Have you ever had one of those days where you're constantly running from one meeting to the next or where you're solving one issue after another? Yeah, you're definitely not alone on that one.

Sometimes it's our own time management goofs that cause those days; other times we're frustrated by another department's lack of planning. Either way, those days aren't productive and can certainly create unnecessary stress for everyone involved.

Is there any way to prevent those crazy fire-fighting days? I'm not going to pretend we can avoid them altogether (hey, life happens), but here are three ways to prevent many fires from starting:

Hack 1: Create an annual service and event calendar

Each year, set aside time for a strategy and visioning session. Get the senior leadership team together to determine what services, events and programs the church should include in the coming year. This should involve prayer, brainstorming, reviewing what's been effective (or ineffective) previously, and careful planning.

Once the leadership team decides what to do in the coming year, start plotting that out on a calendar. You might even get a large wall calendar (erasable would be good) and mark each event date, sermon series and programming time frame on the calendar.

Post it in an area your entire staff can easily view, then start reviewing it with your team. Get their input on when to schedule each item and have them develop their plans for when to start the development work (creating graphics, planning events, recruiting volunteers, etc.) for each.

Hack 2: Plan your workday

Allocate 5-10 minutes at the end of each workday to review your to-do list and plan the day ahead.

  • What did you do today that gives you a sense of accomplishment?
  • What did you not finish today that must carry over into the next day?
  • What meetings do you have tomorrow that you need to prepare for, and when?
  • What is the first item you need to work on tomorrow morning?

Taking a few minutes at the end of each day helps you decompress before you head home and gives you a head start on the day ahead.

Hack 3: Don't book yourself solid

Emergencies and last-minute requests will happen no matter how well a church staff does at planning. You'll have people coming by your desk asking for information, wanting your help with a task or needing your input. If you create a to-do list, and the time needed to complete those tasks today requires a full day's work, you're already behind schedule.

Create a to-do list, then decide what absolutely must happen today. Work on those items first and chip away at the remaining items as you have time. You may get to those or not, depending on the number of interruptions that occur during the day.

There's no perfect way to handle this (at least that I know of), but this method helps you set realistic expectations for yourself regarding what you can achieve in a given day.

It's hard to stop what you're doing to listen intentionally and pray with someone who's hurting when you're running to put out one fire after another. Mistakes are more likely when we're rushed. Unfortunately, people and relationships may even fall through the cracks. It's worth the investment of time and energy to plan ahead and prevent as many fire drills as possible.

How does your church staff plan ahead and prevent fire drills?