Who isn’t busy these days? Okay, maybe some monk in Tibet—but he’s probably just in denial. For most of us, the list of to do’s in ministry seems endless. There are retreats to be planned, students to meet with, Bible Studies to be prepared, and answers to be given as to why the window got broken last Wednesday night, etc.
Some people claim this stuff energizes them, usually saying something like, “I work best under pressure.” Others are crippled by it and say, “I feel so swamped I don’t even know where to start.” But either way, here’s a few tried and true ways to get out from under the eight ball and get ahead of the game.
1. JOT IT DOWN. A list of what you need to do helps you stay focused and lets others help too. Many of us daydream about a long line of people out the door asking, “What can I do for you?” But the truth is, often we do it all ourselves because we don’t have a clear picture of what needs to be done and thus don’t have a clear answer to the question, “How can I help?”—even if someone asks. Even if you don’t need a list for you, others do so they can help. So write it down on sticky notes or on your computer or in your PDA. Just write it down.
2. “IZE” IT UP. Organize and Prioritize. It’s human nature to do what you love first. But what you love to do and what you need to do are not always the same thing. And since stress is often magnified by the tyranny of the urgent, it’s good to get the most important stuff done first. So if you have a mountain of to-do’s in front of you, stop and prioritize your list into four categories:
- “URGENT ME.” This is stuff only you can do and must be done ASAP. Be honest here. Is it really something only you can do? Does it really have to be done first?
- “HELP.” These are things others could do to help you, but you’d probably just do yourself. That perspective isn’t really helping you or others. Think short-term and long-term here as you make a list and ask for help. Maybe there’s a youth staff volunteer who could make the retreat excel doc from home after the kids go to bed and e-mail it to you in the morning. Lots of people can buy your game supplies and get reimbursed. Don’t do the Wal-Mart run if you need to be writing the Bible Study. Let some stuff go. Think about what others could do to help you and start asking.
- “NEXT UP FOR ME.” This is stuff that you’ll soon be moving into your urgent pile as you complete the stuff that’s already in there. These are the things that did not make your first-things-first list.
- “LONG TERM ME.” These are things that are two weeks or more away from needing to be done, but are on your radar of things to do nonetheless. You’re going to put it off today, but you’re going to keep scanning this list to make sure it doesn’t creep up on you too fast.
3. TAKE OFF THE SUPERHERO CAPE. Practice saying “No.” Be willing to move stuff off the list and into the trash can, admitting to yourself that it was something you wanted to do, but just can’t. Some people might be upset—but they’ll get over it. My grandma once gave me this sign for my office. “I can only serve one God per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow does not look good either.” Make one of those if you need it.