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Productivity

Being Productive NOT for Dummies

not-for-dummies

It never stops amazing me when I meet people and ask them how do they stay productive and then to hear for the next 10 minutes of their very complicated methods and systems that they use.

This was the very reason I was an apple user before it was ever cool to be one. I enjoyed their complete all-inclusive “simple” ecosystem. One of the main draws of using Apple products was how well they worked with each other and made it so I didn’t have to go around to a bazillion other places to get what I needed to do what I wanted to. It felt seamless because everything you needed was already built-in; there was no need to download or install anything. It saved time, was easy and uncomplicated. Now I do understand this may not be as true today, which is why I used all past tense in my statements above. I sadly now watch Apple try to become everyone else instead of who they are. I will stop here as this is a whole other blog post rant that I would go on.

Successful task management (the task is used because I strongly believe no one but God can manage time only the task that happens within the time given) is putting into place systems and strategies that enable you to work at your highest capacity without losing sight of your personal identity or your calling in Christ. Here are some ways that help me manage my task and maximize my impact.

Use Technology. I know some of you once you read that you groaned, and started to tune me out. Please wait and finish reading before you do this. Some of you who read this would also be those who are just like those I started this post off describing, the over complicated system type. Hold in there with me and let’s see if we can’t simplify your system a bit.

“Technology is our friend”, go ahead and say it again. It is about finding the right technology tool for you. Below I will list some of the tools I use that you may want to start with and then branch out to find your own. Remember, K.I.S.S. is important here. Keep It Simple Silly.

Trello for group short project management. This is a free tool.

Evernote for all things filling and serves as my electronic brain. This is also free but can cost.

DropBox for my group collaboration projects that will need to be stored long-term. This can be free but cost.

Kindle app. I first buy a book electronically because they are cheaper and I can read them, highlight them and print all of my highlighted stuff off quickly for free. If the book is good enough then I will buy a paper version.

1Password. This does cost but it is well worth it to me as it stores, fills in and secures all passwords everywhere for me.

Unroll.Me is a web service and app that helps me to mark all email as keep, Unsubscribe or add to roll up. This is a free service.

Hootsuite is for all things social for me. It keeps all my accounts in one place for easy posting and reading.

doodle is for all group calendar setting. It allows me to pick some dates and times and then sends to those I’m trying to pick a scheduled appointment with. They will mar all that work for them and then I pick the one that can be attended by most. It then sends an email out telling of the agreed upon date and time. No more back and forth.

Closing, take a look and see how I don’t use a variety of tools for the same function.Try and keep it all very short and sweet. Staying simple is not really simple after all. If we are left to our own ways we will over complicate everything time after time. Now you have taken long enough reading this post, go and be productive.

The time between meetings is important as well

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My life can be filled with meeting after meeting after meeting and well, you get the idea. I can stay busy running from one type of meeting straight into the next meeting without getting any type of break.

This schedule had me thinking, is there a better way? Meetings are always going to be a large item in my daily agenda due to all the ministries I oversee. Being a family pastor opens up times where I could in any given day run between meetings like:
* Budget meetings
* School luncheons
* Pastoral luncheons
* Volunteer Trainings
* Staff meetings
* Webinars
* Marriage Counseling
* Parental Counseling
* School Assemblies
* Networking
* Coaching Video Calls
* Board meetings for ministries I sit on their advisory board
* Neighborhood association meetings as we build connections with our community

And again this is only the start of the types of meetings I meet on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. With so much of my time being invested in meetings, I wanted to make sure I stayed as productive as I could. I started to notice that my energy would get zapped quickly depending on meeting and how many I had that day.

What to do? I finally figured it out for myself when I ran across this poem by Judy Brown.

Fire.
What makes a fire burn

is space between the logs,

a breathing space.

Too much of a good thing,

too many logs

packed in too tight

can douse the flames

almost as surely

as a pail of water would.

So building fires

requires attention

to the spaces in between,

as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build

open spaces

in the same way

we have learned

to pile on the logs,

then we can come to see how

it is fuel, and absence of the fuel

together, that make fire possible

We only need to lay a log

lightly from time to time.

A fire

grows

simply because the space is there,

with openings

in which the flame

that knows just how it wants to burn

can find its way.

Judy Brown

That was it. I needed to make sure I made space between the meetings. I stop and pause long enough to ask God for indifference. Asking God to help me be indifferent to every outcome except His will. I want nothing more or less than His desire for what was going to happen in the meeting that I was going to attend. I remind myself as I build this space, as I open myself to being indifferent to anything but the will of God. I am learning that the degree to which I am open to any outcome or answer from God is the degree to which I am ready to really hear what God has to say.

When I build between each meeting this kind of space, then I’m ready to engage in the next meeting. And to God be all the Glory as each meeting now profits more because of the space I chose to give between the meetings.

Two tools that help my email inbox

keyboard

It started with just one, and before I knew it, there were 8 of them. Eight of what, you ask? Email accounts of mine.

