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What I’ve Learned From Working in the Preschool Ministry

What I’ve Learned From Working in the Preschool Ministry

What I've Learned From Working in the Preschool Ministry

    My son was born on July 31, 2008.  To prepare for the trials and travails of fatherhood, I spent my Sunday mornings working in our church’s preschool ministry.  It was really, really fun, and I look forward to getting back to it over the next couple of weeks (I’ve taken a hiatus because of travel and fatherhood).  In the process, I learned a lot about productivity, management, and life.  Here are a few lessons from working with kids:

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    1. It happens.  You know what I mean.  It happens, it’s messy, and it stinks.  It can always be cleaned up, though, and it is important to remember that “this too shall pass.”  And it passes pretty quickly: after a few icky minutes, everyone affected will be happy again soon.  It’s upsetting, but fretting about it won’t fix it.  The damage has been done, the diaper needs to be changed, and the kid is crying.  This isn’t the time to step back and think about strategy, meaning, or values.  This is the time to get the kid on the changing table, get the wipes, get a new diaper, and take care of business.

    2. Kids cry and kids bleed, but kids bounce back.  No matter what you do and no matter the adult-child ratio, accidents will happen and someone will end up crying, bleeding, or both.  This isn’t the time to lament circumstances or think about the meaning of life or your goals for the next five years.  It’s time to get the band-aids and peroxide and fix the problem.  This requires a steely resolve, too: peroxide on a scrape hurts, and a two-year old doesn’t understand that a little pain now is necessary to prevent more pain later. 

      There’s a leadership and management lesson here, too.  In the short run, it would be easy to pacify the child and let the wound go without proper treatment.  Dealing with a screaming kid who is irate about the fact that you’ve put peroxide on a scraped knee or elbow can be heart-wrenching.  In the long run, though, this creates problems in the form of potential infections and also signals that you aren’t doing your job.  You end up passing the buck to someone else and showing that you’re irresponsible.  In a child-care setting, I wouldn’t trust someone who is afraid to clean up scrapes and bruises.  In a management setting, the ability to grit your teeth and do what you know needs doing even over the protests of your subordinates will pay off in the long run.

    3. Keep your eyes open and be able to see the field when appropriate.  It’s you, a few other adults, and a swarm of screaming toddlers on a playground.  You can’t focus on just one kid or one group of kids for too long, nor can you let them monopolize your attention.  Other people under your supervision need your attention and your guidance, too.  For managers and leaders who are in a position where they have to develop others, it is important not to develop tunnel vision.

    4. Get into the action and have fun.  Aloofness is a vice among managers and knowledge workers.  Never be afraid to get your hands dirty.  If you’re working with toddlers, pretending to be the giant monster storming the Fisher-Price castle isn’t beneath your dignity.  It can also be a lot of fun.  Similarly, when the context is appropriate, don’t be afraid to interact in a meaningful way with your subordinates on projects they find important.

    5. Tell the truth, share, and don’t take things that don’t belong to you.  If you mess up, admit, be honest about it, and do what you need to do to fix it.  Share and share alike, but always remember not to take anything that doesn’t belong to you.  These are great lessons for the kids, and they’re great lessons for adults, too.

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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