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Setting priorities with the INO System

You can’t do it all. You know that deep down, but still you try. We all do. As youth workers, our to do list is often unending and things we cross off at the top, are being replaced just as quickly at the bottom.

That means we have to choose what we do. We have to set priorities and work according to these.

We’ve talked about two ways of defining priorities before: the 80/20 rule and Covey’s time management matrix. But on the Harvard Business Review Blog, I came across another method that you can use to decide how much time to invest in something: the INO system.

The INO System

The INO System means that you ask yourself of each item on your to do list if it’s an Investment, Neutral or Optimize activity:

  • Investment: these are the kind of activities where extra time and effort will pay off exponentially, meaning more than the time and effort you put in. In your youth ministry this will often be strategy related activities, such as developing a clear vision or mission statement. In your personal life, this is spending time with your family, doing things to fill up your ‘tank’ again, hanging out with friends or keeping the Sabbath.
  • Neutral: these are activities where more time and effort don’t actually mean extra results. They need to be done adequately, but you don’t need to strive for perfection here. In your youth ministry these may be meetings you have to attend, Powerpoint presentations you have to make for the worship or cleaning up after a youth event. In your personal life this may be washing your car or mowing the lawn.
  • Optimize: these are the activities you need to spend as little time on as possible, because they’re not adding any value. Not only that, but spending more time on these means you spend less time on more important activities. Think about youth ministry related tasks like handling your email, doing routine admin, or buying food and drinks for youth events. In your personal life you can think of any kind of errands.

family

How does it work?

Go though your to do list and mark every item as I.N or O. Now block out big chunks of time to do all I activities, then make time for the N ones. If you have time left, it’s for the O activities. You aim for straight A’s in the Investment activities, solid B’s in the Neutral ones and accept C’s in the Optimize activities. Also, the C activities are the ones you want to try to delegate as much as possible.

In all honesty: this is a hard system for perfectionists like me, because it means deliberately spending little time on certain activities. It can be hard for you to accept that a not-perfect Powerpoint presentation is actually preferable to a perfect one, because the hour you spend perfecting it can now be spent on doing important youth ministry work.

There’s also a risk to using this method: constantly delaying or not doing unimportant tasks can result in unforeseen serious consequences. Administrative tasks for instance may not be glamorous and may seem like ‘O activities’, but of you don’t have your file system, your budget and your receipts in order, you may actually lose money because of it. So be sure to have an honest look at the relative importance of a task, even when it’s one you don’t like to do.

What do you think of the INO System, would it work for you?

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