Are you Committed or Overcommitted?
When we begin a new job there is the danger of a panic reaction. Always there is a period when there is much to do and learn. Allowance is made for a settling in period. But at some undefined point the dynamics change, the honeymoon is over. We are expected to deliver. By nature leaders are committed to the organisations they serve. Christian leaders have the additional component of faith. This can make them more susceptible than most to fall into the trap of over commitment, with the consequent problem of excessive anxiety and stress.
Paradoxically, leadership often means less rather than more free time. Leadership has the possibility of providing greater opportunities to organise work and family life more effectively. However higher visibility often means giving into greater demands, which eat into personal time for rest, relaxation and family responsibilities.
Control of our life demands discipline, the ability to recognise the distinction between quality and quantity of work.
Knowing how to organise time for a fulfilling not a fruitless life.
On accepting a new assignment most people are usually full of enthusiasm, ideas and energy. They throw themselves into the job. The more successful and effective the leader becomes, the higher their visibility. In turn this leads to more requests and assignments.
A certain amount of tension is positive. Like elastic we need to be stretched to be effective. However, as work builds up there is the danger that commitment slides into over commitment. Some of the more common warning signs are: Spouses regularly commenting: “He/she is never home”, “When was the last time you ...?” “You never have time for ...”. Regularly recurring personal ethical dilemmas such as: “Do I attend this or keep my promise to do ... with my family?” Recurring headaches, tension, tiredness, inability to sleep, all are possible indicators that you are over committed.
At this point, or preferably before, a leader needs to be intentional and make responsible choices, which will enhance her performance and make him more effective. There are a few practical steps which will help in the choice process.
First, what is the job? Take out the job description, look at it carefully. What are the key tasks? Is that your primary focus? Are there grey areas? It could be there is no job description. If not write one and obtain agreement on it. Clearly defined areas of responsibility are the keys which can enable you to creatively and successfully manage your workload.
We may fill our time with interesting, important and essential tasks, but if they are not part of our job description, we should not be doing them. At the end of the day we will not be judged on how well we did someone else’s work, but what we did our own.
Make a simple list of what needs to be done: not only the major tasks. All assignments should be included. This provides a complete overview and eliminates the distraction of that undone task nudging at the edges of your memory. Include commitments outside the office. We do not live one dimensional lives. Work and life
outside the office impact each other. Remember this list is for your eyes only.
Once the list is complete break the larger tasks into their component pieces. Now prioritise by using a simple A (very important) to F (unimportant) scale. If a number of tasks have the same priority, reprioritise within that category, ie A1, A2, etc.
Two main factors should influence the categorisation: urgency, and
importance. However we should also reflect and factor in:
- Spiritual commitments
- Personal commitments
- Family commitments
- Church commitments – even when we are employed by the church, we still have contributions to the local life of the church to make outside of our work.
If in doubt, look at the job description. If it is important but not central to your job description, should you be doing it?
If commitment has already transitioned to over commitment ask the
- Is it possible to delegate some responsibility?
- Is it possible to negotiate another deadline?
- Is it possible to postpone?
- What would happen if this [task] was abandoned? Would anyone be
hurt? What goals might be missed?
If you know that you cannot deliver on time, alert others as early as possible. Forewarned in these circumstances is half way to disarming.
Having broken down tasks into their component pieces and deadlines, plan how to achieve the required result, particularly if it involves other people. Looking at the required resources for each task will facilitate realistic and reasonable delivery targets.
At this stage look at your commitments outside the office. How do they tie in with your work plans? Have you accepted an appointment which coincides with a birthday or family event? Clashes are inevitable, how they are managed and how we respond, determines whether they are negative, sapping our energy or positive
When you have finished ask yourself: What has been forgotten? Always plan in some spare time. There are always tasks which take longer, and occasionally something takes less time, providing a bonus!
Work in progress
My grandfather always used to say “The only reason why Rome wasn’t built in a day was because I wasn’t the foreman”. Him aside, we are all works in progress. Finding the right balance is not a one-off task, but an ongoing challenge.
Taking time to reflect and refocus on a regular basis will help guard against over commitment or focusing on the wrong things, making us more effective leaders and servants in the Lord’s vineyard. It is a truism. If you enjoy what you are doing it is not work but pleasure.
by Audrey Andersson, Trans-European Division Executive Secretary