Five Ways to End Your Day Productively
A few weeks ago I wrote about beginning your day productively. As your day draws to a close, you may also want to think about how to end your day on the right note. So often our best-laid plans for the day go awry—most days, usually. We start out with a few key things to accomplish and before you know it, we’ve put out fires, returned phone calls, held a few meetings, and accomplished nothing that was on our original list. Here are some suggestions for ending your day well, no matter how it started.
The line of home. I won’t say never work at home—I do quite a bit of work at home—but you should establish a line at home that is not crossed. It might be a certain amount of time, or a room in your home like a study where work is done, or certain days where work at home is allowed. Whatever your “line” is, the important thing is to draw a separation between work time and home time.
In ministry when we are “working for God” that line can become more blurred, as our income does more than just pay the bills. A ministry vocation involves people’s spiritual lives, which is immensely and often eternally important. Still, I do not believe it to be leading the home in a biblical fashion to consistently see to spiritual needs of others at the expense of one’s own spouse and family.
The line of home can often be established or even moved by simply asking yourself as you drive home, “Does this task or responsibility I’m taking home with me absolutely need to be done tonight?” More often than we would like to admit, the answer is simply, “No.” Further, you will be surprised to find that others will respect your family time if you refuse to give it to them for church purposes. Being “home” when you are home is important. In fact, if you’ve had a seemingly unproductive day, think about the fact that God, for His own purposes, may actually have saved your most productive hours today for your own family.
The device disconnect. A recent news article stated several countries in Europe are considering making employee overtime pay mandatory when their supervisors email or text them after-hours. Here in the United States, smart phones have put many of us in 24-7 availability mode. We get a text or email at 9:00 p.m., and we drop whatever and respond. The result is that we are in effect still working.
So consider disconnecting yourself from your networks between certain hours. Of course there will be occasional emergencies. Let your staff or lay leaders call you on the phone in those cases. But avoid the desire to respond immediately to every beep and chime of your mobile device. My solution is to put my phone on silent when I don’t want to be disturbed. If someone really needs me, they have my home phone number. You will be amazed at the amount of stress that will bleed off once you determine to be unplugged for a certain period of time.
The time for family. You planned tasks for your workday. But did you plan any specific time today for your home and family? Interestingly, a recent New York Times article cites the fact that parents’ time tending to the needs of their children is growing rapidly. Many of us who grew up households where both parents worked long for our children to have more quality time with us that we had with our own moms and dads.
A simple principle is to learn something about each of your children and your spouse each day, through spending time with them and through conversation. Many families make the dinner table a sacred event—every member at the table on certain nights. Other families designate family nights. In our family we swap out family tasks like bath time for our preschool daughter or shopping duties, so that we can spend time with each other. Whatever your “system”, be sure your after work hours include time for your family.
The time for you. I believe one of the most stressful lifestyles is one in which a pastor gives time daily for his church, his kids, his spouse and his household responsibilities and then fails to reserve any time for himself. There’s a reason God created the Sabbath, and that is because we are made in His image, and we enjoy periodic rest, just as God rested. In fact, we require it. Since Sunday for a pastor would be difficult to consider a Sabbath day, you need to build this time in somewhere else during the week.
In the evenings, I would guard against “zoning out” in front of the television. Instead, ask yourself, “What do I most enjoy doing during the evening?” and place that among your priorities. Rest is not necessarily a total lack of brain activity or falling asleep in a Lay-Z-Boy. Rest can be engaging in something meaningful that just isn’t your daily work.
The time for God. Finally, consider ending your day as you began it—talking to and hearing from God. If you didn’t begin your day with the Lord, then prioritize this time at the conclusion of the day. Ask God to bear fruit from your activities of the day—haphazard though they may be—because you never know how moments will be used by the Holy Spirit days or even years later. And ask God to prepare your heart and mind for the coming day that you will be an effective tool for His mission. Interesting tip: Ask God in prayer you retire what time He wants you to set your alarm clock to wake you up in the morning.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.