One of the things that I struggle with is how to not stress and freak out about all of the little tasks that run through my head all the time. It seems as the piles of tasks big and small continue to crop up and have a tendency to overwhelm me, so that I go into “shut down” mode and just stare at the wall for a while. Now where there is some benefit to staring at the wall, I don’t think that’s where I generally want to be as a pastor or a person.
So how does one Get a grip on all of the stuff of life so that they don’t fill your mind up? Overstimulation is one of the big causes of mood change for me, and there’s no doubt that if I am weighed down and anxious about the growth of the physical and mental piles building up, something has to give in the process.
So to that end, here are a few tips. I’ve gleaned some of these from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, and others I’ve picked up along the way:
- Write it down. God gave us paper and computers for a reason. There is absolutely no need to try and juggle everything in your head. Why waste energy on remembering WHAT to do when you could be actually DOING it?
- If it takes less than two minutes, just do it. This one has become completely liberating for me. My general mindset has been “if it takes less than 2 minutes, I can do it anytime.” The problem is, you don’t do it anytime, and so what really is a little pittance becomes a great mental debt.
- Don’t allow the tools to become the craftsman. This is really important for me, since I am by nature a techno-geek galore. It is very easy for me to sit and fiddle and tweak and stare and doodle on the computer, and forget that I have certain things to do. The tools are there for me, not the other way around.
- Schedule relaxation time. This is really, really hard. I can pack every waking moment with stuff to do, but if there isn’t built in time for playing with my kids, watching a movie, golfing, or whatever it is, then the little tasks become the sole reason for existence.
- In the same vein, schedule time for prayer and meditation in the Word. Sometimes I am tempted to use my freedom in the Gospel as an excuse for not praying. There are a lots of reasons why it is hard to pray (there’s a nice section in the book on this, btw), but if I schedule it so that this is a part of my identity as a husband/father/pastor, then it works its way in as a habitus that will have staying power.
That’s what I’ve got for right now. How do you stay ahead of the piles?