First, a disclaimer: I’m not sure I am a “creative” myself. Sure, I have moments of creativity, but I know folks with much more creativity than I’ll ever have.
But, for sure, my musician persona and pastoral responsibility requires me to maintain a few disciplines so that real work and ministry can happen. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
So, here they are – three things I try to do (not always successfully) to make sure progress is being made through my day.
- Reverse Calendar Engineering
This is more than making a “To Do” list, but it starts there. This is a list that has things arranged in priority, but not necessarily by importance. The priority is arranged like this: the first item is the most important thing I do not want to do that often requires the least amount of creativity. This ensures my first energy is spent on the assignment I would be the most likely to avoid because it doesn’t interest me. The item I’m most interested in and most excited about is at the end of the list making it the reward for finishing the rest.
I accomplish more if I knock out the assignments I’m dreading that require no creativity first and then press toward the ones I can’t wait to get started that will get my creative juices flowing.
- Visuals That Motivate
The most important feature of my workspace is not a desk or even a computer — it’s a white board with plenty of dry erase markers. Assignments, projects, and pending decisions are all arranged on the board so I see them all a hundred times a day.
Right now the screen saver on my computer is the preliminary cover art for a book I need to finish in the next three months. Every time I log on the book cover is staring at me, and I’m jolted back into the reality that I’ve got a book to write.
- Check Marks, Draw-Through lines, and the Eraser
To most creative people, our “next” idea is the best one and most urgent. Creative people are notorious for not completing tasks and quite often will move on to something new and different before completing the idea from last week that was going to save the world. Every football fan knows a 99-yard drive means nothing if you don’t put the ball in the end zone.
Finish the task. Put a check mark by it or a line through it. Or, if your last great idea is proving not to be worth it, get it off the board, and stop spending any time on it.
In 1 Chronicles 25:8 we find the musicians described as “trained and skillful.” Absolutely, we want to be skilled in our work. But, we also need to develop disciplines that train us to work well.
Don’t settle for the excuse, “I can’t help it. That’s just the way I am.” God can help all of us develop a few disciplines to use our skill for His glory in the places where we serve.
Ask the Lord to help you grow in this area of your life. It’s a prayer I have prayed many times.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.