I’ve planned my day. I know what I need to work on today and I’ve scheduled my day to make sure I get it done. I’m on a roll! I am getting close to finishing this very important ministry project.
And that’s when it happens…
Someone comes into my office to talk about something important. I end up in a conversation that takes 45 minutes.
The phone rings. I answer it and find that there is a situation I need to respond to.
In the end, the important project that I needed to get done today does not get done. Why? It doesn’t get done because I am trying to respond to the needs of those that I serve.
Good or bad?
This is a trap that you and I get caught in all the time. I want to be responsive to the needs of those I serve, AND I have important tasks that need to get done to make sure that my ministry is running smoothly and effectively.
I find that these needs compete with each other. I respond to the needs of those I serve to the detriment of whatever project I’m working on. Or, I complete the project to the detriment of the relationships with those I serve.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
This tension always exists in leadership. To be an effective leader, I need to manage this tension in a way that allows me to be both effective and responsive.
- Don’t answer the phone. If you are working on an important task, it is okay to let the phone ring so that you can focus on the task. That is what voice mail is for. When you are done with the task, call the person back and respond to their needs. By the way, email doesn’t need to be immediately responded to either.
- Leave your door open. If you have an office, leave the door open most of the time. This lets people know that they can come talk to you at any time. When you need to be effective and efficient with the project you are working on, close the door. However, keep the door closing to a minimum. You’d be surprised how much a closed or open door communicates to those you minister to.
- Give yourself extra time for distractions. If you think a project is going to take you 45 minutes, give yourself 60 minutes to finish it. This will allow you a little breathing room for responding to peoples needs. If you end up not being distracted, you just found an extra 15 minutes in your day.
- Follow up with them later. When a person comes to me to chat about something important but not urgent, I ask if I can follow up with them a little later so I can finish whatever task I am doing. Usually, people are understanding. But make sure you actually follow up!
- Forget the task. There are times that relationships trump projects. If something major comes up with someone, then you need to drop the project completely and go minister to people. The project will still be there later. Meeting the pastoral needs of the community is sometimes more important than the task or project you are working on.
Question: How do you manage the tension between responding to the needs of people and effectively finishing your task or project?