Part of my role at NOBTS is to represent the seminary occasionally at alumni and recruiting events. I also semi-regularly preach at churches, college chapels, and preaching conferences. Therefore, it is safe to say that traveling is a part of my job. Over the last six to seven months, this has been more the case than at any other time in my ministry. The difficult part is this does not mean that the rest of my responsibilities stop simply because I am out.
For instance, as I write this blog this week I am returning from a three day trip to the Tennessee Baptist Convention in which I represented NOBTS and spoke at our alumni dinner. Yet, all of my other weekly tasks including grading assignments, administrative responsibilities, preparing to preach in chapel, and writing this article still must be completed.
And I know this to be the case it is not only through the role at the seminary that I have found myself in the position of traveling and still needing to be productive. This balance exists in the pastorate as well, perhaps even more so. You may understand this tension more than I do. You find yourself in the position of being called upon to represent the membership of your church at the baptist state convention or being called on to preach a revival, yet this does not mean that next Sunday at your church is not coming.
Now here is the amazing thing in all of this. I often have found that I can be more productive on the road if I plan to be and expect to do so. There are a few tips that I have learned along the way that help me use my time on the road wisely. I want to share three of those with you here.
First, Plan Ahead to be Productive.
When I have an upcoming trip, I check my schedule and calendar for all the deadlines I have over the next two to three weeks. I do this so that I can focus on the details and plan my trip not only as in regards to what I need to be effective with the desired outcomes of the trip and at my destination, but also concerning what I want to accomplish from my regular responsibilities. So practically, this means I pack several work items and projects that I plan to work on as I travel.
Actually, my regular practice is to take more with me than I can possibly complete in the time frame. This guarantees that I do not run out of potential projects on which to work. Nothing is more frustrating to me than finishing one project, having ample time on my hands to begin something else, but then realizing that I do not have the items I need to begin the work.
On a side note, having enough to work on during a trip is an area where technology really can come in handy. With the advent of smart phones and tablets, we can carry most documents or resources digitally without taking up any extra room. I make planning to be productive a regular part of my travel.
Second, Don’t Waste Quiet Time.
By this, I mean even on the road I attempt to keep some semblance of “office hours.” It can be tempting to use work travel as an opportunity to get a little extra “off” or “rest” time. I can find myself tempted to watch more TV at night, sleep a little later in the morning, or find a quiet place to rest if my day ends earlier than it does on a regular basis.
But here’s the thing. You already are used to getting up at a certain time, going to the office, and beginning your day. You have a routine. You have a certain amount of time you give to rest and relaxation. You don’t have to subtract from it, but you shouldn’t add to it necessarily either. If you will keep your normal daily schedule and routine within reason, I believe you will find you still can get things done during your travel, sometime at a higher level than when you are at home. I actively strive to avoid all of these pitfalls that sabotage productivity.
Finally, Don’t Waste Airport or Airplane Time Either.
For many people, one of the most frustrating parts of air travel is airport time. Sometimes it can be a hassle and it can take an excessive amount of time to get through security and to your gate. In my experience, however, more times than not you get to the airport early only to get checked in and to your gate early with a lot of extra time on your hands. This creates a separate set of challenges and another type of frustration. What do you do with all of this spare time?
You could take a quick cat nap or put your brain in natural for a few minutes. Both of these may sound appealing as you think about and consider the normal business of life. However, if you have planned ahead, you can use this time to work on one of your weekly responsibilities, an upcoming deadline, or a special project. Living in and flying out of New Orleans regularly, I find this tip extremely helpful. Here’s why. You can practically get a direct flight out of New Orleans to nowhere.
This is my emphatic way of saying, I regularly have layovers which creates even more airport time. So, I have the option when I travel of getting frustrated or using some, most, or all of this extra time which has been created. I can see the glass as half empty or half full. I push myself to see it as half full and use this time for productivity. (Coincidentally, I am writing this paragraph sitting in an airport waiting on a flight to Houston and then to New Orleans.) Airport time can be a gift for getting things done. And, the same argument can be made for airplane time!
This week while traveling, I was given a last minute task that had to be completed by the weekend. I unexpectedly found out that I needed to write a new sermon for Sunday morning that previously had not been scheduled. Because I planned ahead, utilized technology, kept “office hours,” and used a significant amount of airport and airplane time, I did not have any trouble accomplishing this. I am going home with most of my planned and extra work completed. In some ways, my study and prep time was more productive than if I had been at home and in my office all week.
As always, I hope my ideas and suggestions here help you with your productivity wherever and in whatever situation you find yourself. Time management or lack thereof can be the biggest killers in ministry and of preaching well. Perhaps my tips or thoughts can help you in the long run enhance your ability and in gaining the time you need to effectively “Preach the Word.”