The Minimum Effective Dose

As busy pastors we can take the ‘give me the max’ approach to our diaries.  Sure, another talk, Sure, another visit.  There’s no end to them –  keep ‘em coming.

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One of the side lessons I learnt when I was hospitalised a while back, was the concept of the ‘minimum effective dose.’ In many ways it’s the opposite of what patients want (or, rather, what they think they need) but it’s a really helpful concept .

As a patient, I want the max I can get – hit me with everything in the medicine cabinet which is likely to help until I get this thing out of my system.  Whatever it takes and then some.  I’ve seen Jaws, I’ve seen Alien, I’ve seen Terminator – I know how hard it is to kill the bad guy.  Just keep on  pounding it, Doc.

But the medics see it differently. They know about side-effects and complications, and precision.  They want to do the least invasive work to solve the problem in the quickest way.  The Minimum Effective Dose.

As busy pastors we can take the ‘give me the max’ approach to our diaries.  Sure, another talk, Sure, another visit.  There’s no end to them –  keep ‘em coming.

The trouble is, that at the start of the week we have an impossibly long do-list, and at the end of the week however many things we have ‘done’,the ones we haven’t done glare at us and make us feel that if we only worked harder we would get more done.

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This week, why not try flipping it?  Try the Minimum Effective Dose approach to your diary and your do-list. Run through and identify the three (and only three) big things that you really need to have done in the next seven days, and allocate the time properly.  Prepare and deliver one sermon, twice (don’t forget to chunk the time blocks for that, spread through the week).  Chair a meeting of the elders to arrange the weekend away (don’t forget the prep time).  Run Christianity Explored on Tuesday evening. All three are central to your church’s life, and on the main road of your work as a pastor

Now, look at it this way – if you get just those three done, it will have been a productive week in itself.

Now, look at it this way – even if you only get just those three done, it will have been a productive week in itself.  In reality, of course, many other things will be done, and so you can tick them off your list too.  And there will be other urgent things, and other things you have to defer. Emails don’t stop coming.  The unexpected keeps on happening.

But you identified and achieved the Critical Three, top of the pile. Some weeks will be so crowded that it’s the Critical Two.  And on occasion you’ll think – if I just get that one thing done, I can breathe.

Identify it, isolate it, and get it done. Everything else you achieve, you count as a bonus.

Try it.  The Minimum Effective Dose is a refreshing, and healthy, alternative.

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