone number right there on the list.)

I also have an "errands" list and one for computer tasks. Whenever I have a moment in that 'location' I can dispense with a bunch of one kind of item.

That's the sort of anti-rhythm rhythm, I suppose, but such is my life right now.

peripateticpolarbear said...

Oy! Your lives are so organized! The only thing I can say is that it is impossible for me to read or write in the office, and impossible for me to handle any administrative details out of the office. I'm just not that organized.

Songbird said...

I have to agree with ppb. I don't do admin tasks well anywhere but the office, and I don't read or write well in the office, most of the time. I have no staff, so I tailor my office time to the schedule of our (church-connected) nursery school. This means I'm in the office every work morning except Tuesdays, when my lectionary group meets in a neighboring town. I'm in the office at other times depending on what the week looks like. Posted office hours end at noon, but I am there longer if I'm doing good work (see above). My home number is available on the voice mail unless I'm on vacation.
I have to say I wouldn't consider a coffee shop or the library as an alternative office. I definitely treat the kitchen table that way. But we just have no office culture at all. I think if I worked in a place that had one, I would work harder at being there and learning to use the space differently. It's like the question about what we wear, which you answered so well, isn't it? We assess the needs in the place we are called and do the best we can to honor those needs without betraying ourselves.

Quotidian Grace said...

My pastors go to Barnes and Noble (and the attached Starbucks) near the church about 4 times a year to plan quarterly sermon topics and assignments. I don't think anyone in the congregation who sees them there thinks they are slacking off! They go there to get away from the phone and people coming by.

Sue said...

Net -- I have to wonder whether you are compensated adequately for a 50-55 hour week. So many clergy work the 50-60 hour week, but are actually paid to work only 40. This concerns me.

Maybe I'm just feeling grumpy and in need of holidays, but I get really annoyed with church people who gripe about how the minister is never in the office, but then gripe about how the minister doesn't visit enough!

My week:

Monday: OFF (unless there is a funeral). This is my Sabbath, and I treat it as such most weeks. Other times though, it ends up being a busy-task day of groceries and other errands.

Tues/Wed/Thurs: office hours 9-12, then visiting and other pastoral duties as needed in the afternoon.

Friday: Sermom day. I prepare my sermon at home. Too many interruptions at the church. My congregation values good preaching and they know that this is the way to get it. My secretary calls if there is an urgent need, otherwise she leaves me alone.

Saturday: unfinished Sunday prep and any other loose ends from the week (hospital visits etc)

Sunday: home by 1:00 or 1:30

Anonymous said...

I try monastery days on Mondays too. Great for starting the week off well, but there are still people who 1) don't think I work on Mondays or 2) think I want to be at the monastery with them.

Most of my scheduling issues (working too many hours; no regular day off) are my own fault.

Preacher Mom said...

Rhythm? Schedule? What's that?? Let's just say that I ordered the book recommended by Reverendmother from Amazon today!

will smama said...

I most resemble Sue and I am ordering the book like Preacher Mom.

It is not that I don't work hard, I just need to work smarter. For instance, I am best at office work in the morning so why am I posting on a blog at 10:21 am?