Notes from Richard Swenson and Kevin
Miller

Overcoming
Overload

CCN
Presentation

17 Feb
2005

Dr Richard
Swenson

Signs of the
times

– people faking their death to get
off a mailing list

– newsweek:
overscheduled babies, 5 day diaper

– omish
are now taking visa

– epidemic of
exhaustion in our society

you can’t
make enough money to be exempt from
this

none of the past futurists
predicted this

– in 1960’s, main prediction
of social problems was we would be
BORED

Signs and
symptoms

– 36% of Americans say they are
rushed all the time

– average manager is
interrupted 202 times per day

– average
worker spends 1 year during their
lifetime

Before electricity: people
got an average of 9.5 hours of sleep per
night

– by 1910 9
hours

– by 1990 now at 8
hours

– lots of people have sleep
disorders

something is going on here
that is measurable and
quantifiable

some
historical


exponentiality

– first horizontal, then
vertical

– lots in our everyday context is
linear

– context of the culture has gone
exponential

– there is a mismatch between
our day to day linear context, and this underlining
exponentiality

— our intuition is always
behind exponential change

it is ruled
by drama, suddenness, exponential
shifts

progress has a lot to do with
this

– I am not bashing
progress

– how does it work: we seldom
think about this

– works largely by
differentiation, proliferation and
combination

– I think differentiation is
biblically normative

progress can
differentiate many different things

– it
also differentiates time

– then we got
sundials, clocks, watches

– progress
differentiates our ministry

– progress and
differentiation are very powerful

as
a result, progress ALWAYS results in more and more of everything, faster and
faster

– do we have a problem with the word
“more”

– American definition of happiness
is “more than I have now”

– if you look at
this scienitfically, you can see that these trends are on a collision course
with HUMAN LIMITS

we all have human
limits

– once that collision happens and we
are on the other side, overload occurs (98% of Americans are
there)

progress always leads to
increasing:


stress


change


complexity


speed


overload

stress is really a neutral
word, not a bad word

– most rigorously
definition, is the way our body/physiology adapts to
change

– we were created very
adaptable

– God himself created the stress
mechanism

Do you want a no-stress
life? No, without any change, challenges, or novelty you literally will
die

– do you want a low stress life? People
actually prefer the high stress life (teenagers call the low stress life
“boring”)

you don’t want fatal or
boring, but you also don’t want
hyper-stress

Human function curve
shows the relationship between stress and
productivity

– infamous point of diminshing
returns

– eventually it goes down into
fatigue and exhaustion

There are a
range of tolerances in which we function
best

– if you live at the far right side of
this curve, bad things are going to be happening to
you

Change is linked to stress: more
change –> more stress

– there has been
more change since 1900 than in all prior recorded
history

– stress is the reaction to
change

Ray Kurtzwile: says we are
going to go through 20,000 years of stress in the next 100
years

– what about the learning and
maturing that needs to
happen

complexity

some things are simple, but progress always flows toward
complexity

– any engineer can make
something complex

– it takes a genious to
go to the simplicty side

– average american
has to learn how to operate 20,000 pieces of
technology

in 1871 when basketball
started there were 2 pages of rules now there are hundreds of
pages

– rules for doctors, for
everyone

We need to understand that
the most important things in life are actually very
simple

– message of the Gospel: God saying
I love you, I don’t hold your sins against you, won’t you let me rescue
you?

Speed

I don’t mind fast, I am talking fast

– I
once spoke 30 hours on this topic and did not run out of
material

– however I don’t like TOO FAST,
and that line is called HURRY

— at that
point you are not a very good advertisement for the Kingdom of
God

— in construction we say, measure
twice and cut once

Sherpa guide set
record for climbing Mt Everest in 16 hours 54 min, shortly thereafter he fell
down a 100′ crevasse and died

– maybe
climbing

With all our running, we
are opening a greater distance between us and
God

– our sense of God’s presence is in an
inverse relationship with the pace of our
life

overload

do you have a psychology of human limits?


where did they come from: the fall, a cosmic fluke, or God built them
in

– I think this was God’s plan, it
eliminates the ambiguity about who God
is

If I have limits, it is OK with
God that I have them since he was the creator of
them

– we were created as finite
beings

– we are supposed to work hard, but
at night we are not designed to tell God what to, worry all night,
etc

Once you exceed the number of
details that you can humanly keep track of in your
life….

