Sunday, March 12, 2006

Ministry and the Knowledge Worker

When I felt God direct me to pursue full-time service I never would have believed I my day-to-day life would have much in common with today’s knowledge worker.  I imagined I’d be off in the jungle or city, visiting with people, or preaching and teaching all day.  So go youthful fantasies.  In fact, I’ve found the reality of my life quite different.  In any given day I might be coordinating the schedule of a visiting “short-term team,” working on a grant proposal worth tens of thousands of dollars, preparing lessons and sermons, thinking through up-coming team meetings and having coffee with villagers so poor they can’t afford aspirin.

            Keeping the first things first in my life is a constant challenge, and one I frequently feel I fail at.  I’ve also learned that, in addition to the lessons learned in seminary on “classic ministry,” I have a lot to learn from today’s knowledge workers as well. posted an article by Ellen McGirt outlining the realities of the "modern era of work."  The article is pretty long, but worth the read.  At the end Ellen suggests these “five paths to sanity.”

1. Keep your meetings rare. Surveys show that most people find meetings a major time waster. Use them sparingly, keep to an agenda, start and end on time. And unless someone is expecting a baby, or using technology is a key part of the meeting, turn off all cellphones and BlackBerries. No passing digital notes.

2. Show your technology who's boss. Most of today's devices and software actually can be set to be less intrusive. You just need to learn how: Switch off the ping that heralds the arrival of an e-mail, create folders into which incoming messages are automatically shunted. When busy, let outgoing messages alert others to when they might reasonably expect to hear back from you.

3. Give yourself a time-out. Devote an hour to uninterrupted thinking and planning every day. First thing in the morning is safest, but anytime is good. No calls, no e-mail, no chitchat. "If there's an emergency, someone will come get you," says organization expert Julie Morgenstern. "Use this time to think strategically about your work."

4. Say no. "Sorry" isn't the hardest word--"no" is. But not saying it to desperate colleagues or harried bosses is the quickest way to overload your schedule and muck up more important goals. Focus first on meeting your stated objectives. Also, consider family and personal time when filling your calendar: Work-centric employees are more likely to report feeling overloaded than those who plan for their personal lives.

5. Delete. Surveys show we waste 20% of our day on nonproductive activities. Cut out or dele- gate anything on your to-do list that doesn't have long-term consequences for your work. Be ruthless. And while you're at it, don't let a stuffed e-mail in-box sap your will to live. When reviewing each e-mail, make an on-the-spot call to delete, file, or reply to each one--even if the response is, "I'll get back to you on this later."


Via Jason Womack


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