By , Whitestown, Ind.
As a communications professional I am a strategist, a problem solver, a storyteller, an abstract thinker. All of these roles assume my ability to create. And, this creativity that God places in me adds a great deal of color to my work day. I'm also a type A personality. There's a rhythm of life within me that goes a bit faster than the average person. I want things yesterday, and when I set out to accomplish a goal I will go to extremes to meet it.
A couple of months ago I was asking God to help me be better at my work. I felt tired and on the edge of burn out. I wanted to “work smart" as I often hear professionals allude to. I had this idea that it was my fault I was feeling stuck. If I could just manage my time better or if I could just give more of myself to my work … then it would get better. I would try and try and still feel empty and tired. Why couldn't I figure it out? Then, one day it hit me like a ton of bricks. It's not about reshuffling my work day or doing more in a short amount of time. The key to productivity is nurturing and refreshing my creative energy, then infusing it into all that I put my hands to. I cannot authentically create when I'm stressed or under emotional pressure.
I've created three life lessons on how to work smart.
1. Reframe it
Often, the life of a church communications staff member looks different than that of other people who work in a church. We must learn to reframe our understanding of “work.” For example, Zach, one of our designers, may spend a day researching and wrestling through concepts in an effort to produce our next sermon series graphic. So maybe nothing was checked off his task list, but he still very much did his job for the day. In communications we interact with concepts and ideas as well as with people. Often times we are designing, managing and leading - not just doing. This is valuable work.
2. Know yourself
Self-awareness is crucial for a communications professional, especially one who works in a ministry setting. The concept of emotional intelligence is a fascinating one. Emotional intelligence is the art of managing the awareness of emotions and then using that awareness to motivate and move yourself and others into actions that will produce the best possible outcome.
Through an attempt to build my self-awareness, I’ve learned that I'm different. Not any better or worse than others, just different. I see things differently. If I'm late to an event, but I see a beautiful tree on the side of the road that would make the perfect picture, I'm going to stop and take the picture. The energy and inspiration I get from the beauty in that one photo may fuel my next project at work. It’s a cycle.
3. Care for yourself
Self-care isn’t just about sleeping and eating well. Self-care is about placing myself into environments where my creativity is fed and nurtured. The last church I worked at was down the street from Anthropologie (an amazingly creative clothing store). On my lunch hour I’d go wander around the store simply to appreciate the artistic displays and creative marketing. I’d feel so inspired when I returned from lunch. In an effort to immerse myself in the abstract beauty of nature or design I may go for a drive on a country road at lunch or to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in the evening. I also receive energy through networking with other church communications folks around the country. Knowing I’m a part of a greater community encourages me and brings life to me on difficult days. Having peers who I can text with questions or call to verbally process is invaluable for me. It’s different for everyone. Find ways to refresh your energy. Make it a part of your routine. You’ll be better for it.
Maybe you can relate to all or a part of what you’ve read so far. The truth is, my creativity and drive to produce actually work together to move projects and people forward. It works – until I encounter a strong emotion or difficult situation that stops me dead in my tracks. It may be a frustrating conversation, conflict with a ministry leader, or something as small as a rogue flyer in the lobby. Even on the best of weeks, there are issues that pile up in my heart and my mind and distract me from the vision and mission set before me. When this happens I can choose to allow myself to be distracted and discouraged or I can apply one of these recent lessons to better myself and approach the situation calmly.
These concerns pile up because I deeply care about the work that I do. Though I’m learning that if I’m not processing and handing my thoughts and emotions over to God, they can gnaw away at my soul and steal my joy, my passion, and eventually my ability to create. In an effort to keep from burn out, I am intentional about finding ways to increase my energy. This is how I work smart.
How about you? What keeps you energized? How do you work smart?
Books worth checking out
- Pursuing Christ. Creating Art.: Exploring Life at the Intersection of Faith and Creativity
by Gary A. Molander
- The Stress Effect: Why Smart Leaders Make Dumb Decisions – And What to Do About It
by Henry L. Thompson
- The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice
by Todd Henry
- Untitled: Thoughts on the Creative Process
by Blaine Hogan