Stretched: How do you know if you are doing too much?

Splat!  Your brains just hit the computer screen after reading an email from your pastor asking you to take on yet another project.  I know disgusting, but that’s how many of us feel when the workload begins to pile up.  When this happens we look to see where and when we can find margin.
But then again it’s not always that simple because some of us don’t know how to say, “No” or feel the pressures of looking busy.  Regardless, we all have limits and if stretched too far it can lead us down a deadly path of burned out, overwhelming, jaded ministry.
So how do we know when we are doing too much?

  • Overflow In The Inbox:  Not only do you have one email from a prince in Nigeria, but you have 5 from his cousins.  Your inbox is filled with so much junk because you haven’t had time to click delete that you are now overlooking important ones as well.
  • Overbooked Calendar: You either schedule multiple meetings at the same time or you plan them back to back making it virtually impossible (unless you have a transporter) to get from one meeting to the next.
  • You Are Shaking: You’ve had too much coffee because you are low on energy, probably because you aren’t getting enough sleep, because you had too much coffee the night before, because you were low on energy.  Oh the endless cycle!
  • You Forget What Your Kids Look Like: You think you saw them that morning, but then again maybe that was yesterday?  Because your days are so long you find your family visiting you more at church then you visiting them at home.
  • You Resort To Comforting Habits: This is dangerous, for me my comfort habit is eating.  I know I have too much to do, when I put too much on my plate.  If you find yourself engaging in old, bad habits it’s you sub conscientiously seeking comfort.
  • God Is A Message Series Not A Person: You are reading the Bible more than ever, but not applying any of it to your life.  You are writing about not what the teens should be doing, but what you need to do yourself.  Your excuse, “If I only had more time.”

There are going to be different warning signs of burnout.  To avoid this outcome we need to create a path of accountability.  While it’s important to create systems and structures, we need to surround ourselves with people who are going to:
Know Our Limits
Call Us Out
Give Us Hope
Remind Us Of God
And you START by bringing in the people closest to you (i.e. spouse and pastor) because they will or at least should know you the best.  SECONDLY, surround yourself with other youth workers in your community and allow some of your key leaders to be brutally honest with you.  Sometimes (but rarely) these issues can be resolved on your own, but don’t risk it.  So let’s be accountable for one another.

What are some other signs of burnout you’ve experienced?

How do you find accountability in these situations?

If you ever need someone to pray for you or advise you, just direct message me on twitter:chrisrwesley

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  • Jeremiahi says:

    I think one of the biggest signs of burnout for myself is when I set my alarm on my phone at night and I get excited cause it says it will go off in a whole 6 1/2 hours! Sometimes that’s just the week I’m having but often those weeks turn into months, and so on. I do find that I have forced myself to operate on 6 hours or less of sleep a night quite often to the point it’s becoming a norm. Luckily I have a wonderful wife who is very involved in ministry with me and she will help keep me accountable quite often. Even still it’s tough to break the habit of overworking, and burning the candle at both ends and in the middle!

    Thanks for the great post Chris!

    Jeremiah Isley

  • Jeremiah,
    lack of sleep is a big one and it’s not about sleeping in. It’s about getting to bed at a decent time. One thing I’m trying this Lenten season is to do a technology fast every night after 9pm. I hear that tv, the computer, etc. stimulate your mind…not a good thing if you are trying to get your zzzz’s. Thanks for sharing.