Have you been struggling to devote your energy to what has the biggest payoff in ministry? Has time in the Word, in prayer, and with people been shuffled to the corner for more urgent tasks? Maybe you’re busy all day, but nothing important seems to get done.
From my own experience, when I don’t accomplish as much as I’d like to, it is usually because of at least one of these three reasons. Maybe it is for you, too. To help you diagnose which reason applies to you, there are a few questions to ask yourself under each reason.
1. You’re not planning important ministry tasks
Do you plan ALL of what you need to do? You need to plan the big stuff and the little stuff, too. There are many little details that need our attention, often more than we think. It’s not safe to assume they will take care of themselves somehow.
Do you plan when you will do your important work? On your calendar, block off personal work time, not just events and appointments. Do this especially for your sermon prep. If someone wants to set up a coffee with you during your personal work time, your reply is, “Sorry, I have a prior commitment. What about the next day?” You can say no with integrity when you have gained a picture of everything that you have to do, and then scheduled it.
Do you write your plans down? If you don’t write them down, you’ll forget them. On the other hand, if you have so few plans that you can remember them all, I doubt that you are going after your ministry full throttle. Just sayin’.
2. You’re not following through with the important ministry tasks you’ve planned
Are you infatuated with your task list? A nicely organized task lists is a beautiful thing. Once you do plan all of what you need to do, it’s kind of a cross everything off. It’s like building a six-foot tall snowman – top hat, and all – only for the neighborhood bully, while you admire it, to take the opportunity to demonstrate a form tackle. Dreamers admire their plans. But the wise do their plans (Prov. 14:23).
Do you confuse planning with accomplishing? Planning is a lot of work. So much so that you feel like you got something done. You sort of did, but sort of didn’t. To plan your work, is not to accomplish your work, even though proper planning takes plenty of effort. Lots of sweat is poured into blue prints for a house, but you can’t live in them.
Do you work off of your plans? Speaking of blue prints, how good will the house turn out if the framers and carpenters improvise at their every whim? Why did you put all that work into your plans if you’re just going to wing it anyway? Use your task lists and priorities to guide you toward the important work of sermon prep, prayer, and discipleship.
3. You’re not defending important ministry tasks from the information onslaught
Do you have inboxes set up to collect stuff while you work? As great as the Information Age is, it has turned into the Interruption Age. We are magnets for gigs of info, and if we don’t redirect it to a place where we can deal with it, it will always interrupt our high priority work.
There are two important parts to the question I started the last paragraph with. First, do you have inboxes? You may be missing some inboxes, for example one for your desk, or something always at hand to record ideas. Second, are they set up? You have other inboxes, like email, but it may not set up for you to process through it efficiently.
Do you have a system for rapidly processing through the stuff that piles up? If you don’t, you might want to check this out.
Do you get bogged down in email? You tell yourself that you’ll just check it briefly, but then it’s ten (thirty?) minutes before you come out of your screen coma, asking yourself, “What was I doing again?” Don’t let yourself get interrupted by the information onslaught. Close down your email app when you are not reading it. If that’s impossible for you, at least turn off the notifications, so that the constant dinging doesn’t take your attention from where it belongs.
Get back to the important stuff
You read the title of the post and answered, “Yes!”
While you were reading this post, the important stuff still didn’t get done.
But now you know why.
So close your browser, feed reader, Instapaper app, or whatever you are reading this on, and get to work.