Jounaling my Ministry Startup

Organization is Key when Starting a New Ministry

""Many challenges come with starting a new ministry from conquering a huge learning curve to tackling bureaucratic red tape.  You can expect to spend your time researching, planning, and brainstorming resulting in a copious amount of notes, tasks, and ideas.  What you may not expect is how fast you can forget or lose track of them.  There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to decipher a two-month old idea  that had been jotted down on the fly or wasting time trying and failing to find notes on a subject you researched; especially, if it means having to spend precious time researching it again. To prevent this you’ll need some way to keep track of it all.   This is especially true for those that aren’t used to working with large projects. I know because this is a challenge I recently faced.

Unfortunately, many an idea and research was lost before I figured out my old system couldn’t handle the new workload.  So to help you get started out on the right foot I’m sharing the solution I finally came up with. Because you may already have a system that you like, I’m also sharing the method I used to overcome the deficiencies in my old system.

Pre-ministry I had a very simple system in place for tracking tasks and appointments/birthdays/deadlines.  The tasks were written on Post-it® flags and put in the daily planner. Appointments were written in on a one-page monthly calendar.  Tracking tasks for small project and lists was as easy as writing them down on stickies and organizing them on a sheet of paper by subject: “Places to Visit”, “Books to Read”, “Vacation Planner”.  When it was time to perform a task it was moved from the project/list sheet into the daily planner.   It was woefully deficient in tracking research notes, resources, and capturing ideas.  That needed to change.

 1. First order of business, determine what’s working and what’s not

  • The system already in place for to-dos was easily expandable, so no problem with having a massive amount of tasks.
  • I like flexibility in a planner, so I used Post-it® flags to write down all of my tasks. They can easily be moved from a project sheet to a current task list or switched from one day to another.  I tried using the same technique with ideas. That way when I was ready to implement them I could just move them to the planner. However, I found the size of the Post-it® flags was too small.   There just wasn’t room to write down the information needed that to would make it easy to recall the idea later.
  • The notes from books, videos, online courses, and ideas that won’t come into play until later were getting buried. Without some type of organization they may never be seen again.  That’s a lot of wasted time and effort.  This definitely needed to be fixed.

2. Next, come up with possible solutions

  • Use larger Post-it® notes for article ideas.
  • Try to be more concise when writing article ideas.
  • Keep all notes about one subject together in a 3-ring binder with dividers. Have the binder just be for those notes that pertain to the ministry.

3. Then, evaluate your solutions

  • I’ve tried using larger Post-it® notes in the past, but they just take up too many pages. Even though I’ve had to expand the number of pages of to-dos, I’ve been able to do it logically by category, so I’m still retaining order.  Each category is one page which makes it easy to locate, scan the different tasks and prioritize.  I’ll lose that by using larger Post-its®.
  • Being more concise is a good goal to work towards. Keep this in mind, but I should have something else set up for those tasks or ideas where concise just isn’t going to be enough.  Sometimes I already know the articles main points and I need to capture that information while I have it in mind.
  • The binder idea is better, but doesn’t help making the contents easy to locate.

4. Repeat steps 1-3 as needed until you come up with something that does work for you

Second reiteration

Step one: what’s working and what’s not

  • I haven’t resolved the problem with the small size of the stickies I’m using. I really want to keep those.
  • Everything is organized, but still not easily to locate.

Step two: possible solutions

  • I could make up an alphabetized index of the notes I’m taking and the ideas I have. That way everything will be together in one place, the subjects will be easily scanned and easy to locate.
    • Need to come up with some kind of numbering system for notes pages to reference in the index.
      • With a numbering system in place I can write down my ideas in greater depth on paper and reference that page on the sticky in case I need a memory jog. This means I can keep using the small size Post-Its® that works so well in other areas.

Step three: evaluate solutions

  • The indexing should work as long as I do it on the computer and not on paper. With paper it will be too hard to insert new entries in alphabetical order.  Using MS Word I can easily insert a new entry anywhere in the index.
  • Using the index will allow me to cross-reference and perform a search, if needed.
  • Do I really need that 3-ring binder with the dividers? Since I’ll be numbering the pages couldn’t I just have one small notebook with everything in it?  Many of my ideas are triggered when I’m studying.  Rather than having to go to another section of a binder and pull out a different paper to write down the idea, I could jot it down right then and there.  As long as I know where to find it does it matter where it’s located?

5. Give it a test run and fine tune using steps 1-4

  • The new system is working so well I’ve decided to use it for capturing notes on anything I want to keep for future reference and not just for notes pertaining to the ministry. I’m also using it to jot down the locations of any documents, resources, or reference material I’ve found online or downloaded and filed in my computer.
  • It’s been a little tricky trying to determine the correct subject to index them under, so I’ll know where to look them up in the future. This was solved by making multiple entries under different subjects for the same notes.
  • It does take a little time to index. This is especially true when I’m cross-referencing.  When it seems a little too time consuming I just remember how much more time I’d be spending re-looking things up or how upset I’d be at losing a good article idea.
  • Ditched the binder and ended up using a small 8″ x 5″ 80 sheet notebook. It’s small enough to fit in my purse and doesn’t claim much desk space.  I will probably end up needing more than one, but they can be numbered and easily stored, so I don’t see it as a problem.

The Final Solution

I ended up writing everything learned, resources discovered, digital document file locations, and ideas in one 8″ x 5″ notebook.  Ideas are captured in greater fullness in the notebook, a shorter description of the idea, along with the notebook page number, is written on a Post-It® flag, so I’ll remember it.   No more lost ideas.

There’s no logical order to the notes.  The order comes from the index kept in a MS Word document.   The entries are indexed at the end of the day or when finished taking notes.  I still use Post-it® notes for all tasks, they’re just more pages of tasks.  I also kept the one-month calendar for appointments, birthdays, and deadlines.  So far it’s meeting all of my needs, whether that stays true in the future remains to be seen.

It may seem like a lot of work because I’ve listed every detail, but it really didn’t take that long, nor was it very hard. The longest and hardest part was articulating what I wanted and needed.  After that it was just a matter of trial and error: keeping what was working and throwing out what wasn’t; until a system was in place that met my specific needs. This made it worth the time and effort.  You and your ministry are also worth it, so invest in yourself, if your current system isn’t all that it should be.  You’ll thank yourself later.

Good luck and remember God would not have given you the responsibility for a ministry, if He didn’t think you weren’t up to the task!  God has faith in you even when you don’t.

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