– leads to either disorganization
or frustration

Common
symptions

– apathy, withdrawl,
depression

– irritability, anger,
hostility

– frustration,
disorganization

– mistakes,
chaos

– fatigue, exhaustion,
burnout

– moral failure, relational
problems

– risk taking, excessive
self-medication



– you will probably find your “system
complex” among these

Nietche said
Christians have no joy, but joy is mentioned 500 times in the
Bible

Richard’s signs are
irritability and migranes

this
clutters our lives, destroys our
priorities

the church today is at
risk from these problems that are arrayed against
us

– if I was the evil one, I would just
keep people busy and running all the
time

MARGIN IS THE
ANSWER

– has to do with our reserves, the
space between our load and limits

– it is
the opposite of overload

think of
this in terms of finances and other
areas:

– people are spending 110% of their
finances, emotional energy, and other
resources

examples of
margin:

– in driving 70 mph on the highway,
do you give yourself just 2 inches of space in
between

– loading ships, using water
line

What about
Jesus

– take a look at the example of
Jesus

– Jesus never
ran

– in Galatians it says in the fullness
of time God sent his son

– Jesus is not in
a speed race, he is in a love race

– how
did Jesus do ministry: the person standing in front of him at the
time

Jesus did not cure every case of
leprosy in Israel

– he didn’t do
that

– doctors today don’t need to try and
do that

How do we regain margin over
overload in

– in my books I have over 250
ideas, here are just 10 to start
with

1- Be
intentional

– passivity is not going to
solve this problem

– we have looked at a
very powerful trend that exists in the world (our whole economy is predicated on
progress marching on)

– Mary Pfifer: if we
just let culture act on us, we will end up exhausted,
broke…

History is what happens to
people, and that is always different from people would want to happen to
them

– we are individual moral agents, we
can make choices

At Pentagon: no
matter how great your triumphs, or wonderful you successes, there are lots of
people who don’t care

– you are not the
center of the universe

– these problems are
not going away

– strong intentionality is
required

Not only true within the
ministry, it is true for everyone who shows up on Sunday
morning

– people are exhausted, they are
tired

our cultural treadmill is
sapping away so much vitality

2-
Learn to Say No

– take lessons from your 2
year old (No is

– have a “to do” list and
a “to don’t” list

– reduce this to
mathematics, several years ago compared to
now

– the 24 hour day stays the same even
when you have more to do each
day

hopefully our priorities are
biblically based

It’s easy to say no
to bad things, but hard to say no to fun and enjoyable
things

God doesn’t have a time
problem

– God knows exactly what to
do

– He doesn’t have a productivity problem
either

Titus 2:11 teaches us to say
no

Article by Joe Kuteric: nice ways
to say no

3- Define / Defend
Boundaries

– erect a perimeter in your
life, and don’t let the world come crashing
in

– one example: we don’t answer the
telephone during dinner

– when we are
having dinner, we have the right to establish and defend the atmosphere in our
own

– I do not want to call people back on
the phone

self-care is not
selfishness

– never in favor of
rudeness

– live a life of service,
gentleness and kindness, but you have to have boundaries to protect
that

4- Tame
Technology

– time-saving technologies
don’t

– most stressed out countries have
the most time-saving technologies

– DO
judge technologies and analyze them: you can turn them
off!

examples: I don’t like
telephones, do like email (because telephones are
synchronous)

— some people get 250 emails
a day, 1800 a day, etc

— general at the
Pentagon, said if he doesn’t do 16 hours of email on Saturdays, he would be
fired

– examples of cell phones (do you
give out your number)

MY THOUGHT:
MAYBE I SHOULD CHANGE MY CELL PHONE
NUMBER?

“I like to be accessible, but
on my own terms”

5- Selectively
Disconnect

– we used to have natural
solitude that happened in life

– now you
have to be intentional to have solitude


we have blown right through night time, weekend, and
Sabbath

– you don’t have to look very far
in scripture to find examples of people who availed themselves of
this

– we need to disconnect,
recharge

You can turn off the circuit
breaker to your house at 7:30 tonight and turn it
off

– people use the language of
victimology: saying I don’t have a choice


people actually do have choices, but they are often not willing to acknowledge
them

What happens when God turns off
your power?

– when power comes back on, we
disappear

– record numbers of people are
checking into motels in their own
hometowns

6- Simplify,
Unclutter

– investigate this as a possible
option, don’t get into legalism

– we use
20% of what we own, but we maintain 100% of what we
own

– it all owns
us

– if things take time and money, then
maybe if we have fewer things we’ll find we have more time for
others

Son Matt now has a lot of
freedom because he has lived in a primative
culture

– he is now in Afghanistan
volunteering with a humanitarian
company

7- Cultivate
Contentment

– taking simplicty a little
further

– content is commended and
commanded in Scripture

– Philippians 4:
Paul has learned the SECRET

– 1 Tim
6

– Heb
13:5

we need sermons about
this!

– we need to teach our children
Biblical contentment

Psychological
piece, “Rich Man, Poor Man”

– history is
full of people who really look destitute


people throughout history just find other things to feel grumpy
about

– Easiest path to happiness would be
time travel: take everything I have now and go back 50
years

Kant: as long as people have
everything they need….

