I'm on the brink of our student leaders day and Pre-O-Week Conference (Pre-Season Conference), followed by our huge O Week Mission. Added to this some big family events, a laptop and shower head that need to get fixed, a staff member who twisted their ankle, the launch of a new not-for-profit association (New Front Door: The Church IT Guild), and a few other major fundraising grant proposals: there's a fair bit on!
So how do you wrestle the chaos into control in these kinds of intense seasons that make you feel like you are drowning and kind of going mad, even before they've begun?
Firstly, procrastinate by watching the Winter Olympics, and writing a blog post about it.
Secondly, drink a bit less coffee to manage the anxiety, make sure you breath and walk slowly and read the Bible and pray and sleep and exercise.
Thirdly, in terms of the actual logistics, here is something of my process:
1. Start Planning Early
I'm always fully of bewilderment and pity for those who start planning and working in earnest for the new church/Christian Union year in January… or even in November. We really start planning and working towards these busy seasons 6 months out. Anything that can be done mega-early will bless you later.
2. Out Of Office Reply
I set up an Out Of Office reply on my email, telling people I will be probably slower in responding than I'd like to be. This takes a bit of pressure off my mind, feeling those emails piling up that I'm not getting to… I don't feel crushed by it. I know that they know that there'll be a delay.
3. Cancel the things that can be cancelled
I can't do everything, so I need to figure out what stuff I can, at least temporarily, not do. This is not the time to major on principled consistency. A few weeks won't hurt. So things like regular staff 1:1 meetings, other regular appointments, committees I'm not really needed on. Also, with family, we do our best to look at our schedules and figure out what can give. Thanks to Nikki and the kids for bearing with me!
4. List out the main projects
In some ways the next few steps are just David Allen's Getting Things Done on overdrive… I kind of pluck out of my more global system, a little emergency system for the short term.
So I scan through my paper inbox, email, TODO software (I use Asana) and try to pull out: what are the projects and TODOs that really must get done in this period of time. I list them out, so I can see all the hats I'm wearing:
- New Front Door
- Home Church Welcome Team
- Campus Patrons
- Evangelism Team
- O Week Mission
- Support Raising
There are some small TODOs that also must get done that aren't tied to a project, so I put them in the second list.
5. List out all the TODOs that have to get done
Then I list out all the actions associated to these projects, as well as other floating once-off TODOs that really have to happen between now and the end of the O Week Mission season. Things like
- Cancel Xavier's BeIn Sports subscription
- Announcement email
- Blurbs for sermon series
- Reference check for new staff applicant
- Bookmark Elvanto Forms on iPads
- Reminder for Welcome Team
- Alumni Fundraising Drive email
- Reply to Campus Patrons email
- Reminder for Welcome Team meeting
- Plan O Week contact tables for gaps when staff aren't there
And on and on and on.
6. Write down due dates and estimate time they will take
Then I mark each with when they need to be done by and how long they will take. Some things will only take 15 minutes. Some will take 2 hours…. I rarely estimate in less than a 15 minute increment, because in this way I make space for procrastination and unexpected stuff that will inevitably come in as well.
7. Schedule the week
Then I schedule out all the TODOs into my actual week. And God-willing there's enough space for it. If not, I have to do some last minute delegation, cancelling, culling, simplifying and panicking.
I also work on the basis of where my energy is at its highest, and adopt a schedule, where possible, that can trade off that. In my case, I'm a morning person, so wherever possible I will try to plan for early bed-times and stupidly early wake up times.
In this process, I need to actually figure out where the 'breather' places are. Even in mad crazy seasons you need to plan to stop and breathe and rest and walk in the sunlight. Can I carve out an even slightly slower morning? Or a half hour break one afternoon?
So there you go. Hope that's helpful? What's your system? Anything I've missed out? Help! Please! 🙂
By the way, this is also the kind of process you want to go through with staff who might work for you, who are starting to feel overwhelmed and want to drop things. Rather than simply complying with whatever things they say they must drop… instead this process helps work with them in a more systematic way that you can collaborate and guide a bit more.
Now I have to stop delaying that process by blogging about it… and start DOING it.