Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Tag: time management

staying on top of things
Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Staying on top of things

A few years ago, I was planning for an upcoming “boot camp” for new field leaders. Our boot camps are two full days of training but hardly “a place or undertaking that resembles a military boot camp especially by requiring one to endure intensive training or initiation”.1 Merriam Webster definition #3 for “boot camp. But then maybe we should ask the participants, not the trainer! In preparation, I asked these new field leaders and their directors what topics they would want us to cover. I gave them a list of topics we had covered in previous years. Someone suggested “how to stay on top of things”, something not on my list. In subsequent years, participants have almost always selected this topic as something they want to address at boot camp.

The difficulty of staying on top of things

This suggestion initially surprised me, but it immediately made sense. New field leaders have a steep learning curve as they move from front-line ministry into more administrative roles in missions. One of the challenges in this transition is how to manage the myriad of expectations, tasks and messages that come with their new role. See my recent blog post on the paradoxes of leadership. But regardless of whether you find yourself in a new leadership role or not, we all struggle to “stay on top of things”. As mission workers, we all end up wearing multiple hats, filling many different roles because of a shortage of personnel.

In this blog post, I want to briefly summarize what we talk about in this hour and a half session at boot camp. These are the principles and tools that have been most helpful for me to “stay on top of things”. I recognize that you will need to adjust my system to fit your personality and work style.

Getting Things Done and Avoiding Death by E-mail

Getting Things Done by David Allen is a popular book on personal productivity, and I personally have benefited much from reading and applying the system and principles in this book.   We are in the process of packing up and moving to another apartment this week, so my organizational system is not particularly evident in my home office these days. Nevertheless, despite external evidence to the contrary, the system is working and has made preparing for this move significantly less worrisome. Although I have not followed Allen’s GTD system as thoroughly as I should have or could have, my life and work have become easier to manage and I am not nearly as stressed about the possibility that I may have forgotten an important assignment or meeting.    Believe it or not, my e-mail inbox is empty, and it gets to empty most days.

Others in SEND have also profited from studying and applying the GTD system.   In fact, we had planned on putting a training session on “Getting Things Done” into the last Directors’ Council, but we ran out of time (a little ironic, don’t you think?)

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