You’re in an important meeting but you’re trying to get the budget email sent out before noon. You’re rereading the last sentence you typed when you hear the pastor say your name. “Sorry, what was that?” The meeting came second to the email.
When you get back to your desk, the phone starts ringing. Before you can pick it up, a new couple walks in the front door. You say hello to them but have to answer the phone. They wait while you answer seventeen million questions about your church’s new giving site. The couple came second to the phone call.
It’s the end of the day, and you can finally go home and relax. As you pull out of the parking lot, your cell buzzes. It’s your son asking about dinner. You try to text back. While you’re looking down at your phone, you feel the bump-bump-bump of the reflectors in the center of the road. Heart racing, you swerve back into your lane. The text came second to your driving and your life.
Wow, it’s been a long day.
You’ve Been There Before
Working in the church, you’re quite familiar with juggling umpteen projects, meetings, and deadlines. Not to mention the continual interruptions while you’re trying to finish those projects, attend those meetings, and meet those deadlines.
It’s a lot to handle, but you do it to get your work done. If you’re like me, you feel the need to check ALL the boxes on your list to feel successful. But the reality is, multitasking just doesn’t work as well as we’d like to think. It’s almost impossible to put your best effort into each task when you have so many demands.
Have you ever seen someone spinning plates on steel rods at a carnival? When they focus on one or two plates, they can easily spin them without worrying about falling. But as more and more plates are added, he has to continuously run to each of them to keep them spinning.
This is similar to how our brains work. You can focus on a couple of tasks and feel successful. But what happens when you get two new projects, four more meetings, and a pending deadline moved up three weeks sooner? Some of those “plates” are bound to wobble and eventually come crashing down.
Getting Things Done
The only problem is, in the church office, you don’t have the luxury of taking one task at a time. Sometimes multitasking is the only way to get everything done. In that case, here are some tips for balancing your work:
1) Make a to-do list.
Take the time to establish your goals. It may seem counterproductive, but it will help you in the long run. Create a daily, weekly, or monthly list — whichever fits your tasks best.
2) Prioritize your list.
Put your most important tasks toward the top. Think about who needs it, when it’s due, how long it will take to complete, and other factors that are important to you. Group similar activities, like your routine or familiar tasks. Break up large projects into manageable chunks and organize them on your list.
3) Set aside an appropriate amount of time for each task.
Time management is key. Schedule everything you need to do ─ not just meetings. Set aside more time to complete a large, difficult project like creating a budget. For something smaller like sending out the monthly newsletter, set aside 30 minutes.
4) Add, remove, and reorder tasks as needed.
Stay organized as you work through each task. As new projects are assigned, add them to your list. If a task becomes irrelevant or unnecessary, remove it. You can always reorder items if the priority changes.
Try this out. If it works for you, share it with someone who seems to be spinning too many plates.