Youth ministers have a lot of information to process and organize. It is imperative that a youth minister, or any leader for that matter, process and organize information efficiently so they can communicate to their followers proactively, with clarity and vision. Here are a few tips for processing and organizing the information flood.
- Social Media. This source of information, a must for youth ministers to gather, comes at us twenty-four hours a day and has the potential to capture much of our productive time. A few simple tricks. Turn off notifications (you decide when you are online). Limit the time you are online (it is easy to fall into the habit of habitually checking your status). Resist the urge to post everything you read, think or experience (when you post, you spend too much time responding). As much as possible, direct social media “business” messages to your email (this reduces the place you gather and organize information to one).
- Emails and Texts. Unless, you are purposeful, you will probably keep both of these information avenues open during the work day. Again, when appropriate, turn off the notifications. With emails, choose specific times of your day when you open and respond to your correspondence. Use the filing system in your email program (this keeps the inbox clear). If not careful, it is possible to have your day consumed by emails and texts so that no items on your daily to do list is completed. Oh, this goes without saying, the world will not end if you do not look at your emails after business hours. They will all still be waiting in your in box in the morning.
- Information Reduction. Three words to remember are throw away, delete and file.
Frequently go through your piles and files (paper and electronic) and throw away the clutter items you have not or never will use. Go through your phone voicemails, notes, text messages and emails and delete items that are no longer needed. As you go through the reduction process, file (paper and electronic) information you feel warrants keeping.
- Information Download. This strategy works well when you feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, working on a big project or you just do not know where to start. Gather all your physical and electronic lists, reminders, notes and any other to do sources and write them all down on one piece of paper (notebook, notepad, booklet). The key is to physically write the information. After you have exhausted all that you have to do and is on your mind, trust me on this, you will begin to see categories in which the information can be managed and arranged for work. The same type of process can be used for big projects (curriculum, mission trip, camp, retreat) using a whiteboard. Again, write all the ideas you have for the project on a whiteboard. Be creative and use various colors, pictures, diagrams and arrows to work and rework the project until you have a workable beginning. Then walk away for a bit (If you cannot guarantee the information will not be erased, take a picture of the board). When you are ready with fresh eyes and thought, go back to the board and rework the project until you have a more refined product. At some point, you will feel like the product on the board is ready to be committed to paper.
The information flood rarely subsides in Youth Ministry. Learning to process and organize information successfully will keep your head above water and help you communicate needed information successfully.