What lay minister isn’t busy? OK, easy answer, but have you ever thought of the issue of a lay minister being effective? Ah, this is a different matter. When the pressures of numbers, working with volunteers and reaching out to teens add up, we would do well to have a rhythm of time management that offers a “backbone” to the fluid activity of the week.
This is easier said than done as new products come out all the time. Everyone seems to be jumping on the “palm pilot bandwagon” but are they any more effective? Usually, the newness wears off and the gadget will eventually just gather dust. Still, these electronic handheld devices may be helpful depending on the person and his or her own style of organization.
• Pros: Most handhelds can fit into a coat pocket. You can synchronize data with your desktop and even download web-clippings from the internet. They can store thousands of addresses and provide various views of your planner. Alarms even remind you of upcoming events, a person’s birthday or anniversary. You’ll never again have an excuse of forgetting those key dates. They are also fun to use and have literally hundreds of free programs that can be added through Internet downloads. Finally, in the scary occasion of losing your device, you’ll always have the information backed up on your desktop computer. Fear not!
• Cons: Depending on your budget, these powerful little devices can be pricey. Look to spend about $200 just for starters. Also, the mode of data input is through characters that you “jot” and need to memorize. While this takes only a few minutes, some find that there is just no substitute for the old paper and pen approach.
• Recommendation: PALM products and HANDSPRING products but be sure to research before you buy. Many websites are available to see what others are saying about these products. Handhelds are becoming more common and so prices will drop but note that a handheld computer can be hard to sell after you’ve owned it for a year or so.
Some find the old fashioned paper planning to be helpful. Using products from Day Timer or Franklin Covey can also be beneficial but again, it depends on the user. To some, there is just no substitute for the process of writing something down.
• Pros: Paper planning devices range from the most basic (to-do list or monthly calendar) to the more sophisticated system (Day Runner or Franklin Covey). Most people like to have a planner because it also comes in just about every size you need. They can fit in your back pocket or can be as large as a briefcase. The inserted paper and tabs can also be customizable which is a plus since you’ll be adding information all the time. Some have “one page per day” while others give you space to write down a few thoughts or record a phone call. You can easily access information and catalogue old months’ information.
• Cons: Once again, price can be a factor but not as often as the handheld computers. Cheap calendars can be bought anywhere that office supplies are found but more elaborate systems can cost upwards of $100 for both the “guts” and the binder to house the paper. Finally, if you ever lose your planner, forget about it. You’ve lost just about everything and that brings stress to your life.
• Recommendation: DAYTIMER and FRANKLIN COVEY products, but be sure to research before you buy. The advantage of Franklin Covey is that they have their own stores and their employees actually use the FC products. The advantage of Day Timer is that their products are more affordable and you can have important dates printed directly on the pages.
Whatever your mode of planning, the key is what works for you. A new method can take weeks to master so give it time. You are making an investment not only in your schedule but in your ministry and relationships with others. It’s always better to be organized than stressed and unprepared.
(Michael K. St. Pierre is a teacher of theology at Oratory Prep School in Summit, NJ, and co-founder of CatholicVentures.com.)