The idea
that you can satiate people’s desires is
false

8 – Learn how to slow the pace
of life, eliminate hurry

– sometimes
you do have to increase the pace of life, but you also need to have times when
you put it in PARK

– just sit in the chair
for awhile, focus on the person right in front of
you

– take your foot off the
accelerator

9 – Control
debt

– debt service is so common in today’s
world, when you have that much stress and so few options, that really takes away
your choices

– everybody in America today
seems to have the same problems

we
have unprecedented affluence today,, still we are all scared about these debt
issues

stop impulse buying: 50% of
our grocery and 50% of our hardware purchases are
impulse

10- Nourish our
relationships

– if you have nourished
relationships, there is lots of medical research that shows this improves your
health

– I can prove this with
science

– we also have Biblical directives
for this

can’t let the cultural
treadmill shred this

– quoted German word
meaning to shred

Ecc 2: Two are
better than one

One anothering is
applicable to all aspects of our
lives

some say church is where we
live alone together

we must move
intentionally and forcefully

– make space
for the things in your life that matter the
most

KEVIN
MILLER

– works for a publishing
company

– created a book of practical, real
world tips and strategies that he could use and share with
others

Things to
give:

1- space to think (wouldn’t it be
great if you had more time to think and be
creative)

2- Get control of your email
(turn your inbox from a curse to a
blessing)

3- Help you figure out what you
don’t need to know (info areas you can safely
ignore)

Millards principle for taking
notes:

– exhaustive notes are not
important, because usually you get so
busy

– take less notes, but just mark down
the things you think will work for
you

1- how to create space for
thinking

– tap the power of BLOCK
DAYS

— at work we grew from 2 people to 8
people

— it came to the point I didn’t
have time to read for professional growth and
reading

— friend who went into executive
coachiing, to help people like
Kevin

problem was: I am not getting
the big picture, looking ahead, planning


suggestion: block days

– 3 powerful rules
for block days

1- Must blcok days far
ahead: 6+ months ahead (even 9-12 months
ahead)

— you will reserve those, you won’t
have any meetings during those days, or use them for routine
work

— refuse to use those to answer
email

— use those to gain space to
think

2- you can move a block but
never REMOVE a block

– if you establish a
block day, all evil forces of hell are released to try and stop
it

NEVER REMOVE A
BLOCK

3- spend block days out of the
office if you possibly can

– don’t try to
just put a note on your door


interruptions always happen at work, plus around your office you always see
unfinished work

good place to go is a
college library


carollas

– no cell
phone

– chooose one without wireless
internet

works with
preachingtoday.com

P – Projects:
select projects that are essential, core to your mission (need 2-3 hours of
uninterrupted thinking)

P – Planning: look
ahead, take things off your to-do list,
plan

P – Personal Growth, take some time to
read something, do an excercise that will help me grow personally and
professionally

P – Prayer: do take time to
pray for your team, for your
effectiveness

How much time you use
for the 4 P’s is up to you

4-5 hours:
projects

1.5 hours
Planning

1.5 hours: Personal
growth

0.5 hours:
prayer

about 70% of the people I talk
to could take block days if they really wanted
to

top 4 reasons not to take block
days

1- I’m needed in the
office

2- what will people
think

3- feeling
guilty

4- I can’t get it
together

I come back from my block
days refreshed

– if you can’t take a block
day: take a mini-block, 1 or 2 or 3 hours of your
day

— be in the office, but move to a
quiet area, a conference room, etc

— if
you had an hour of uninterrupted quiet in your day, how effective would you
be?

you need to do this instead of
“just letting your day happen to
you”

Now think about: can I take a
block day, where would I go

– my thoughts:
yes I could take this, I could go to the library at
TTU

– a block day could give me
uninterrupted time to think and read, and to
write

– biggest concern: so many things to
do

– how could I overcome this: maybe
delegate more, use the block day to plan so I can be more
effective

What is needed today is not
people with more information in their heads, we need people who can reflect and
do constructive things with the time they
have

2-
EMAIL

all of us are getting too much
email

– 48% of people say they are getting
more email

– you can become a possessed
emailer

– work your way to the productive
column (where 70% of people
are)

Book: Surviving Information
Overload (have 19 strategies)

now
we’ll look at 7

1- when you need to
concentrate, CLOSE your email
program

2- Answer your email at
off-peak times

– look at when you have your
optimal energy levels

— so do email in
late afternoon, if that is when you have a slump (that can be after
lunch)

— that often doesn’t take your full
attention and best efforts

3- Turn
off the sound on your incoming emails

– why
should you be controlled by the BING
sound

4- Space email deliveries
farther apart

– you can control how often
email is delivered to you

– if you are
getting email every 10 minutes, you can be in a constant read and reply
loop

