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How to Be Effective in an Unstructured Day

I have been a paid pastor or in full time ministry for over 30 years. At the beginning, I remember wrestling with having so much time on my hands and trying to make it effective. Recently, I was asked what principles I follow to be a good steward of my time. These are not exhaustive but a start. Although this doesn’t specifically apply to parenting, I think it may be helpful to you.
1. Try to work a certain number of hours every day. Put yourself on a schedule. If you steal time in the middle of the day pay it back later. Work at least 8+ hours a day. To quote the old saying – “I find the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
2. Set goals. Then set projects for goals and then tasks for those projects. Goals–> Projects –> Tasks. Put those up someplace that you can see and pray about. I write projects and subprojects on sticky notes on put them on my wall. I write the tasks underneath. It is encouraging to check off the tasks, trusting the Lord to accomplish the larger project. 
3. Curate tasks from those projects for your daily to do list. Pray about those that are most important. Be aware of the important and urgent four quandrants. Ask, “Am I working on the important whether urgent or not?” Or am I saying. “Let me knock a few less important things off?” When you are waiting on someone for a task in a project, go to the next project.
4. Work with yourself and your rhythm. For me that means writing in the morning, people and tasks in the afternoon, and reading at night.
5. If you feel discouraged then look for easy win tasks and check them off. This principle does not negate Principle #3. It complements it.
6. Constantly ask the questions prayerfully, “What should I do? What should I delegate (or ask help with)? What should I delay? and What should I dump?”
7. Watch distractions. Batch time hogs like checking email and social media. Block them if necessary.
8. To help with your mental health, get out. Make appointments with people and exercise. 
9. Give yourself deadlines that put pressure and prevent procrastination.  What do I hope to accomplish by the end of the week or the end of the month?
10. Constantly ask, “Are my activities producing results or am I just keeping myself busy?”
11. Daily celebrate your completed tasks by telling others of your small victories.
12. Identify the barriers in your life. Pray and think creatively for ways past them. Don’t be discouraged by them. Every worthwhile achievement encounters barriers.
13. Pay attention to your motivational temperature. If you are motivated with a project then keep going. If you are just running in circles then put it down and do something differently. For most people, motivation and attention get used up throughout the day. My motivation is much higher in the morning.
14. Trust the process. Don’t be discouraged about the size of a project. Things always take more time than you think. But an elephant can be eaten one bite at a time. A tree can be chopped down one stroke at a time. It will fall eventually.