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How to Manage Time in Seminary

The List

Ministries: Youth, children, men’s, women’s, young adult, Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, special occasions

Books: The ones I want to read, the ones I have to read

Relationships: Family, friends, church-folk, significant other, kids

Career: Job to pay the bills, looking for job after graduation

Miscellaneous: Exercise, entertainment, eating, rest

The Problem

For some reason when we begin seminary we don’t automatically get awarded an extra 20 hours a week to help fit seminary into our lives. Life goes on, responsibilities begin to stack up, and some how we have to fit all the demands of seminary into our already stacked schedule.

In college my relationship with procrastination took on the “it’s complicated” status. Some weeks I was great at getting things done. Other weeks college happened and I burned the midnight oil to finish a project I could have easily fit into my schedule earlier that week if there had not been a cookout on the quad and a Law and Order marathon on television. But I managed since college was my primary responsibility during that period of my life.

Seminary is different. Many of the people who attend seminary are working, some full time, and many students have families to look after. Our priorities in seminary have to reflect the priorities we want to maintain once we graduate. Ministry will be more demanding than your Church History class and more time consuming than Greek II. It is up to us to learn how to manage time so we can balance family, work, and life to the enjoyment of all of them.

The Solution

There is no magic formula to setting up your schedule. There are a lot of good ideas out there on how we can manage our time better. Below are a three I found to be most helpful.

1. Plan to rest 

This one sounds a little backwards. We think, I have this huge list I need to get done – I should be planning that stuff first. Most likely you’ve taken that approach already and how has it worked out?

There are a lot of reasons why this actually makes sense. In the book Rich Dad Poor Dad the author talks about the concept of paying yourself first. He applied it to the business realm: there will always be bills and opportunities and surprise costs, but when you discipline yourself by paying yourself first you will be more apt to creatively solve those issues without choosing the knee-jerk reaction which is to cut your own pay in the mean time.

We do the same with rest. I have all this I need to get done…guess I’m not sleeping tonight. Commit to your rest. Then your work will have to fold itself into a smaller time window. You’ll be surprised how well this works and how creative you can get when the pressure is on.

2. Turn it off

This is by far the best tip I have received and the most helpful one I can share. We are so easily distracted. Even right now, how many tabs do you have open? How many different sounds do you hear in the background? How many things are coming to mind that you need to do as soon as you finish reading this article?

We set ourselves up for failure when we consciously allow distraction to remain around us. Is your email open? Your phone within reach? Music or television playing in the background?

Turn it off. Put your phone on silent and set it out of your reach. Close the email, switch off the internet for an hour. Silence the music.

Concentration is a practiced skill. No one focuses on accident. You have to be intentional about the task when you sit down to do it.

3. Make a list

Not like the first one above. Make a very specific list of what you have to accomplish today. Then below it write a few more things that you would like to accomplish today.

Write it out. Then check it off. It’s so simple and yet every single person who excels at time management does this. Not in their heads but on paper. You need to see what you have to get done and you need to be encouraged by seeing that you are making progress.

Being specific helps you navigate the task. If you have to read for a class on your list write the name of the book, the class that it is for, and the pages you have to cover. Seeing exactly what you have to accomplish will also help the list as a whole be less intimidating.

You can do this. Manage what you have to do so you can enjoy what you love to do.

Question: What techniques have you found helpful in managing your time?

Written by David Ramos. David is a friend of God and a lover of the Old Testament. When he is not working on his M.Div at Ashland Seminary you can find him teaching Sunday-school or cooking pasta. You can read more from David at OffsetInnocence or connect with him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio. 

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