Don’t Sprint the Marathon – Part 1

I walk in from the parking lot awkwardly balancing a plastic tote, along with my laptop bag and purse.  Climbing the stairs, one of my team sees me and comes to the rescue. Realizing what’s in the tote, she smiles. A few minutes later we’re all enjoying a frosty treat.


I was the publisher of Outreach Magazine, and as you would imagine, every month we had a deadline. Deadlines meant stress, extra work and long hours for our small team. To ease the pain, I would show up with a blender and bags of frozen fruit to make “deadline” smoothies, an electric skillet and tortillas for breakfast burritos, or perhaps simply pizza and hot dogs from Costco. The team knew we didn’t have a big budget, but they appreciated these fortifying efforts. My team was “sprinting” and I wanted them to know their work was noticed and appreciated.

Sprinting in ministry is not uncommon. Whether it’s a push for seasonal events, summer activities, or back-to-school, extra effort and hours are often required. The problem comes when we begin to believe that sprinting is acceptable as a normal pace.

The tyranny of an unhealthy pace is insidious. Often without realizing it, we find ourselves sprinting for months on end. Sure, sometimes a budget cut, or staff reduction are a factor, but more often it is a monster of our own creation. The unfortunate result can be reduced effectiveness, burn-out and resentment.  

If you are a senior leader, you are accountable for results, and also for responsibly stewarding the human resources of your organization. Yet, we are each ultimately responsible for our own performance and self-management. If you find yourself overburdened, why waste energy?

When tempted to complain or blame, instead ask the empowered question, “What’s in my control?”Click To Tweet


Here are 3 important practices for a healthy work-pace:


1- Maintain your self-respect

Who is responsible for your health, stress, relationships and work/life balance? You. Stop complaining about your unrealistic demands, expectations and workload. Define what is realistic and enforce your own healthy boundaries. Respect yourself and others will respect you too.

2- Stay organized

A big stressor in the workplace is lack of organization. Lost paperwork, missed appointments and running late for meetings will amp up your stress, waste time, and hurt your reputation. Create simple systems that work for you! For example, I prefer a physical calendar book and big lined yellow post-it notes for daily to-dos. If you’re still having trouble, ask the most organized person in your ministry for help. Trust me, they will be happy to give you a step-by-step plan!

3- Embrace “no”

One reason many of us have a ridiculous workload is that we always say YES! Yes to the unrealistic deadline. Yes to the unscheduled meeting. Yes to the interruption. Don’t forget: Every yes is a “no” to something else. And if we are honest, how often is that something else a higher priority project? Saying yes to dodge conflict, avoid disappointing someone or defuse your boss’s anger is really a co-dependent response. You are responsible for yourself, not the feelings of others. Take a step toward your own sanity and the health of your organization by using your “yes” more judiciously.


Short periods of “sprinting,” can be exciting, challenging and even build the camaraderie of your team. So, when you make it through a challenging season, reward yourself with a “deadline smoothie” and celebrate! Yet remember that life, work and ministry are a marathon. Maintaining a healthy pace is the key to remarkable work, teams and results!

In our next WorkJoy blog, read Don’t Sprint the Marathon– Part 2 to discover more tips and ideas for creating a healthy pace in your work life.

Do you have a practice that has improved your work/life balance? We’d love to hear it!


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