– can change the time setting to
something like 45 min

– this forces me to
do my email in batches

5- Use a SPAM
filter

– spam = attention theft, it costs
you productivity

– lots of good ones:
http://popfile.sourceforge.net

6-
when you buy things online, use a secondary email
account

– don’t use your primary email
account

7- OHIO: Only Handle It
Once

– when it comes to email, we often
read it, leave it in the box, think about it, read it again,
etc

– read it once, and then do something
about it

– if you have to flag it for
followup

– only handling it once will help
you make more effective use of your
email

Through these tips, I have
gained back 45 min of every work day


don’t let it control you, learn how to control
it

“Let’s take a 60 second pause that
refreshes”

Main suggestion that would
help me: #1 (close your email when you need to
concentrate)

There is just so much
information you can hold and process

– over
50,000 new books and new editions are

– 8
billion webpages were being indexed by Google a couple of months
ago

You can’t know
everything

– last person who knew
everything: Francis Bacon

– all of us learn
a smaller and smaller percentage of knowledge that is out
there

We think we need to know more
than we

– “Information Anxiety” book: give
yourself permission not to know
everything

Now: 5 questions to help
you determine what you have to
know:

1- Is there someone else who is
an expert on this topic or could be?


life is a lot better when you are not trying to stay up to speed on so many
different things

2- Can information
in this area be looked up relatively
quickly

— you don’t need to know it if you
know how to look it up

— Einstein said he
made it a point to not clutter his mind with things that could be looked up in 5
minutes

Website preachingtoday.com
has a lot of sermon illustrations that pastors can
use

3- Is this topic essential for
decisions I’m making in the near future?


if you are not making a major decision on that issue, you may be able to let
that go

— my thought: what about
reading for pure fun? LOTR?

4- Is
this subject something that the most important people in my life should
reasonably depend on me to know?

— usually
at work they want me to know if that is the right direction for us to go, and
who we can hire to get there

— or am I
just continuing to learn about it for some other
reason

— can you offload other things to
just focus on key areas?

5- Does this
subject fit my life’s calling and my major
strengths?

– some people feel like they
should read about things where they are
weak

– why would you spend your critical
time in a subject you may not be able to get very good
at?

you can teach a pony to ride, but
it will never win a rodeo

use
inventories of spiritual gifts

– if you are
burdened by a book on your bookstand that doesn’t really match your life
vision

– check that book and feel
enormously better

KEY
QUESTION:

– What areas of information do I
need to know most about right now? (5
items)

— current status of iTV classes
and support

— what writing committments
do I have due and when are they due?


what are my school academic requirements and what are their
deadlines?

— what is my family doing and
have we scheduled good quanitity time
together?

– list 1 or 2 things not
important for me to know



your list will change over time: that is
good



Why did ancient peoples take the time to
paint cave paintings?

– we need in or life
as well as professional productivity, 1 or 2 items of reading for the
enlargement of your soul



Why do we secretly love
overload?

– info gives us certain rewards,
we can be power people, feel a sense of control with more
knowledge

– what is most important is to
love and recieve love

– our world has
unprecdented levels of suffering and
brokenness

– if information could make us
happy, we would have alrady arrived



Seek a meek and gentle
spirit

– reading is not the only way we
learn



Martin Luther: I have learned more
through 1 prayer than I have in reading an entire
book



I do an
info-techno-sabbath

– leave all technology
alone for 24 hours

– do this because info
comes to us through technlogy

– otherwise
you come to believe that your life depends on speed and
information



Our culture will crush you, remove your
ability to relate to people in times of
need

– you must take proactive
steps



The way forward is not more and more,
faster and faster, you have to pull the plug and find
freedom



What we should be trying to do, is
differentiate ourselves from the cultural
treadmill



Rest is commended and commanded by
God

– much better to have passion from the
freedom of the gospel, rather than being motivated by
fear



The poor can be rich in relationships,
can you depend on a community of others



Need to develop a social ettique that
lets our pastors rest and get away at
times



Listen to yourselves talk: the climate is
usually immediately available and obvious


– is there laughter, collegiality, etc



church has to be a hospital first before
it can be an army



You don’t have to be superdoctor to
everyone, superfriend to everyone, etc


if your life is too cluttered and overloaded, you won’t stop for someone who is
on the side of the road

– it is nonesense
to think that people can be all things to all people all the
time



Don’t become an apologist for a broken
system

– Romans 12:2 Be
transformed!

– church should have a
different culture



I have seen 5 page job descriptions for
pastors

– early on, you need to ask what
pieces of these are most important, and the rest of these are
extracurricular





www.overloadhelp.com



www.richardswenson.og

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