So where were we? Oh yes, the doors have been re-opened. An orderly queue has formed and Security is on hand to keep things under control.
My security team is headed up by Kevin Kline’s bodyguard in the film Dave!
A worry has come through the hope detector and acknowledged and submitted to the big picture, the fundamental problem and the wonderful hope that is mine in Jesus.
It approaches the reception desk. Let’s watch the Brain Receptionist get to work.
Question 1: Are you real?
Many worries are simply the shadow of something that has already been resolved or processed, residual feelings with nothing concrete behind them.
If the answer is “No” – call security and escort them from the building. If the answer is yes – proceed to the next question.
N.B. Make sure that your security team are briefed to escort not only the concern itself, but also all of the emotions that accompanied it into the building. Imagine a relatively innocuous looking lady being shown the door, while the dozens out of control toddlers that came in with her are left to rampage freely around the building.
Question 2: Are you my concern or should you be somewhere else?
Many of the things that wander through my doors are just not my concern, they walk past my door and for some reason I beckon them in and make them a coffee!
To help determine this consider: Is there any sense in which this under my control? Is this within my God-given jurisdiction or not?
If the answer is “No. I’m not quite sure how I ended up here actually – didn’t you grab me by the arm and pull me in?” Then send them on their way with an apology and give it no more thought.
Depending on the intruder/hapless visitor – it may be appropriate to send it to the Lord in prayer before dismissing it completely.
Question 3: Have you been here before?
I’m sure every receptionist has this kind of visitor. ‘Frequent Flyers’ who come again and again with the same sorts of minor niggles and requests, but walk in as though they come with all the pomp and importance of a State Visit.
Don’t be taken in – if they have been before you will have done lots of the processing already. Don’t fill out all the forms again – pull out their file and make short shrift of them.
Just had fun looking up the word shrift and whether it is ever anything other than short!
Don’t give it any more ‘touches’! If there is progress to be made then keep up the questions, if not – send them it away or stick it back in the waiting room where it has strayed from.
Question 4: Do you have an appointment for today?
If the answer is “No” either make an appointment for tomorrow, or simply ask them to come back in a few year’s time!
Does it really deserve and/or need to be added to a list? (Double check it isn’t a repeat offender who has managed to duck question 3 and is in fact already on several lists!) Many of these ‘worries’ – more than we give credit to – are robust enough to simply be evicted and trusted to find their own way back in due course – like a kind of homing pigeon. Learn to spot these so they don’t clog up your lists!
Either way – tag it. Left to their own devices worries will grab a “TOP PRIORITY’ badge and hang it round their necks on an official looking lanyard before you have had a chance to say hello. Remove it and allocate them the correct priority level – bearing in mind that on a scale of 1-10 very few worries can legitimately claim much above a 5.
Question 5: What time is your appointment today?
Unless it is right now tag it, send it to the waiting room and ignore it. Please note: waiting rooms are for the named concern only. All accompanying persons (such as emotions claiming catastrophes around every corner) can wait in a cafe round the corner.
A note on switch tasking: As women we often applaud ourselves, or are applauded by others, on our ability to multi-task.
However, according to Matt Perman in his excellent book: “What’s best next?”, there is no such thing as genuine multi-tasking. What we are usually doing is switch-tasking. An example: we put the kettle on to make a cup of tea, we go to the fridge for the milk and see boxes of left-overs that need investigating. You get them out, half make a plan to do something with them, and close the fridge door. Where was I? Oh yes making a cup of tea – you re-boil the kettle, and go back to get the milk you forgot…You get the picture. This is NOT an efficient or calm use of time or mental energy – as is evidential when put in black and white, but somehow much less clear at the time. Picking up a task – no matter how small – takes time and thought. Every time we put one task down prematurely and pick up another task we complicate things and clog up our reception area. It feels efficient – why just stand there and wait for the kettle to boil? – but this is a trick! Enjoy just standing there!
So back to our receptionist – if the appointment isn’t for NOW don’t let it in NOW. If it really deserves priority then it almost always wait a few minutes. Give yourself a few minutes to re-jig things. Put your current task down properly – leave a clear way back into the task to minimise pick up time later and then you can give your full attention to this important issue.
If its appointment is for right now then you can still ask it to take a seat for a moment while you sort yourself out. You are the boss here.
The Obvious Problem
I don’t have actually have a Brain Receptionist or a Brain Security Guard. I just have the one brain and it generally has its hands full. I have just said that multi-tasking is impossible and switch-tasking tiring and inefficient – so how can I expect this of myself? How can I both be doing whatever I am doing AND be on the front desk fielding all these worries?
Well the first answer is that this is a servant not a master. If it helps – great. Lots of the time it will all be a lot more hectic than this. BUT I want to see what it is like in practice. I do the worrying thing automatically – could I work towards doing this sort of processing automatically?
We started all this with administration – so let me return to the world of filing and paperwork for some help here.
It is, of course, much quicker to simply stick a piece of paper on a pile, or to read it and leave it in the inbox as opposed to actually working out what to do with it next or where to put it. It takes an investment of time and concentration to keep an item away from the downward spiral of the multi-touch mess and stress. BUT it is an investment. Five minutes spent actually processing it, moving it forward a step, rather than just moving it or letting it sit there with its feet up will save at least 10 minutes when you next want to/have to find it and do something with it. In addition – it is worth noting that each time you do that initial processing you will get quicker at it so it will take less and less time and become more and more automatic.
Could I do that with my worries? Well – we’ll see.
On a more general note I think I need to change the doors into my brain if at all possible. Presently the IN door into my consciousness is really, really obvious and really, really wide and the OUT door is super narrow and hard to find. I wonder if I could do some reconstruction work to reverse this? Is it possible to just see less as I go through life? Can I turn roaming data off? Or is that just the way my brain is wired? Would limiting where I go with this super-absorbent brain help? Please note I am saying super-absorbent – not super! Are there certain places I go – such as shops offering me solutions to all sorts of problems I don’t have or a messy house which is already on the agenda for later in the week – where I can consciously rein it in? I think the answer may be yes.
Dear Father, you have made me fearfully and wonderfully. Thank you. Help me to live wisely with what you have given me, please use me for your glory and help me to submit to you and not my desperate desire to be in control and to do everything perfectly. You love me, I have nothing to prove, and actually nothing to worry about. Help me to cast my cares on you, while living carefully in the situations you have put me in. Specifically Lord, please help me to keep the doors completely locked until I have had time alone with you each day. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Dear reader, I am aware that I have been rather introverted in this current thread. I do hope it has been of some use to you, but let me assure you that my next thread will be focused more directly on the Lord and our relationship with him.