Friday, January 11, 2013

Practice makes better

Over the past couple of years, I have struggled to put into place a non-too-structured, yet productive rhythm of work.  I float between an office space generously provided to me by our partner church, my makeshift home office, coffee shops and other public meeting places.   I love the flexibility and change in scenery, and have learned a lot about myself as I've moved around from place to place.  I've learned that I write sermons best from home, that I sometimes get distracted by eavesdropping on others' conversations (come on, we all do it...) and that I am much more creative and energetic when I am out and about in our neighborhood.

I know I'm not alone in dealing with the challenges of not working in a traditional work place.  No doubt, not having set hours, clear productivity expectations or a consistent work space can offer lots of freedom.  Within that freedom, I've experimented a lot to figure out what works best for me, knowing that there's no right or wrong way.  I've discovered that there are a few practices that have helped me develop a rhythm for doing the work I love to do, and I want to offer them to you...

Some of you know that I have just completed life coach training, and am loving practicing this new skill set.  I was first introduced to coaching by a friend who suggested it might be helpful to enlist a coach to help me navigate the challenges of church planting.  By asking me powerful questions, offering much needed affirmation and helping me develop realistic action plans, coaching has been a key part of my rhythm.  I now have monthly coaching phone conversations that last about 45 minutes, and I always leave the call with new insights and a plan to achieve my goals. Through these conversations that I have uncovered many of my fears, passions and hopes for the future.  I have also developed strategies to help me lead difficult conversations, make challenging decisions and implement self-care.  

Day of discernment
During a season of extreme (like most seasons) busyness, I realized that I was seriously missing much needed down time for reflection and renewal.  I was constantly reacting to what I thought others expected, and was feeling uneasy about my leadership.  Needing some clarity and space for reflection, my coach and I came up with a practice that has now become a critical part of each month.  One day a month, I get in my car and head for Lillie's Coffee Bar at Jax. Beach. I call it my "day of discernment" even though it really only lasts a few hours.  I spend a couple of hours journaling responses to a series of questions that force me to listen to what is stirring, challenging, exciting and draining me.  I reflect on how I'm balancing work and family, leading our community and nurturing my own spirituality.  Afterward, I walk across the street to at least get a glimpse of the ocean.  Some days, I'm able to go for a walk, another practice that helps me listen and center myself before returning to engage in work.  As difficult as it seems to set aside the time, I've found that getting away (even just 30 minutes) gives me a fresh perspective and helps me recognize what is difficult to see in the places I sit every day.

Connecting with others doing similar work
Each week, I schedule some time to explore websites, blogs and articles written by people doing similar work.  I also make time for an occasional visit with someone else starting a new business or trying to create something from scratch.  Hearing their stories, and being reminded that my anxieties are not uncommon can be a huge encouragement.  If I am not intentional about connecting with others doing similar work, I miss the opportunity to learn from their experiences and to be part of something bigger than just my little piece of the puzzle.

These are just a few ways I'm working out a rhythm in this new way of living and working.  I'm going to continue to experiment, to move and to change.

I'm curious...

What are you practicing that is giving more life to your work?

How are you making space to determine the best rhythm for your work/family/self-care responsibilities?

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