I have had a number of conversations lately with coachees who feel overwhelmed by their workloads. Some have even expressed shame that they can’t seem to get their arms around all they need – or at least think they need – to do.
Here are my responses to that:
You are not alone. Not by a long shot. Most ministers are generalists, which makes your work big and amorphous.
If you feel overwhelmed, it’s because you care. You love your calling and your people. That’s a good thing!
It is ok to reclaim your time. There are some things that only you can do or that you are specifically called to do. You are allowed to prioritize those tasks.
There are strategies that can help you toward that end. Some of the following suggestions will work better than others for you based on your work style and personality type, but you might consider:
Developing a work flow. Think about tasks that recur weekly or monthly and schedule standing blocks of time for them. These don’t have to be big chunks, but blocking time creates touchstones that reduce anxiety and the number of decisions you have to make in a day.
Postponing and/or limiting time spent on email. If you open your email as soon as you sit down at your desk, you have ceded control of your day to whatever awaits you in those messages. Get some of your important tasks done before you check your inbox. A related strategy is to dg into email only at a couple of designated times each day. (Rest assured that real emergencies will get through to you by other means.)
Thinking in longer arcs. Take time at the beginning of each month or season to set goals, plan sermon trajectories, or create outlines for Bible studies. That will offer continuity to your work and make sure your best ideas don’t get shelved.
Breaking big projects into smaller tasks. Projects on the whole can feel too overwhelming to start, but they are made up of mini projects and shorter deadlines that are much more manageable.
Working somewhere else when needed. It’s ok to set up shop from time to time somewhere that you won’t be interrupted every five minutes. Let your admin or lay leaders know where you are for accountability and how your deep work during these windows benefits the church.
Getting curious. Ask yourself questions such as, “Why am I doing this?” or “Who could do this better or with more enthusiasm than me?”
Empowering others. Ministry is about equipping people to follow Jesus. What opportunities to use God-given strengths and to share the love of Christ can others take on and free you up for other responsibilities in the process?
Loving the people in your care is not the same as responding to their every expectation, real or imagined. I encourage you to be proactive about your use of time and to notice how your ministry and your stress level change as a result.