3 tricks to multi-tasking for non-multi-taskers


I am not a multi-tasker, at least not naturally. I function much better when I give the lion’s share of my focus to one task until it is complete. As an associate though, I have little choice. There are always several balls in the air at the same time – worship, youth ministry, discipleship groups, pastoral care, counseling, mission trip, continuing education… Ironically, I can juggle literal balls, but struggle with the figurative ones.

I try to prioritize, but because I am not a multi-tasker, my energy sometimes flows toward the less urgent, then have trouble getting back to the pressing. At the end of the day, I sometimes find many tasks worked on, but none complete, or at least not to my liking. If I stay in that cycle, I can become overwhelmed by my to-do list, and frustrated with the quality of my work.

Here are three tricks I have learned over the years:

Keep notes: Relying on my memory takes energy. Trying to remember that thought about priority number seven while I was working on priority one, is distracting. Making a quick note allows me to relax, knowing the idea will still be there when the time is right. Then I can refocus on the task at hand.

I have three different ways of doing this.

  • EvernoteI use Evernote for lengthier notes – sermon ideas, book notes, meeting agenda items, song ideas, etc. Since I have it on my laptop, phone, and tablet, I always have those notes with me.
  • Reminders for Mac: I use Reminders for tasks with deadlines. I especially like that it can alert me based on time or location (like “Send that email when I get to the church”). Again, because I have it on all three devices, I find it very helpful.
  • Pen and pad on my desk: I have a smartphone, tablet, and laptop, but I also keep a pad on my desk. Sometimes I just need to jot down a book recommendation from someone who stops by my office, or something I need to do later today.

Schedule your week: Like me, your ministry has a variety of tasks. I have a band to rehearse, a youth curriculum to coordinate, committees to prepare for, worship responsibilities, visitations, and the like. When I try to do bits of all of those the same day, as a non-multi-tasker I am quickly overwhelmed. To overcome this, I have learned to set a priority of the day. For example, Mondays are a worship day – bulletins, getting ready for band rehearsal, and the like. Tuesdays are a youth day – I write the youth newsletter, begin my focus on the lesson for the week, and have staff meeting. Wednesdays are committee/administrative days, Thursdays are my day off, and Fridays I am back focused on worship – getting ready for Sunday.

I am not rigid about the focus of the day, leaving flexibility to address areas that do not fit that particular day. Sometimes urgent things happen. But when I get anxious about a youth lesson on a Monday, I know youth is tomorrow’s focus, allowing me to continue working on the bulletin today.

Stop doing it all: I have a confession – I don’t need to do all the things I do. There are items on my to-do list that do not require a seminary degree or a call to pastoral ministry to accomplish. Allow me to suggest something to you – give some jobs away. Heretical! I know. But hear me out. Not only does allowing others to help you lighten your load, but it strengthens your ministry as you develop skills in other people. Despite much evidence to the contrary your congregation wants to be involved in your ministry, and you have too much to do. Sounds like a win-win. Let them help you.

I’m still not a multi-tasker, but I have learned how to multi-task better using these three simple tricks.

Do you have others? What makes you a better multi-tasker?

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