A Flexible Schedule Should Not Mean You’re Always Available

By September 19, 2019Church, Leadership

In deciding what picture to go with this post, I chose an old pickup truck. Side story, and totally unrelated to this post, my Great Uncle had a truck almost like this. When he passed away the family sold it before I had a chance to express my interest. I would love to have it today.

I have been posting this week about weekly calendars and some thoughts on how I prepare – and even more protect – my own calendar.

In this post I make the case for those of us who have flexible schedules. We work for ourselves, are in a leadership position where we create our own schedule, or just work in an environment where flexibility is allowed. I’ve had such roles for most of my career.

But how is having a flexible schedule like owning a truck?

Well, when I owned a truck, which I loved by the way, I found friends easily. I found friends that I didn’t even know I had, because everyone needs a truck at some point. When you have a truck people seek you out to use it.

And I have found it is often that way when you have a flexible schedule. When you are not tied to certain hours of the day to complete your work people falsely assume your time is always available. And sometimes the person who falsely assumes that is you. 

  • Your schedule is flexible, so you can be the one to go to the bank.
  • Your schedule is flexible, so can you be the one to stop by the store.
  • Your schedule is flexible, so I can meet with you TODAY, right?
  • Your schedule is flexible, so you probably have time to _____.
  • Your schedule is flexible, so don’t start that project today. There’s always tomorrow, right?

What is really being said is:

Your schedule is flexible, so you can be available.

To do what you want to do or – in the case of others sometimes – to do what I want you to do.

As a pastor, for example, I did not have an 8 to 5 job.

I could change my schedule quickly if I needed or chose to do so.

But just because I had a flexible schedule, did not mean I was necessarily available.

  • I always had projects I should be working on at the time.
  • I always had sermons I needed to write.
  • I had assignments, responsibilities and obligations (often I felt I didn’t have enough time to complete).
  • I also needed scheduled time to plan, dream and prepare.

In spite of a flexible schedule, and being fairly disciplined and working lots of hours, I never seemed to have enough time to do all that needed to be done.

So my time was flexible, but it should not have always been available.

I see lots of pastors struggle with the tension a flexible schedule creates for them. Some handle it well and others simply don’t. They are constantly trying to meet every need that comes to them that they seldom have time to do the things that need to get done.

And they aren’t disciplined enough with their own flexible time to do what has to be done before they do what they may want to do. The flexibility of their schedule serves as more a distraction in their productivity than an enhancement of it. 

Here’s a free tip. Sometimes we have to create our own structure, when there is none created for us. One way I handle this tension is to calendar time for everything. I wrote about it HERE. When you put everything on your calendar you can even schedule time for the things you WANT to do. In fact, I would advise you to do so.

Bottom line of this post – Be careful with the gift of flexible schedules. 

You may also want to read The Tension Between Being Accessible and Being Available

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Mike Williams says:

    I'm a bi-vocational pastor, schedule not real flexible. When I'm off my non-pastor job, folks assume I'm free. I still have ministry stuff to do. Finding study time is still a chore. I like to get away from the house go to the library of StarBucks. Have you written anything on bi-vocational pastors?

  • tijuanabecky

    I'm not a pastor but this is true even in my life. I volunteer online but have a flexible schedule and what you've said really applies here too. I've learned how to say "no" to a lot of things because of this. Love this post!

  • shana says:

    As a stay at home mom and a full-time student who is has also started a business in the past two years, I can relate to this post. People think that because I work from home, that I am “not busy”. This has been the topic of many conversations that I have had with my spouse and other family members. Thank you for this post!!

  • Rog Hill says:

    Ron, you know I generally do not comment on post, but this one is big in my life right now. Just the difference from moving from a office building to working at a home office…. everyone thinks your just sitting around waiting for something to do. Or I can catch up on work when ever I want ( NOT TRUE ) good post.

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