How to Prioritize Your To-Do List as a Church Admin
As a church admin, It can be difficult to prioritize tasks when everything feels like the most important, asks come out of nowhere, and your inbox and co-workers won’t quit interrupting. How do you stop letting your to-do list run your life and use it, instead, to set you up for success in the moment and for tomorrow?
There are many productivity techniques and different methods that work for different people. However, the best place to start for anyone struggling with a paralyzing to-do list is to:
1. Make a master list of all your tasks.
It’s almost impossible to effectively prioritize your tasks if they’re floating ambiguous around in your head. Get out a pen and paper, or if you prefer, a crisp google doc, and list out every thing you can think of on your plate. Don’t worry about ordering right now, treat this step as a brain dump.
Now that you have all of the to-do’s nagging at you out of your head on a page, it’s time to:
2. Determine each task’s priority with the Eisenhower Matrix.
While the priority of some tasks might be apparent, this can often feel overwhelming; often, everything feels like a priority. I recommended trying an Eisenhower Matrix to determine which or your tasks are:
– Urgent and important.
– Important, but not urgent.
– Urgent, but not important.
– Neither urgent nor important.
And how do you determine urgency and importance? Simply put, urgent items are things that demand your immediate attention like emails, phone calls, or an EOD deadline. Important items are things that contribute to your long term mission, values, and goals.
Once you’ve sorted your tasks in their respective categories, you’ll have prioritized which tasks demand your attention now and which can wait for later or be delegated or deleted altogether:
– Urgent and important. –> Complete these tasks today.
– Important, but not urgent. –> Schedule when to complete these tasks.
– Urgent, but not important. –> Delegate these items to someone else.
– Neither urgent nor important. –> Remove these tasks from your schedule.
The tasks you label as both urgent and important become your to-do list for the day.
3. Rank your daily tasks in order of importance.
Your list of urgent and important tasks might still contain multiple, intimidating items. It can help to further break down this list in order of importance to help you determine how to knock everything out.
To determine the urgency and importance of each item on your to-do list, you can consider:
– When is this task due?
– Are other items dependent upon this task?
– Is this task dependent on another item? If so, you can defer this item for now.
– How much time does this task take to complete?
– How much dread does this item give you?
– Does this task require deep focus or shallow focus?
Try to avoid assigning yourself more than six tasks to accomplish in one day, though fewer is fine too.
Once you determine your number one task for the day, don’t do anything else until that task is complete. Here, multitasking is not your friend. Eliminate distractions including email and Slack. Once your most important task is complete, you know that, even if you don’t get anything else done for the day, you’ve done the one that matters most and have had a productive day. However, chances are, once you’ve completed your most important task, you’ll have the confidence and momentum to continue completing your daily to-do list.
4. Managing your time with scheduling strategies.
Even after prioritizing tasks, many of us still struggle with managing our time well. Especially if a certain to-do is challenging for something we’re dreading to do, it can be difficult to get started and get in the flow.
Two of my favorite strategies for scheduling my time are Time Chunking and the Pomodoro Method. First, chunk your daily to-dos and, in order of importance, block out time on your calendar to focus on that task and that task alone. Then, using the Pomodoro Method, set a timer, or use an app like Forest, to block off a certain amount of time to work undistracted. I find Forest helpful because it blocks you from visiting distracting sites while you zero in on your one task.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, feel free to choose a smaller chunk of time like 15-25 minutes. If you’re ready to roll, go for 50 minutes. Work until your timer goes off then stretch, refill your water, and determine if you’re ready to get started on your next task or continue where you left off. Sometimes, you might find yourself working beyond your timer because you’ve found your groove!
Time Chunking and the Pomodoro Method work on a mental level because it is less overwhelming to “work for 25 minutes” than to “complete [daunting task] ASAP”. These strategies also help you understand how long certain tasks take you so you can set more realistic schedules and work goals for yourself going forward.
Other helpful tips.
Don’t forget to schedule yourself some margin between each chunk of working time. Letting our minds rest allows us to be more productive and avoid burnout when we are working.
Treat emails and messages as their own task.
Constantly checking email or responding to messages during your working periods will derail your focus and clip your progress. Very few people actually multitask well. Silence your notifications, or, better yet, close your tabs and apps altogether to give your focus to your priority at hand. Schedule in time to address emails during the day and, when you’re doing so, give it your full attention just like everything else.
Communicate boundaries with coworkers.
If you have coworkers who are always interrupting you to chat or lobbing unexpected requests your way, share your new methods for working. Request that they approach you at times you know you’ll be available, like scheduled down time, for instance.
The best made plans are not infallible. Sometimes you’ll start a task only for something more urgent and important to be thrust upon your plate. Or, you’ll start a task and realize you don’t have all the information you need to complete it. It’s ok to shift gears if you need to.
Figuring out what prioritizing and time management strategies works for you can take some trial and error. You might discover that some methods work well for some days or certain tasks, and not others. Give yourself permission to experiment and find what works for you. And, just like anything else, abiding to these strategies will take some getting used to. There’s a level of discipline that goes into prioritizing tasks and protecting your work time. With practice and patience, your productivity muscles will grow and the friction of starting will become less and less. Thank you for the way you are helping your church operate and serve your congregation. Your organization is helping your church to touch more lives and with more impact.
About the Author
Emma Tarp is a writer and worship leader based in Minneapolis, MN. On her best days, she's highlighter-deep in a good book or teaching herself to sew. On her other best days, she's helping passionate folks and inspired businesses put words to their work. Find out more at emmatarp.com.