Five ways to waste your weekend (2)Weekends are precious so make sure you don’t waste yours

It’s been about a year since our family made the change to both Anna and I working full-time and out-of-the-house. The way we think about weekends has changed immensely! It’s challenging to find a sustainable pace.

Before that, either one or both of us had worked from home. There are some definite down-sides to working from home, but that kind of flexibility does make it way easier to get a full work day in and stay up on chores–especially if you’re able to avoid an hour in the car.

Over the last year I’ve made a number of mis-steps in managing the week which have led to wasted weekends. Here are five easy ways to waste your weekend and go back to work on Monday feeling robbed.

Do nothing but chores

The weekend won’t last forever.

Use every last ounce of energy to knock out every possible chore you could need to do during the week.

Fall into bed on Sunday night exhausted and then when the alarm goes off in the morning: hate your life.

Better alternative: try spacing out chores every night. Make a schedule and try to avoid all-or-nothing thinking.

Eat comfort food

 finally made it to the weekend.

You’re tired. You don’t want to cook.

Just grab a frozen pizza, fling it into a pre-heated oven and eat. 

Better alternative: Plan out some salads, fish, or other healthy meals so that you don’t have to make a decision in the moment.

Hibernate in the house

You get up early every morning and leave the house. You spend ours in the car each week fighting traffic. You deserve to stay on the couch all weekend watching sports.

Don’t you?

Better alternative: make time for rest and for exertion. If all you do is veg you’ll find yourself becoming lethargic. If all you do is exert, you’ll find yourself exhausted.

Say Yes to Everything

You only have one weekend. Try to pack a week’s worth of fun into it. 

There’s a lot going on.

Do. It. All.

Better alternative: designate part of your weekend solely for things that give you energy and that lift your spirit.

Burn the midnight oil

Sleep is for old people.

Young people.

The weak.

Make sure you wring every moment from the weekend by staying up late and getting up early. You’ll make up for it during the work week.

So. How do you waste your weekend?

Five ways ministry leaders squander their day

I’ve been in ministry for more than ten years. Nine of those were in parachurch ministry–some as a campus minister, and some as an area director. Since April I’ve worked on the senior staff of a large presbyterian church. Each of these calls has its own challenges. The ones that are freshest to me are those that are new. As a result these observations are based on two months of working at a large, multi-staff church.

One of the biggest differences between church and parachurch ministry is the fact that every day I get to go to work in a church building alongside fifty other people. We can run into each other in the halls, drop by offices, have meetings in conferences rooms, you name it. Most of my time working for InterVarsity, communication with colleagues in ministry involved getting on the phone. The physical proximity of colleagues makes for efficient communication, which I love.


The downside is that in a large church there is always something either going on or about to go on. As a result every day there are lots of conversations to be had about church-related stuff. Add to this the challenge of making sure that all of the events, initiatives, and meetings on the church calendar are effectively communicated across the congregation and you understand why each day can be sort of hectic.

As my workload has increased, I’ve found myself reminded of fundamental errors that often derail a ministry leaders’ day.

  1. Start the day without a plan. If you show up at work without at least a list of three “must do” tasks as well as a list of your time commitments for the day, you may as well go home.
  2. Ignore or obsess over email. With people communicating to one another internally and congregation members and leaders communicating by email, it’s entirely possible to spend the whole day doing nothing other than reacting. Don’t do this.
  3. Leave the door open all day. Pick a part of the day for open door visits and for walking around checking in on people and how their days are going. It’s best to leave the first 90 minutes of the day for door-closed focused work.
  4. Let themselves get in a bad mood. Productivity and focus is closely linked to mood. If you feel angry, bored, or frustrated it’s incredibly difficult to get things done. It’s tough to remember, but each of us has responsibility for our own mood-managing it so that we can work effectively. When you feel the sting of failure, the frustration of criticism, or the lethargy that often accompanies detail work do yourself a favor and go for a walk or get a cup of tea. It’ll help you regain perspective and return with a better focus.
  5. Never look at the clock. Obviously we all look at the clock so that we can know when an appointment starts, when we can go to lunch, or leave for the day. I’m talking about a more intentional clock-watching. We work best when we have an external accountability system and when completing our work gives us some sort of tangible reward. Use a stopwatch (you can check out an app like Vitamin-R) to time yourself so that a task or project is given a limited block of time in which to be completed. You’ll be surprised how highly focused you can be when working against the clock.

I look at productivity as a stewardship issue. It’s not necessary to wring productivity from every second of the day–in fact, that’s counter-productive. However, floating through the day can be a form of sloth. It’s also important to be fully-engaged with those interruptions that happen during the day–they’re often gifts from God and opportunities for ministry.

So, how do you stay focused in the church office?

What’s your daily routine?

I love reading biographies. It’s a virtue and a vice–one third intellectual curiosity, one third gossip, and one third comfort that there are people out there weirder than me. Anna gave me a fascinating book for Christmas, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Written by Mason Curry, the book is an anthology of vignettes about how creatives have ordered their lives for work.


It’s a quick and enjoyable read, especially if you’re interested in how other writers and artists managed to be productive in the midst of the other things that occupied their lives–work, family, chores, and cooking. Writers and other creatives have always had a reputation for some degree of eccentricity. Mason’s book demonstrates that this stereotype is rooted in reality. Not all eccentricities are created equal. For example, Thomas Wolfe’s penchant for standing nude in front of his window while fondling his genitals (eccentric in a rather perverse sort of way) is rather more extreme than Ben Franklin’s rather pedantic attempt to account for every minute of the day by creating a rigorous daily routine.

Patricia Highsmith basically ate breakfast (bacon and eggs) for a every meal. Voltaire wrote from bed most of the day. Kierkegaard tools his coffee in a way that would set your teeth on edge. He took a cup and saucer and then proceeded to fill the cup to it’s top with sugar. Adding the coffee, he then stirred and drank.

The accounts are widely varied yet the thing that holds them together is that highly creative and accomplished people create a routine that works for them and then stick to it.