The shock of the first timesheet

time recorder app

time recorder app

For 12 months, beginning in September 2011, I lost track of time, and not in the good way, when time flies past because you are enjoying yourself. I stopped keeping a timesheet to monitor my work hours and how I was spending them, and I browned out.  So now I use a fantastic Andriod app called, Time Recorder to log my work hours.  It produced my first monthly report yesterday and this has been something of a shock. I thought I’d been busy, but didn’t realise I’d only had one day off all month!

Looking down the days, I can clearly see that sometimes I have blocks of very long days and sometimes the slinky catches up with shorter days.  What I didn’t expect was to see only one blank.  I know I do work from time to time on my day of rest, which I aim to give to my wife and kids, but to have only one clear day in the first month I recorded my time was a shock.  Especially the 4 hours 7 minutes I spent working on my wife’s birthday.  That’s when the Guinea Bissau paralympic team came to town.

I am finding this a really helpful accountability tool.  It is also a healthy check.  It helps me know if I am tired, why I am tired, and so when to take the foot off the gas.  I’m going to take a couple of days rest this weekend and try to let the batteries recharge whilst I give focused time to my family.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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9 Responses to The shock of the first timesheet

  1. Charlie says:

    Thanks for being open and posting this here, and resisting the temptation to inflate your reported hours to ridiculous and unfeasible numbers, as some pastors do when showing off.
    I imagine the pattern of work you describe here is very common among the clergy, it certainly looks very like what I experienced in my last parish. It shows you take your ministry seriously and also reflects the 7 day a week time pressure that you’re under. I do worry, though, that we are not modelling healthy patterns of work to the rest of the world and our congregations in particular. If someone in your church told you he was working these hours what would you say to him? Obviously in your case, your work doesn’t interfere with your commitment to church, but still there is family, prayer, and one’s general sanity to consider.
    Please don’t take this as a critcism! As I say, it was exactly the same. I have no idea what the solution is, I just worry that clergy workload is a problem and feel there ought to be more of a conversation going on about it.

  2. neilrobbie says:

    Shall we have a conversation? Or try and start one?

    The problem, as I see it, and I’ve been helped to see this in Dave Harvey’s book, “am I called” is that ministry/eldership is always pluralistic in the bible and by that we should understand full time plural, not eldership comprising of a single full time pastor and committed lay folk.

    A full time plural eldership allows sharing of otherwise confidential burdens and problems, a distribution of work and cover when things are tough (like two Sundays ago when I had flu and still struggled into two services), and a complimentarity of gifts (I am good on big picture, structure and strategy but weak on the detail. I need someone to help with the nitty gritty, day to day stuff.)

    I don’t think my workload is a killer. September was only an average of 8.5 hours a day, when the Fridays were taken out. That’s not much different to someone who commutes to a 7.5 hour day. My brownout last year was linked to disorganisation and several massive situations which were beyond my control. I can do these hours and pray and do family. I just need someone to work with, which is why we’ve appointed someone last week.

    • Charlie says:

      I totally agree about the singular thing. Just a word about staff though, I managed four staff members which massively magnified the ministry but didn’t do much for my workload. For the plurality you are talking about, you need to work with a peer, ie. not me, but a fellow minister of the same or near seniority as yourself. The C of E has started to take tentative steps in this direction but unfortunately will tend to add to the workload rather than just sharing it amongst colleagues.
      7.5 hrs a day doesn’t sound too bad but that of course is a 6 day week, which your commuter would not touch with a bargepole. Also the 24-7 nature of it is not really reflected in the number of hours. It’s this constant “drip-drip” which is a recipe for mental tiredness, which in the end isn’t conducive to dynamic leadership!

      • neilrobbie says:

        Yes, drip-drip. One of the greatest differences between commuter and ministrer is being able to leave work at tbe office, although many contemporaries in the workplace today don’t leave work at the office as 24/7 communication is now the norm.

  3. CBJ says:

    I don’t normal comment of blogs.. but this one I will.

    I’m a commuter and a church leader in Birmingham – the hours you decsribe above are LESS than my working week when you include all the church activties and attendance on Sundays, mid week activties and session meetings.

    Pastors/Clergy etc always moan about their hours – – but think about the people around you who volunteer their services to the church and work full time, have families and then commit to the church and usually never moan. The moaning of the clergy only upsets people and on many occasions turn people away from volunteering.

