In University, I was often overwhelmed when managing school and an increasing number of ministry roles. I also started working a job that required me to make my own schedule (not as easy as you might think!). This dynamic brought a whole new level of scheduling complexities with it.
But by God’s grace and wisdom, and with help from others, I’ve been getting better at managing life and stewarding the time and resources God has given me. In this post, I hope to share both how I was failing when it came to productivity as well as how I made progress, and in so doing help you be a better steward also.
I was passionate but stressed
When I joined Power to Change as a student I was really energized by some aspects of the ministry. But I was also stressed out by others.
What energized me? My passion motivated me to work hard and accomplish lots for God’s kingdom. I wanted to see real life change. I wanted to see the campus turned upside down because of the collaborative effort of hard working Christians. I wanted to grow stronger in my faith and ministry ability, to do more and do it better. All of these things were good.
What stressed me out? Although I had a passion to see campus transformation, I got bogged down by over-planning/strategizing and setting too many goals. There was always a plethora of things to think about and do, and I did not have enough mental or physical energy (maybe even time) for it all.
Eventually, I found myself resentful of ministry. Why? Ministry became associated with exhaustion and being overwhelmed.
QUICK TIP: Do you feel this way at all? Overwhelmed, over-stressed (some stress is good!), bitter or constantly tired? Bring it up with your leaders, staff, or friends so that they at least know what is going on. Avoid “all or nothing” thinking. Are you trending towards flourishing or languishing? Ask for help and see if there are ways you can resolve things!
A few problems were central to my stress and disorganization.
I didn’t know myself
On many levels and in many ways, I didn’t know my preferences, strengths, and gifts. Neither did I understand my energy or capacity levels. I didn’t know when to say “no”. I didn’t know when to speak up about my concerns and identify what things in particular stressed me out, let alone know how to deal effectively with that stress.
The fact is, some people seem to thrive off certain methods or styles while others are hindered by them. I needed to do some discerning to find out what worked best for me. That way I could maximize the time and resources God had given me.
QUICK TIP: Carve out a little bit of time to do some reflecting. Ask yourself: how can I renew my energy each day? What things am I doing that I could delegate to someone who has more time or energy or desire for it?
Some people thrive with more activity and keeping themselves really busy. Others need space and time to think. The latter (like myself), might need to learn to delegate and say no a little more.
As I grow, I am getting more comfortable with how God made me. I am learning to value my strengths: thinking, analyzing, and teaching. I benefit from and am energized by lots of unstructured and open time where I can move at my own pace. If I’m going to thrive and help the kingdom advance, I’m going to need to work within those parameters because that’s how God made me.
I had a wrong perspective
As a student, I was a big people pleaser (and still am). I said yes to too many things and allowed anxiety and fear to drain my energy. This prevented me from doing a good job, staying organized, and just relaxing. I lost heart and passion. I ended up doing for the sake of doing, while sacrificing mentally, emotional, and physical health.
Had I recognized that doing less didn’t mean being less, I would have been able to shed my overcommitments. I could have given myself some space to think and get help, delegated responsibilities, and focused more on my highest priorities.
Instead, I was spread thin with an empty tank, spiralling out of control towards sleeplessness and an over stimulated central nervous system. Acting for a long time on these bad perspectives contributed to the clinical depression and anxiety that I eventually had to work through.
In more recent years, I’ve been able to take control of my life and foster the gifts that I have in more suitable ways. I know when to say no to lesser priorities. I know when I need a night in to energize. I am taking opportunities to use my gifts (like in writing this blog!), and I know to make a few helpful and meaningful goals for myself, instead of too many.
That doesn’t mean I never do things that I don’t want to do, since I have authorities to submit to and life to deal with. But being productive isn’t about getting things perfect or ideal – it’s about doing the best you can with what you have, for the glory of God and the good of others.