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My Friend, the Diary

By Douglas Holt.

It's not just that I like everything in triplicate, on the PC and in Filofax form - it's just that if I do not note everything down twice at least, then I don't think about the event or appointment I'm writing in the diary. Making myself keep two diaries (SAY NO) ensures that I have noticed where I have to be, with whom and maybe even why (do all meetings have a purpose?) and do not turn up with a huge black hole where my mind or mouth ought to be!

A long time ago, a time management consultant went to visit his granny who lived in the woods - ooooooooops, wrong story. Let's try again (SAY NO) Once upon a time a time management consultant came to see me in my little, cold, damp church office (Spell check, please leave. This is not the kind of repetition you need to remove!). He told me about A1 and C3 types of jobs. I loved this little cold damp time management expert because he confirmed that some things were important and some things urgent and some things neither. (SAY NO) So I could enjoy clearing the desk for an hour on a Friday afternoon before knocking off early instead of feeling guilty about spending a whole hour in C3 type activity. I did not have to be out there all the time, smiling, ministering, pretending to be nice again. I could instead sort a few papers AND feel good about it, and not have to speak to anybody in my small, cold, damp office for a whole hour!! Paradise was sighted.

SAY NO

Whose diary is it? That's the first question to ask yourself. Is it yours or does it belong to the parish, the congregation, the diocese or your ego? I've always told my ego to go to somewhere else when I've wanted to play with my future. The game is mine, not anybody else's, least of all the everybody elses who together make up my ego. Sooooo, I took the lesson from my first vicar and blocked out a day per week when I was at work, but no-one could find me. (SAY NO) I went to a safe house, and not even my secretary knew where I was. There I prayed at length, read, prepared the odd (no comment, please!) sermon, thought about things and usually slept for about half an hour after lunch.

In my new job in Bristol, I have just caught up with myself after six months and am starting to do the same again. I shall refuse most things on Mondays from now on, accepting only what I feel like doing and know I shall enjoy, and meetings with those more senior than myself to meet their diary requirements.

I always block at least one evening during the week and one of Fri/Sat/Sun out for rest. That too has slipped in the new job, but I'm reaching out to catch it again!

SAY NO SAY NO SAY NO SAY NO SAY NO SAY NO SAY NO SAY NO SAY NO SAY NO SAY NO

I tell myself most days that what I DO is not all that important - most of it is merely urgent! This helps me to keep at bay all the requests to work longer and longer hours. I once followed someone in a job who was known as someone who worked really long hours. I asked whether a long worker or a hard worker was preferable. Some found the question quite difficult.

So yes, when it comes down to it, I can usually find time, like everyone else, for the things I enjoy. Check your diary and see.

And check that ego. It creates more diary havoc than anything else I know.

And so back to that time management consultant who wanted to visit his granny. He gave up trying because there were too many lucrative consultancies to take on. So Granny never got visited and a wonderful story of family love and animal rescue never got told.

Love yourself enough to work a decent diary and discover the joy of saying NO.

Blessings upon your Filofax, your church year diary and your PC diary. Oh, and I almost forgot you!

The Revd Canon Douglas Holt is Canon Theologian at Bristol Cathedral and Director of the Parish Resources Team in the Diocese of Bristol.

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You are reading My Friend, the Diary by Douglas Holt, part of Issue 16 of Ministry Today, published in June 1999.

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