Floyd Bresee is a former Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference. 

No one seems to have enough time. Yet all of us have all that there is. How we manage it is the secret to why some accomplish so much more than others

Jesus emphasized the urgency of time. "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4).

Managing time has always been a problem for Christians in general. Apparently this was true even in the first century, when Paul wrote, "Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the evils of these days" (Eph. 5:15, 16, Phillips). Following are some tips to help you save time.


Planning increases satisfaction. The trouble with having no plan for the use of your time is that you have no way of knowing if you've used it well. "To him that knoweth not the port to which he is bound, no wind can be favorable." If you don't know where you're going on a given day, week, or year, how can you enjoy the satisfaction of having gotten there! Planning increases satisfaction.

Planning increases efficiency. First, set long-term goals and objectives based on what you want most to accomplish. Then develop a time schedule to accomplish them. Without such a plan, you will drift from task to task, finishing few and not really tackling the most important.

Every year set aside a few hours to sit down with your spouse and schedule the typical week hours in the office, in church meetings, visiting, at home.

Planning must be flexible. Don't plan too tightly. Always we have to have room for exceptions and emergencies. Expect the unexpected. A plan so precise and detailed that it cannot realistically be followed will soon be abandoned.

Planning must be communicated. Members will never respect your time as completely as you wish, but you have no right to complain about their interfering with your time schedule if you haven't told them what it is. Discuss your schedule with the church board and get their advice, approval, and support. Then announce it to your congregation. You must always add that you're available anytime for emergencies, but that you are endeavoring to make the best use of your time so you can contribute most to the congregation.

Communicate your schedule in writing. Post it on the church board of annoucements. Include it in the bulletin. Out of fairness to your members, be available in the scheduled time. Out of fairness to you, your members must understand you cannot be available for just any thing at any time.

Communicate personally. This is most difficult and delicate. How can you handle drop-ins or phone calls with no real need other than wanting to talk? If someone asks, "Are you busy!" Don't be too kind to give an honest answer. A balanced reply is "Yes, I'm terribly busy just now. How can I help you!" If that person still wants to chat, give your full attention for a few minutes. Then, if it's a drop-in, stand, thank the person for coming, shake hands, and perhaps say a little prayer. Never be unkind. But never let a few so control your time that you become ineffective in helping the many.


Efficiency experts speak of the 80/20 rule. According to this, we tend to spend 80 percent of our time doing what gets 20 percent of the results.

People spend far too much time doing things that don"t really matter. Too many make a career of hunting ants rather than elephants, because they get a quicker kill and thus a higher body count. The most successful are not those who work hard, but those who work hard at hard work. At the beginning of each week, make a list of what needs doing that week.

Each morning, decide which items on the list should be done that day. "When you rise in the morning, take into consideration, as far as possible, the work you must accomplish during the day. If necessary, have a small book in which to jot down the things that need to be done, and set yourself a time in which to do your work" (Evangelism, p. 652).

Now prioritize. The 80/20 rule says that 80 percent of your day's value will come from 20 percent of the list. Resist the tendency to do the easy tasks first and leave the hard tasks undone. Alphabetize your list. Do the most important A items first and the least important C items last. Your goal is not ro finish everything on the list, but those things that are most important.

Create at your prime time

Certain hours of the day energy level tends to be highest. For many, this is first thing in the morning. For others, it takes most of the morning to wake up, but they are bright and energetic into the night. No one else has the right to tell you when to do your creative, hard-thinking work. Do it whenever your energy level is highest.

Group your calls

Group your visits. Try never to be in the same part of your district twice in the same week. Group your phone calls. Let your congregation know when you will be available to receive or return phone calls so you or your family are not interrupted so many times throughout the day. Use the phone for much of your visiting.

A phone call is worth half a visit, and you can usually make five to ten phone calls in the time it takes to make one visit. If someone is sick in a satellite church, you can't go every day; but if phones are available, you could call.

Do it now

Settle trifles quickly. Be democratic, but don't call committees to make minor decisions that could just as well be made by one or two.

Make it your ideal to handle a piece of paper only once. Leave your mail until you have time to give it proper attention. Then, if a letter needs answering, do it immediately and be done with it. If something can be delegated, pass it along right away.

Efficiency and effectiveness are powerful twins. Efficiency says, "Do the job right." Don't be so pushed by time that you do the job poorly and end up wasting time by having to do it again. Effectiveness says, "Do the right job right." Don't waste your time concentrating on minor jobs because they're easier. Tackle the most important job, even if it's the toughest. Do it first and be done with it.

Use time twice

People spend much time traveling. All spouses and parents spend time waiting here and there for family members. Use such times to read, listen to tapes, answer your mail, catch up on the radio news, etc.


Eliminate things you shouldn't be doing. To be effective you must be reflective. You must take time to think, to study, to pray, to plan.

Ellen White counsels, "It is a great mistake to keep a minister who is gifted with power to preach the gospel constantly at work in business matters. He who holds forth the Word of life is not to allow too many burdens to be placed upon him." (Evangelism, 91, 92).

The apostles learned this the hard way. When they tried to do the work of the church by themselves the work didn't get done. And so they delegated that part to which they were not directly called, saying, "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4). Results! "And the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly" (verse 7).

Floyd Bresee is a former Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference and presently lives in Central Point, Oregon.