Each year I take a calendar month and record what I do in it. I break each day into twenty minute chunks and note down what happens in each twenty minute block. I don’t do the same for designated Sabbath time (nor do I note each bit of time outside of the beginning and end of a working day, no-one needs to know how long I clean my teeth for).
I categorise each thing that I do (an imperfect science) with a view to getting a handle on what I do with my time.
This year I did the audit in November (as clergy I always avoid doing this in Lent, Advent or August).
So- what did I discover?
I work around 55 hours a week. (thats up one hour from last year)
That work is spread over five and a half days.
The only sabbath day that was interrupted by work was about processing a painful meeting.
Of 26 working days, I worked 12 evenings.
In terms of what I do:
In November 17% of my time was taken up with prayer, reading and learning. Thats a slightly false read as I had a 48 hour away time in there. Prayer and reading equates to about 10-11%
12% of my time is spent on admin.
Service planning and sermon writing took 10% of the time (more on service planning than sermon writing by some margin).
8.5% of my time is taken up in taking services.
6% on volunteer management
4.5% on clergy team meetings
4% on pastoral and one to one meetings
6% on travel (lots of that on foot)
There are lots of other things that take up less than 5% each- in reality I have 37 categories that have some kind of activity logged in them.
There is also 9% of “other”. Now that can include phone calls, making a cup of tea (not just one clearly) but also includes ‘thinking time’- time where my mind is not doing a task but is holding something and whirling it.
I’ve done this exercise for three years now: and each time I come out with working about the same amount each week. And each year that month (which I think just the sheer observation slightly focuses the work) feels different each time. This year felt tiring, perhaps because of the time of year, perhaps because more of the interactions had some element of conflict in them. There was also no youth and children’s work- which whilst exhausting is also fun.
It reminds me that our work and capacity is related to the nature of it.
I am reminded that Sabbath is really important. Its a practice that has become more embedded in life over the years and without which I wouldn’t survive let alone thrive.
I am aware that the Anglican notion of working six days a week is ridiculous. The extra half day outside of work is just about a doable thing, but I think we need to shove things into five days for the good of everyone.
I can only do the work I do because I don’t do all the evenings. In looking at the data, I personally struggle to take time out in the middle of the day- once I start I keep going.
I think I need to work towards reducing my working week to fewer than fifty hours. Some of you will read that and think thats too much, some will think I’m lazy. Neither are my problem- and I think that each of us need to look at what is sustainable. For what its worth I should probably be able to lop that out of admin and other.
I need to take all my holiday- I think last year I took something like 25 of the 36 possible days. An extra day a month could be a really healthy thing.
And I need to retain, own and celebrate Sabbath- not a day off, but time to be replenished.