    Think about the times you need to do your banking, shopping or sorting pesonal things out – you can take “normal” time to do this… we have Saturday only!

    I work 7 days aweek – – Mon-Fri paid work / half of Sat at church activities and preperation for Sunday and worship lead 2 x 2.5 hour services on a Sunday – plus all the meeting and mid week bible study and home goup – that is hard work…. I take 4 Sundays’ a year off when my family and I go abroad.

    I’m not having a go here but please be careful – clergy are not hard done by and actually have more flexible time then the average congregation member.

    • Charlie says:

      Hi CBJ. I think it’s very dangerous to turn this conversation into a clergy vs laity or full-time vs volunteer argument. You will notice that Neil isn’t whining about his hours – he actually said he thought they were OK. You will also notice that I was in no way denigrating the efforts and the stress that people like you are under – my comment was about the stress pastors are under. They are both important discussions, and it’s not very helpful to set one against the other.
      I will just say one thing, because believe it or not, clergy don’t spring fully formed from the womb but once we had normal jobs and didn’t work for the church. There is a world of difference between doing between something voluntarily for the church because it is your passion and calling, and doing it because it is your paid job. It’s still your passion and vocation, but the way it affects you changes dramatically. Again, not in any way suggesting that one is better than the other – the church needs both – but not everybody understands the difference.

      PS. I work in an office now and loads of people pop out in the day to do banking and even shopping. I also know many clergy who are too stressed to ever to wander out and do such things. A lot of that kind of thing is to do with attitude to work, rather than the actual work itself.

  4. neilrobbie says:

    Hi CBJ, welcome to Transforming Grace and thank you for your comment. Thank you, too, for adding your comments Charlie. Very helpful.

    The point of my post was to show how easy it is to forget what we have done recently as pastors. The timesheet has been a useful reminder to me that I only had one full day where I gave my wife anything like my full attention without being distracted by something to do with church life. That is not healthy and I need it to brought to my attention for her sake.

    CBJ, I take my hat off to you. I have been in both positions, as a lay pastor in Singapore and as a full time pastor in West Bromwich. I made the change because children were on the horizon and I decided that I did not have the capacity to do engineering and pastoral duties whilst being a good husband and father. It was a choice between engineering and serving Christ in the church (I could have served Christ as an engineer, but there was less eternal significance to putting up buildings and people were responding to the ministry I had at the time). In this discussion, there needs to be some thought given to individual capacity. If God gifts someone with the ability to be husband, father, commuter and pastor, great. I know I couldn’t do it.

    My first timesheet, whcih I’ve posted, is useless for comparison for a number of reasons. The worklaod is always changing and so the month of September is not representative of my overall work pattern. I also had flu, as I mentioned in one of my comments, so my time at work was reduced for a few days, though I didn’t stop to recover, more the fool me. Don’t get the violins out. I didn’t post it for comparison’s sake, although I am sure that if another pastor put his timesheet up, I’d be tempted to compare myself to him as you did.

    The blog post is designed to help other pastors think about recording their time as a means of accountability. My lesson last month…know how much you are resting together with your wife. I’ll probably learn a different lesson next month.

    God bless, Neil

  5. CBJ says:

    Hi – sorry I never meant to sound the way it has come across… I was pointing out that not all ministers have the same outlook – but in my own situation – I love what I do for the church and do as much as possible and more when I can.

    I think the main thing I wanted to point out and didn’t do very well at is, the Pastor/clergy tells everyone how busy they are etc and then expect the laity to do more when in fact they are “sometimes” working more than the clergy in terms of hours out of the home. – Not talking at you on this point – but I’ve had ministers who’ve never done a “real” job in their lives and have no idea of the pressures we are under with work and church (esp. if you are a leader) – my current minister has never done a “secular” job in his life – straight from college to Bible College straight to church life.

    I agree with you also, I do not give my wife the time she requires sometimes – those nights just sitting by the fire talking…. instead I’m sat in a building committee or worship team practice etc. Her last birthday – we both spent the day cleaning out guttering at the church…. now she would never moan about this and willingly takes part – but as a good husband perhaps I need to step back and give her and my son some more time.

  6. neilrobbie says:

    Hi CBJ, point taken. Moaning about being full time is not good. We should “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14).

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