Good enough is just going to have to be good enough

14 10 2010

Today has been a bit of a reality check. But an intentional one. Not one of those unexpected occasions that brings you down to earth with a bump.

I spent a significant part of the day working on my project and diary planning for the next three weeks or so. It very quickly became apparent when I compared what I have to do with what time I have available, that I have taken too much on.

That hasn’t led to any desperate soul searching on my part. I am not about to offload any of it. There’s either no-one to give it to, or it’s too late to pull out or it’s an essential ongoing commitment. Or a combination of all of the above. Seriously, believe me. I’m not being a martyr.

No, reality was biting in a different way.

A week or two ago my colleague returned from a meeting with his work consultant. One of the things that had really stuck out for him from their conversation was the thought that one of the things that kills your effectiveness – in ministry, probably in any work – is perfectionism. Notice I said perfectionism – that’s the drive to make things perfect. That’s not the same thing at all as saying that what one does is perfect. In fact, perfectionism tends to leave one with the feeling that nothing one does is ever good enough.

But when I really worked out when I was going to do what I need to do; and tried to ensure that I was building in getting to bed before midnight on most nights instead of as a rare exception; and having a proper rest day at least once a week; and making sure that prayer is a priority, I realised that I was going to have to be strict with myself. The limited time I have allocated to the tasks I have, is all the time I have. I am just going to have to get better at working out how to do something in one hour that previously would have taken two or more.

Partly that is about just getting on with it and not faffing around the edges of a task. But also it’s going to mean it’s going to have to be the best it can be with an hour spent on it; not the best I can possibly make it, however long it takes. And do you know, I think faffing around has perversely to do with that same perfectionism. It’s because I’m labouring under a vision of whatever I’m working on that the actuality can never live up to. It’s fear of mediocrity that keeps me from actually just ploughing in and getting it done. Hence perhaps losing the way with Sunday mornings. Most likely because of being afraid of something being less than perfect. My near constant state of exhaustion from having to play catch up in the wrong sort of time (ie: when i should be playing/resting/sleeping) means mediocre is what I sometimes (often?) end up delivering – most of all in terms of the time and attention I give to those closest to me.

If I was a teacher, I’d probably want every lesson to be outstanding. But my suspicion is that any teacher who wants to actually have a life outside school will tell you that’s impossible. Good is good enough. It has to be. There’s a time and a place for excellence. But just like your battles, you have to pick your moments. Trying to make them all the very best will mean none of them can be.

Some of you out there are probably saying: ‘Well, duh!’ If so, well done for getting there before me. I’ve known this for… well probably forever. Will this be the time I finally nail it? It would be nice. But having failed to do so for the past 21 years of my working life, I am a little skeptical. But maybe this time…

Horror vacui

27 04 2010

The old idea that nature abhors a vacuum is false. Because there is no such thing as a true vacuum. Even the space between particles in an atom is not empty. It is teeming with the energy of possibility.

What’s all that got to do with all this? (This being my little bit of the Anglican mission in Portsmouth.) Not much. But I was reading about it last night when I should have been doing something else. And maybe it’s a helpful metaphor for the empty space that has characterised this blog for two or three weeks now. I took a break after Easter, but since coming back, I haven’t managed to sit down to write. But that’s not because my head is (any more) empty (than usual). It’s not a problem with coming up with things to write. The problem is knowing where to start. The empty space between my ears has been fizzing with possibility. I hope I can make the time to get it out there before the time moves on and it’s irrelevant.

I hope therefore you’ll bear with me and continue to watch this space. Because it’s not empty…

A kick up the proverbial

9 06 2009

Basically I have needed one. A kick that is.

I finally, after quite a lot of effort early in my appointment, have got a work consultant sorted. I saw him a couple of weeks ago and laid it on the line as far as what I though about my effectiveness as a worker is concerned. And I got the help I needed. He asked me the tough and direct questions I need to be asked but have shied away from asking myself. When I know what I need to do to turn around my effectiveness and achieve my goals – why aren’t I doing it?

I asked for a kick up the bum and I got one. And in a couple of weeks’ time, I’m seeing him again and he’ll ask me how I’ve been doing. This will be so helpful.

Getting stuck [in]

23 01 2009

Going to listen to Mike Frost was a bright start. It was inspiring and exciting.

But being a pioneer involves making stuff up. Going out and inventing things to do. Or rather, not things to do, so much as places to be. The wisdom of those further down the road is that you start by just making yourself present, regularly, reliably present and see who’ll you meet and what God will do.

Trouble is, when there are things to be done, as there so definitely are at St Luke’s – the other ‘half’ of my post in the city – it’s very easy to spend your time doing what needs to be done rather than on doing… well not much at all; other than hanging out around the place like a bad smell. Sorry that should be pleasing aroma.

So for the first few weeks, especially as my new colleague at St Luke’s had a new addition to his family, everything fell across my desk. I’d love to say that at least everything got sorted and I’m now free from all that and ready to go. Except it didn’t and I’m not.

Just getting ourselves orientated into a new congregation, new setting, new home and new relationships has taken up most of the time. I’ve also had to think seriously about my effectiveness and a persistent tendency to become distracted… oh look at that a new email about a book that looks interesting, what’s that’s author’s angle, let’s look up his biog on Google, he’s into complementarianism, what’s that? Wikipedia will tell me. Oh yuck! So the opposite view is egalitarianism, hmm, much more attractive, so who’s into that idea? interesting… oh sorry, where was I, oh yes: distracted and disorganised.

I’ve always been wary of self-help management books but reading Getting Things Done by David Allen and implementing some of its suggested strategies is beginning to make a difference. I know other, seemingly chaotic, people who appear to make things happen, but I wonder now whether personal organisation shouldn’t be a major plank of clergy training…

I got a bit stuck in another way too. The task just seemed (and still does) so big. The opportunities, needs and challenges are so multifarious as to make it paralysing. Where do I start? I still don’t know. I do know now that I just have to start somewhere. I have to make some choices before my licence to pioneer either expires or is revoked…