Prioritization tips when it feels like there is SO MUCH to do!

Life on church staff can sometimes (all the time?) be SO BUSY. Just when you come up for air after prepping for this year’s Easter service, you know that summer camps and VBS will be quickly approaching… all while the ever-present need of getting volunteers for the upcoming weekend never stops. How do you juggle everything that’s needed of you and stay sane in the process?

While I don’t work for a church, life in Product Management can sometimes feel the same way. I sometimes find myself in a situation where some customers are asking for new features A and B (while other churches might declare the product nearly unusable if they were added), upcoming regulation changes require changes C and D, executives are interested in features C and D, and I personally would loooove to work on features E and F. Oh, and defects G and H showed up again – I thought we fixed those a couple months ago! Which of these should we tackle next?!

First, let’s stop to take a deep breath and remember Proverbs 3:6: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (NASB). Praise God for his sovereignty!

Okay, back to now (peacefully) tackling the most valuable things on your To Do list. On the F1 Product team, we use the below 4 steps when prioritizing our product roadmap, and I figured this could be usable for anyone who finds themselves with more than one thing to do (I’m guessing that’s you!).

  1. Define your goal
  2. Identify what’s most valuable
  3. Work the plan
  4. Stay flexible

Define Your Goal

It’s easy to get lost in a myriad of things to do and forget about your primary goal. Or even find yourself with 5 overflowing To Do lists and realize you never identified your goal in the first place. In this season of the FellowshipOne Product Team’s life, our goal is to increasingly meet the Church’s needs and better enable our users’ unique, God-given missions through our software. Your church (or ministry, or team) may already have a mission and/or vision you operate under, but if not, cook one up yourself that you can come back to when you need to take a step back and remember where you’re going.

Identify What’s Most Valuable

Once you know where you’re trying to accomplish, you can then make a framework to help determine the order in which you knock things out. Ideally you should try to focus on the items that make the biggest positive difference given the time and resources you have, and try to minimize the time and effort you spend on tasks that have little impact. In the Product world, a key tool we use to help with this is plotting potential features out on a grid that maps importance versus satisfaction. We ask our users to rank potential features against each other in order of how important they are for their ministry (like maintaining people records, volunteer management, and communications), and then ask them to map how FellowshipOne is does in meeting their churches needs in those areas. We then arrive at a bunch of points on a chart that help us see the areas that are important to churches, but have low satisfaction in how we meet those needs. Those are our greatest areas of opportunity!

In the office of a church, this type of exercise could take many forms. Maybe you want to figure out what assimilation strategies seem to be most affective, so you ask relatively new congregants to rank certain newcomer activities or events, methods of receiving information, or touch points with church staff or volunteers… all to help arrive at how helpful each of those strategies are in your ultimate goal of welcoming someone into your church body and further discipling them in their walk with Christ. On the other hand, perhaps you’d like some outside perspective on the effectiveness of your Children Ministry activities, so you poll parents in your congregation to rank which activities seem to be making the biggest positive difference in their children’s lives.

That said, we also know it’s not as easy as just taking the results of one poll and then you’ll arrive at a nice, clear path forward. In the Product world, we also look to enhancement requests from our users (shameless plug to send your enhancement requests to!), reasons why prospective customers choose other Church Management Software providers, reasons why current customers choose other Church Management Software providers, strategic initiatives for the business as a whole, and regulation changes. All of these play important parts in arriving at what we work on next, and it’s important for you to consider the various stakeholders in your church or ministry too. For example, assess what seems to be making the biggest difference to people in the neighborhood around your church or to new visitors to your ministry, look at how people already in your ministry are being discipled most effectively, identify the areas where people might fade into the background and fall out of your church. Viewing all these factors through the lens of your primary goal (with much prayer along the way!) can help you arrive at which of your tasks are going to bring the biggest positive impact to your church or ministry.

Work the Plan

Now that you have your To Do list, and it appears to be in order of value, it’s time to get to work! In today’s world of constant notifications, texts, emails, instant messages, and phone calls; it’s easier than ever to be distracted from what you’re trying to do. When I find myself venturing from what I originally set out to do or after I check off an item on my list and need to choose what to work on next, I remind myself to go back to my list, trust it, and get to work on the next highest item. I know I’ll be tempted to put off the things that I feel are unclear or that I’m not totally confident in my own skills to tackle, but I put those feelings aside and get to work!

Stay Flexible

Have you ever heard the saying, “The only thing constant here is change?” I find that to be so true in a lot of aspects of life. When the needs around you change, a slew of new projects get added to your list, or a project you’re passionate about gets postponed or cancelled; it’s important to remember that change is natural, change is okay, and God gives us the mental and emotional power to absorb the change and move forward. Having a clear To Do list is really helpful, and knocking out tasks and seeing the fruit of your labor can be very rewarding; but it’s equally as important to acknowledge that change will inevitably come. In those moments, just go back to where we started with Proverbs 3:6: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Seek the Lord, and he will provide your path. It’s as simple as that 😊 What a good God we have!