25 Sep System Overhaul! (Part 2)
In Part 1 of this series, I talked about a faulty system that I had created with regard to my set-design process. In reality, I have “faulty systems” all over my life. Systems that I have unintentionally created over time. While these systems allow me to get things done, they are hardly efficient and they do not promote health and well-being.
Often when it comes to systems, we may not even know we have them or that we’ve created them until they start backfiring! Maybe you can relate? You have a way of getting things done, but it’s not without a price. For me, I have plenty of systems in place to complete my job and all that it encompasses. I manage to get things done and even produce decent results. But I am hardly efficient. I definitely work harder – not smarter. I don’t create environments for leaders to grow. I wreak havoc on my own personal schedule. And, my mental health and the health of my relationships almost always take a hit. The stress is real people! I gave specific examples of my faulty set-design process in Part 1 of this series, but basically, all of the broken systems of my life include the following characteristics:
- I do not plan ahead
- I procrastinate and work at the last minute
- I do not enlist volunteers in a timely fashion
- I own projects alone – not because I want to but because I’m not organized enough to get help ahead of time
- I have time management issues
- I cannot say no
My faulty systems all began to short-out this past summer. I reached a boiling point – or should I say boiling-over point. You know, like when you’re cooking something and it comes to a boil. That’s great because it’s supposed to get to that point – like the energy we feel when we are clicking on all cylinders but still have enough margin to do life well. But then it happens. We stop paying attention and the boil continues to rage on. It becomes too much. We forget to turn down the heat, and before we know it, we have a huge mess all over the stove. Yep – that was me. Huge mess everywhere.
I had moved from one large-scale event to the next throughout the months of May and June. While there was some end in sight come mid-July, I was in full-blown crazy mode running from one thing to the next, working incredibly long hours, and trying my best to not let anyone down or drop any balls. This went on for months, while both of my daughters were home from college. In the midst of one of my busiest seasons, I found myself trying not to miss anything at home and keep up with everything at work. I said no to no one and kept pushing.
Thankfully, my burnout or boiling-over point did not come in the form of a huge breakdown. I didn’t shut down or quit (although I wanted to at some points). I got through my crazy season of events and big projects, but by the time relief came in mid-July, I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and knew something was wrong. Here are some of the things I experienced during this season:
- Physical exhaustion
- Lack of joy
- Lack of motivation
- A desire for the projects to be over rather than enjoying my work
- A desire to stay home and not go to work (work that I usually love)
- Self-worth issues
- Some mild depression at times
- Heightened anxiety a lot of the time
- Sleepless nights – even though I was exhausted
- Feeling like I was disappointing everyone even though I was working so hard
- A lack of connection with God
Looking in the Mirror
As I reflected over all that I was feeling and experiencing physically and emotionally, I continued to realize something had to give. In private moments in my car or in my bed at night, I cried a lot and wondered what I was doing wrong. My thoughts went something like this…
- Is this what it takes to get my job done?
- How does anyone sustain this pace?
- How come it seems everyone else can do this and I feel like I’m just trying to keep my head above water?
- This cannot be the abundant life God has promised.
- I can’t imagine he would want this for me.
- I don’t think working for God is supposed to feel like this.
I wanted to be mad at someone. I was working so hard and it just didn’t seem fair. But as I stepped back, prayed, and asked God to show me what was going on – He revealed some very crucial things to me. I realized I really couldn’t blame anyone for these issues. No one made me work crazy hours. No one forced me to say yes to everything. No one asked me to sleep less and do more. These were all choices I made. These were all issues birthed from years of bad habits disguised as a “strong work ethic.”
My “strong work ethic” was something I was actually proud of and the results I was able to produce brought me great satisfaction, so the idea of these even being bad habits had never really crossed my mind. As such, I allowed those bad habits to create inefficient systems and I kept those systems running until they short-circuited this summer. No one’s fault but my own – I had gotten myself into this mess! This realization made things worse at first because I was so disappointed in myself for not being able to do it better, be more efficient, handle my workload, balance more, etc. But thankfully, God wouldn’t leave me there with all of my wires crossed. He knew what I needed!
Time for a Tune-Up!
As my busy season began to wind down, I decided to get honest before God and take some desperately needed time with Him, to really evaluate what was going on and how I could change some things. I sought the counsel of some wise advisors; my husband, my daughters, my director, a few close friends, and some trusty podcasts/articles created by ministry leaders who had experienced similar seasons (see Part 1 of this series for links). Their advice and some soul work with God, helped me see that so much of what I was experiencing could really point back to a few underlying issues I’ve carried around for most of my life. I have always been very performance driven. As I said in Part 1 of this series, I like to “ring the bell!” For me, this does not come from a desire to be #1 or have achievement plaques on my wall. I don’t need to win awards or get a ton of recognition. If anything, recognition can make me highly uncomfortable. For me, every bit of it comes from these three things:
- My great desire to please others
- Not wanting to let others down
- Not wanting to fail
These things have led me to a very performance-driven lifestyle. Unfortunately, a performance-driven lifestyle that is not in synch with God’s agenda for your days, leads to intense stress and often burn-out. I know – I was there this summer. But thankfully, God is helping me out of it. As I seek Him, He is helping me rewire some of my faulty systems. It’s been amazing! I am incredibly grateful for His care and guidance. For His love and attention to detail with me as I make changes to my schedule, my life, and the systems I have in place at work and at home.
One of the first systems to receive a tune-up was my set-design process. It has been incredibly helpful and has helped me get a handle on so much of my schedule. It has also been the “guinea pig” that is now helping me put similar things into place with regard to other systems in my life. Part 3 of this series will go into detail about the practical applications I’ve made in changing my set-design system. Look for that post in the coming days.
I realize this was quite a personal post. I wondered if I should even include it as I intentionally try to keep this blog practical and application oriented. But, as I structured this series, I couldn’t help but think that maybe there were some of you out there that are in a similar season and you might just need to hear you are not alone. If you are in that season, I hope you will reach out and ask for help. I hope some of what I’ve shared helps you begin to make some changes before you reach that point where you’re boiling over and will have a big clean up on your hands.
Wherever you are – whether in a season of margin and balance, or stress and possible burn-out, I pray that you would lean into our God. The one who gives us this great work to do in the first place. He is not just the giver of our ministries, He is the giver of life. Life that is supposed to breathe and have room for Him, for family, for relationships, and for the work He has entrusted to us. Let Him lead you, care for you, help you, and guide you, as you rewire any faulty systems you may have in your life.