Most of us have a psychic RAM that tries to remind us of the various things we have to do. In my former life I was a memory giant. I knew what I was supposed to do at what time, what projects I was working on, and what strategies needed to be implemented. It was all more-or-less in my head. As kids entered the picture and my ministry grew in scope my ability to keep it all in my head eroded. I found myself forgetting to make certain appointments or that the kids had a softball game.
Ministry introduces many things into our lives unexpectedly and if we don’t have a system of life that can allow for that, we’ll end up doing one of two things: performing poorly when unplanned events happen or allowing those things to occupy our thoughts because we need a place-holder. This is one reason why ministers have so perfected the art of being absent even while being present.
“You can’t fool your mind. It’s an expert on your current personal management system, and it knows whether you can be trusted to look at what you need to at the appropriate time. It knows if you’ve decided what the next action should be. And it knows if there is a reminder of that action placed somewhere you will actually look, when you could possibly take that action. If you have not done any of that, your mind won’t let it go. It can’t. It will endlessly keep trying to remind you of what to remember. The mind is a loyal and dedicated servant, but it needs to be given the jobs it does well–not the ones that it mismanages.”
– David Allen (from Ready for Anything)
If you don’t have a trusted system for capturing ideas, tasks and wish lists, you will attempt to keep it in your head. You will either forget potentially ministry-altering ideas, act irresponsibly and forgetfully, or live in a constant state of distraction. The frosting on the cake is when you find yourself resenting new ideas or opportunities because subliminally, you don’t want to have to remember all the data that goes with it.
Get a trusted system. I use David Allen’s Getting Things Done, with Evernote and Nozbe as tools. Use whatever works for you. But, get the stuff of ministry into a place more reliable than your head. It will make you a more energetic and reliable minister.
No more mental congestion wrought by tasks, ideas, and “ought-tos.” Free up that RAM. Give yourself the time and space to devote your head to things more important than your tasks and projects. You’ll accomplish your tasks more effectively. More importantly, you’ll do life more abundantly.
What works for you? Are you a “keep it in your head” person or a “system” person? How come?