Year 1 of IV Staff: Learning to Work

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of being on staff with InterVarsity, and especially so as part of Ministry in Digital Spaces. My favorite part has been learning to manage myself. Though I have a direct supervisor and meetings at least once a week, working remotely means that direct communication is at least a layer of mediation away, which means that the effort it takes to reply to a message is much higher than a face-to-face comment.

As a result, I dedicate an hour of my work week to thinking about my own productivity and workflow – “Productivity Hour.” I take from a couple of sources: Trello and Evernote’s blogs have articles on working remotely, managing projects, and how to do work. I’ve curated my Pocket feed to send me articles on productivity, and leadership. Sometimes I read some books – this month I’ve been digging into Visioneering and Influencer. I record my notes in a section of a Google Doc I use for my Weekly Reflection (another hour slot at the end of the week), along with some other recurring questions I ask myself each week.

This week, I found an article that explains a lot of what I’d been intuitively struggling with as I’ve been learning to work. The article talks about context switching – naming the different kinds of work you do, and learning their effects on your emotional state:

“The first step of Chilling The F Out for me has been identifying what triggers send me into a stress spiral in the first place… I’ve realized that it’s no one specific aspect of my job, but rather the constant context switching between all of them.”

Thankfully, one of the benefits of vocational ministry is having a high emotional awareness – since the “work” is all relational, the ability to students name and work through their emotions makes a huge difference in seeing spiritual/personal growth. Removing emotional barriers matters in ministry – both for my students, and for myself. So, while this article wasn’t new information, it was normalizing: I’m not crazy and it’s not just me going through a large range of emotions during the week.

Here’s how Context Switching plays out for me: according to my job description I have three core functions, requiring me to think through three layers of structure and within four relational contexts. So, for any task I can choose to do, I have to weigh it across these axes and prioritize accordingly:

Core Functions – naming what I do.

  • Visionary Guide (how does being in digital spaces change how we do ministry?)
  • Missional Developer (how do we train/coach/teach/enable students to build meaningful relationships, share the gospel, and have a heart for the world?)
  • Bridge Builder (how do we connect IV chapters, staff, students with resources and to each other, both online and offline?)

Structural Level – is a task worthy of my time?

  • Organizational/National (how does this work/task/project fall in line with the vision of InterVarsity?)
  • Departmental (is this task best suited for MDS Staff, in that it lines up with our Core Values, or should I look to partner with someone else in the movement?)
  • Local (what is the best way to execute this task: who do I bring in, where do we go, and what’s the best way to share why?)

Relational Contexts – who do I work with? What are the unique challenges?

  • Alumni/Students – The bread and butter and the reason why I am working: these are the world changers I’m developing! How do I build individual relationships and give the best possible training and development?
  • Ministry Partners – This group makes the entire ministry possible! How do I share the amazing things happening and the needs of the ministry regularly and respectfully?
  • Staff & Church Leaders – My colleagues, who I want to collaborate, celebrate, and build community with. How do I spend time with them – especially working remotely from most of my team.
  • Myself – A lot of strategic and visionary thinking happens when I’m alone and in the zone (I’ll have a post on Deep Work soon!). How do I schedule and enter into these times?

So, my experience of IV staff is a complicated web of managing relationships, maximizing each interaction, and bringing together multiple layers of Why, How, and Who. My supervisor described my role as a lynchpin: identifying different threads, connecting them together, and pinning them down into something tangible.

The solution in the article was a schedule reorganization: assigning different days for each context based on the emotions they evoke. I’ll need to figure out a similar way of reorganizing my schedule that fits for my personality (or, doing it by day won’t work for me and my emotions). I have to name each task I end up doing during the week, note what emotions that task produces and what emotions it would take to maximize the capacity for that task, and arrange my weekly tasks so that my workflow is the most emotionally efficient.

So in sum, this year I’ve been blessed that learning to work is part of my work – and rightfully so. The why behind what I do is rooted in a concern for people, and the how I execute my work is relational by nature. As such, it’s important to be aware of emotional efficiency: acknowledging capacity and anticipating how my emotions (de)motivate me.

I’m on a mission to develop students into world-changers, and I’m connecting this mission with ministry partners that want to see the world changed.

It’s a crucial part of my work to thrive as the vision I share and actualize inspires people to see that the world is being changed. That begins by thriving in my own emotional world: maximizing my passions, minimizing my inabilities, and imagining what could happen if my God’s invitation to me enabled #BestAngelo.

Want to learn more about what I do? Send me a message – I’d love to share. 

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