I am not a techno-wizard or computer geek or any kind of over the top tech-savy intellectual giant by any means. I know enough to get by… maybe enough to be dangerous with my knowledge. But, as I understand bandwidth it speaks to an amount of capacity something is able to handle. For instance, your internet has a specific amount of data that can flow down to your computer and back up to the internet. This is bandwidth. This is the amount of information that can come and go freely. When the bandwidth gets bogged down or bottled up, the info doesn’t flow freely and slows down dramatically. Causing issues. This is one reason why cable modems have been superior to DSL modems in the past. Cable modems have a specific amount of bandwidth dedicated to your specific location while DSL modems dedicated to say the block and if everyone is using the DSL modems to stream Netflix at the same time, no one will enjoy it.
We as humans, have a certain amount of bandwidth. I have noticed bandwidth within humans is a lot like pain. My threshold is not your threshold. You may find it very painful to have your fingernails clipped, while I may enjoy bamboo shoots under my nails. It is all relative. So is bandwidth. For a variety of reasons, we each have our own level of bandwidth and capacity to manage tasks or responsibilities.
One lesson I learned at H2O Church Orlando, is I have the tendency to overestimate my bandwidth. I was not unique in this. The other pastors at H2O had the same problem. John and I used to say, ‘for guys like us who are able to do so many things very well, it is hard for us to not overcommit to stuff that needs to be done.’ It was a half-joke, but also true. When you bandwidth allows you to accomplish much and when you are talented at many things, you tend to overestimate what you can and can not do therefore overextending yourself and overloading your actual bandwidth.
Going hand in hand with the lesson on overestimating my bandwidth and thereby over committing myself, I had to learn how to determine what were reasonable additions to my proverbial plate that my bandwidth could handle. What I had to do was come up with a strategy to realistically assess whether I could handle the added responsibilities and pressure. What I began to do (with varying degrees of success along the way) was ask myself these questions:
1. Is this something that is important to me? The first place to start is by determining whether the new task is something you actually care about. Are you passionate (I dislike use of that over-played word), excited, fired up, really interested and care strongly for the new responsibility? IS this something you see as a priority and needs to be done and you have the interest and skill set to do it? If you can’t answer yes to this question, you should strongly reconsider taking on this new thing whatever it is and however vital it is. There is nothing more taxing and stressful to our bandwidth than to take on something we could care less about.
2. Do I have the skill set to do this? I alluded to it in the first question, but this is a deeper exploration of the required skills and abilities to accomplish the responsibility in question. There are a wide range of things I am good at. There are even a handful of things I am really good at. There is a plethora of things not falling even remotely close to my wheelhouse, things I am not good at at all. When considering taking on new responsibility, we have to realistically assess our abilities and what it is going to take to successfully accomplish the task, not just do it. If the new responsibility doesn’t fall within the range of things we do either good or really good, we shouldn’t do it. While still taxing and stressful to our bandwidth, taking on things we aren’t skilled to do also is detrimental to the responsibility in question because it could fail due to our inability to accomplish it and our unrealistic assessment of our skills.
3. The third question I ask myself is, does it fit into my schedule or am I willing to rearrange my schedule to make it fit? This is critical. If we are super excited on fire about something we are over the top skilled to do, but have no time to do it… why are we taking it on? No matter how excited we are or how skilled we are, if we can’t find time to do it, it won’t get done. It just won’t. And what have we accomplished by adding something else we don’t have time for into our schedules? Nothing. We haven’t accomplished anything… literally, cuz it didn’t get done. I have found by adding every minutiae to a calendar so I can see how everything fits, is very useful when determining whether something can be done or not. I used to be super-organized (I have slipped dramatically in recent years), but this kind of organization and control over my time has been exceedingly helpful in making an informed decision about whether I can realistically do something or not.
Our bandwidth is not limitless. There is a finite amount of space we have and ability to realistically commit to various responsibilities taxing our lives. We will be better served and more effective in everything we do, if we ask ourselves these three questions when looking to add something new to our lives. If we want to be successful in what we put our hands to, we have to realistically assess if our lives are arranged in such a way that we may be effective in this new responsibility. This isn’t just a good idea, its scriptural. Paul writes in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,”. If we are overcommitting ourselves and adding more things we aren’t capable of actually doing we are not giving God what he deserves. We are not doing it ‘heartily’ or to the best of our abilities.
I am learning to be realistic about myself and my bandwidth. I have also found there is much more joy in being able to say yes to what I can accomplish and accomplishing it than there is adding something I can’t handle and not finishing and having to step away from it because I am unable to follow through and complete. These questions may not be the solution for you, but I bet they are a good place to start.
Do you have any advice or processes which you use to think through what your bandwidth is capable of? I’d love to hear them.