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Being All Things to All People

Being all things to all people to possibly win some for heaven is a biblically-based attitude to desperately proclaim the Word — but a lousy way to help us feel productive.

A hidden blessing from this worldwide pandemic is that it has forced many people to slow down and re-calibrate their lives. Organizations are being reflective and asking themselves hard questions. Individuals are pondering what really matters in life and why they are not doing it.

At the end of the day, it is not if we are being productive to reach our goals but feeling if we are accomplishing anything that matters.

This is becoming an important distinction.

It’s not about going on a productivity diet and focusing our attention on activities that we enjoy but understanding how much we can put on our plate to stay mentally, emotionally, and fiscally healthy.

Perhaps we could apply our mother’s age-old wisdom so that we can start feeling productive.

Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs.

As a child, we would heap our plates with our favorite food. When we push away our half-empty plate and declare that we are too full to finish, our mothers would properly admonish us and saying, “Your eyes were bigger than your stomach.”

Perhaps those who serve in the gospel ministry can do the same thing.

By nature of the calling, our plate gets overloaded. Tasks are often left uncompleted or they seem impossible to even start. Tired and stressed out at the end of the day, we tend to feel remorseful about all the things that were left on our plate rather than rejoicing over what was consumed.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

It is possible to be “all things to all people” to advance God’s kingdom while still carving out time to accomplish things that need to get done.

According to experts, small adjustments can be made to make us feel more productive rather running at break-neck speed to be productive. Because when we feel productive at the end of the day, we tend to be productive the following day.

This shift in our thinking affects our emotions and attitudes. Instead of feeling deflated and hopeless at the end of the day, it is possible to feel celebrative for what has been done.

Here are three adjustments that can help:

Relentless Priortization

One way that we tend to self-sabotage our efforts is by thoughtlessly adding to our plate unimportant tasks that have an illusion of being urgent. Once you have settled upon tasks that matter to you, separate activities that need to get done that require great effort rather than tasks that you enjoy doing that require less effort. Tasks that matter are often the most difficult to accomplish.

This doesn’t mean that you have to spend all day doing everything that you need to do instead of what you like to do. It means that you can carve out 60-90 minutes a day focusing on activities that matter. It’s amazing how a seemingly small investment of time can have a significant impact on our attitude. We start to feel more productive.

Recalibrate Expectations

When our expectations are way off-line, our natural tendency is to do things that make us look busy rather than doing important tasks that takes a high degree of effort.

A psychology professor has created a system that focuses on “minimum effective dosage”. In other words, when we set the bar low on what we expect or hope to get done, we will not get demoralized when we don’t cross off items from our huge to-do list.

It’s helpful to check off that one “highest skilled” activity during that carved out optimal work time.  Throw in a fun, low-skill activity, and you can celebrate a productive day before lunchtime.  This enables you to successfully navigate emergencies or interruptions without feeling guilty.

Reality Checks

Serving in a gospel ministry means there will always be too much to do. You will always be overwhelmed with two hundred things that you could or ought to be doing.

“The upside is that you needn’t berate yourself for failing to do it all, since doing it all is structurally impossible. The only viable solution is to make a shift; from a life spent trying not to neglect anything, to one spent proactively and consciously choosing what to neglect, in favor of what matters most.”

Oliver Burkeman

Here are four reality checks that help keep me feeling like my plate is clean at the end of the day:

Celebrate the small victories and keep record of them.

They can be minor stepping-stones or major accomplishments. They can be complimentary remarks or affirming emails. Stop and record them. Too often, we tend to brush off the positive and move on to the next task without taking time to celebrate.

Be kind to yourself.

Stop beating yourself up. Just stop it and remember who you are in Christ. We don’t need to record our failures or negative slights or comments because its already cemented into our memory and recalled on a regular basis. Let’s stop doing that and start being more kind to ourselves.

Humbly ask people to fill in our gaps.

We allow our plates to be full by the self-inflicted or perceived pressure of having to be good at everything or think that we are the best-qualified to perform every task. Humbly admit our gaps to others and ask people to help fill them.

Confess that we have a twisted definition of success.

Our human nature is heavily influenced by culture. Envy, rivalry, and selfish ambition has been affecting ministers of the gospel since the time of the early church. The selfish pursuit of success can keep our plates full with activity and never feel satisfied. Let’s confess our sins and recalibrate our motivation so every activity can be a gospel-inspired response to what Christ has already done for us.

Conclusion

The Apostle Paul had adventurous days. He was willing to be all things to all people so that he may possibly win some for Christ (1 Cor. 9:23). With a few adjustments, the burden of having eyes bigger than our stomachs can be lessened and the joy of feeling productive can increase. Like Paul, incorporating activities that revolve around winning some for Christ through his Word is not only the most meaningful activity, but makes us feel far more productive.

Thoughts for this post are taken from “The Elusive Pursuit of Getting it (all) Done” by Khe Hy. This is one of my favorite blogs on productivity.

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