It’s Saturday night and as the teaching pastor, you do not have anything. Not to forget your commitment this last all team meeting to the church tech team was you would have something to them well in advance so they could have everything ready to go. What happened? Now you have hours left to finish. Shouldn’t have scheduled all of those coffee shop meetings and extra speaking engagements. Oh, and that blog you tried to start? Now look what’s happened.
If you haven’t been there, you are a better ministry leader than I was.
We care about the work we do. It’s why we wake up so early on Sunday morning for worship practice, why we cut our logo design rate from $100 an hour down to $40 for the whole logo for a church’s new ministry, and it’s why we say yes to so much. Too much.
I’m going to throw a cliché out at you that is 100% true and yet feels so unhelpful: “Every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else.” In fact, we have a whole article previously about this very thing. Great, now I just need to figure out how to tell someone no.
As we continue to pile things on to our plate because it’s “important,” we take time away from the projects we are currently working on. We may end up saying no to giving our full effort to a project or making our best work. Saying yes to this means we may be saying no to a budget line item or our time on another project in the near future.
Desperation is crafted out of saying yes too much. Even if that yes is unconscious, without ill-intent, we increase that risk of desperation. Then, it’s a race to the bottom.
Avoiding an Environment of Desperation
If it was as simple as me telling you to say no more, life would be so much easier, wouldn’t it? Truly, it is the correct answer on how to avoid desperation, but the strategy and execution is the hard part. Here are a few things to help you.
Find The Non-Negotiables
If family is important, put that down first. If work is set and unmovable, add that to the calendar before anything else. I hope your faith is put in there and you not only value it with your words and thoughts, but your actions and scheduling too. Start with the big rocks before you move to the filler.
Assign Timeframes For Everything
When I do my “side hustles,” I give myself a predetermined amount of time of one hour in the evening and up to two hours during the day if I can afford it. If the project is not finished, too bad. I have other things that have to also get done. Something like this series here is simply done in the 1-3 hours I decide to give it, but it’s not the only thing taking up my time and so even in this small slice of time, I have to decide where to put stuff. (I’m continuing to say yes or no with my time)
What Is Urgent and Important
If you want great ideas for some tips on this topic and how to do this well, go search on YouTube for Stephen Covey and his material. You probably know him from his book on Effectiveness called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. While you are at it, look up the The Eisenhower Decision Matrix for which this section title references. If you say, “I have no time to go and read another book, I’m reading this one” then you are probably the person whom most needs to read both of these pieces.
Give Yourself Margin
As I unpacked everything in the previous two points, I found myself becoming uncomfortable. Who honestly can perfectly predict how much time something is going to take? Mistakes are made, predictions are off by a mile, and something always ‘pops up.’ When you go to identify what to put in your calendar, putting the most important things first, always overestimate and then add even more space in between. My philosophy is, you never know when something more important is going to come along, and if you do not have the margin you will not be able to spend time on it. Best part is, if you get done early, you can always be proactive on other projects or just dedicate more time that day to those “most important” things in your life like faith, family, and sleep. (Always sleep)
Desperation Should Not Be A Motivation
I can hear it now “Yeah, but Jeremy, I work well under pressure.” First off, wait until you get to Chapter 12 with that phrase, it’s going to be an eye opener. Secondly, true desperation should not be a motivation. Why? Because failure is a real risk and unless you are an adrenaline junky, it’s not worth it.
Using our example at the beginning of the chapter, make the deadline a week, month, or year earlier. I know many who intentionally say, if it’s late they won’t take it. They created margin for themselves. It’s not fair how you treat others when you work from this desperation.
I Don’t Have Anything For Those Who Are Currently Desperate
If you were reading this section because you are in desperation mode, unfortunately I have nothing for you. You either knuckle down and do it or you give up. We cannot change the situation we’re in right now (unless you have the TARDIS) but we can change for the future. It’s just the way it has to be. Seriously, stop reading. You have to go produce something NOW!
I will offer one bit of advice to take with you now if you are in desperation mode. Find a way to remember how this feels. Somehow bottle this essence of panic and fear that feels so uncomfortable. I once failed my wife so spectacularly, her face of disappointment is seared into my brain. I actually use that face for projects that have nothing to do with my family because it truly motivates me. Do better!
What can you implement right now, this very hour, to stop the desperation?