Really, it did start as a great idea and a way to handle more through a better system. Wrong, wrong, wrong. But, now I need all of them for a variety of reasons. I have done the usual with batching emails, answering only a couple of times of day, passing some accounts off to virtual assistants who answer all the ones that come into their email accounts that I have handed over to them and the list goes on and on of what I have tried to do to handle the amounts of emails.

There are 2 tools that I want to make sure you are aware of that have been a great help to me and feel it would do the same for you. Here are the two tools.

Unroll.me
Here is a tool that will collect all of my subscription emails or non-subscription emails that will fill up my inbox quickly. This tool sorts through and then gathers these emails and then will ask me once a day what I want to do with each of these emails. Your choices are, Keep in inbox, Unsubscribe, add to roll up. If you choose to unsubscribe, this tool will take care of that for you. If you choose to keep in inbox, well then, it stays in your inbox. If you want it added to roll up, then it adds it to this list that will be sent to you once a day or however often you choose to have it sent to you. You never miss a thing, except, a full inbox that is out of control.

The next tool is called Slack.
In Slack, what is called Channels, they Organize your team conversations in open channels. Make a channel for a project, a topic, a team, or anything—everyone has a transparent view of all that’s going on.
Then you have Private Channels for sensitive information, create private channels and invite a few team members. No one else can see or join your private channels. The lastly you have Direct Messages
to reach a colleague directly, send them a Direct Message. It’s completely private and secure.

Go and check these 2 resources out and see how it will free up your email box or boxes and allow you more time for your productivity.

Stop wasting your on loan opportunities

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The Pareto principle of 20/80 really does apply in ministry as well. Actually, because of the eternal outcomes we deal with, I would say it applies even more!

Look over your past week and see how you spent your time? How much went into eating lunches with friends? Working on the computer to build a better data-base or write another policy manual? Creating t-shirt designs for your youth or children’s ministry? Looking for that perfect app that will solve all of your problems? Watching T.V., enjoying your favorite hobby with all of your Christian buddies? The list will go on and on probably with all the diverse activities that we all take part in.

What if…we not only knew that we needed to invest 80% of our time into the top 20% of activities that we are in because that is what gives us the 80% of return, but we actually lived this out? What would happen if we understood that God has loaned us every minute we have here on earth to carry out what He wants to see happen?

Read this and give it some thought.
Matthew 25:14-30 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Parable of the Talents
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a] and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Are you really investing your time into the things that matter? Or are you burying the time that has been given to you through activities that do not pay off? They are not in the 20% that will give back the 80% return.

Stop wasting your on loan opportunities. Remember, delayed obedience is disobedience.

Tools, systems, and ideas that aid me in a productive day

computer and coffee

Over time, I have developed some systems and ideas of how to have a productive day. The discovery of some great productivity tools as well.

Start the night before.

My wife has tried to work with our 5-year-old on this lesson as well. Whenever our 5-year-old does this her next morning is great for her and the rest of the house. The same is true for us. If you start the night before with setting out your clothes and going over the calendar.

* Then schedule your big items in your most productive time of the day. I use to use my mornings which are my most productive time of the day, for meetings, computer work etc. By time my energy was gone then I was in the early afternoon, my least productive time, trying to do big items. Poor idea!

* Get a good night of sleep. The new iOS 9.3 has a new setting to control the brightness of your screen. This new setting is so your iPhone brightness wont keep your mind too alert at the times it should not be.

* Turn off your notifications. I can’t tell you how many times a notification has interrupted a coaching call of mine. I’m coaching someone and their attention leaves our conversation to look at an alert. Same is true when you’re prepping your next day. It is always going to be an interruption in your attention.

Now for some tools that I enjoy. I am going to leave out the ones that all should use and know about by now. Some of those would be Evernote, Dropbox, Google,

* Trello. Here is a tool that keeps me plugged in with all my many teams and their projects.

* IFTT. IFTTT, standing for If This Then That. You craft “recipes” that allow for various apps and services to connect together. I can create an IFTTT recipe that automatically uploads my Instagram photos to my Google Drive account. Create awesome integration with zero programming experience! If you can think it, you can IFTTT it.

* Rescue Time. Rescue Time will track what programs and websites you spend the most time on. Showing what hours are your least/most productive. along with your best and worst days of the week (and month).

* Unroll.Me. This tool will help hide email clutter. It will list out all your email subscriptions. Use the Unroll.Me unsubscribe option to kick some of those suffocating newsletters to the curb.

* StayFocused. A free Chrome extension that restricts the amount of time you can spend on “time-wasting websites”. The tool is customizable. You choose which websites (or specific pages) to block, how long to block them for, etc.

* Easily.do. Here is an add-on that was not posted with this post originally but I was reminded of the importance of this app when I woke up. I woke up and was told of the status of deliveries, birthdays of friends coming up, some duplicates that made it into my contacts along with some new contact info that it picked up from some emails that were sent to me. Then it soon reminded me of some emails that still needed to be responded to, and ave me a pick into my Instagrams top pics.

Don’t hold back your better process for reading

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Let’s focus on improving the reading that we do. My goal each year is to read around 100 books. But the bigger goal is not the number, but, to learn and keep the great nuggets from those books.

Rudi Guliani wrote in his in his book, “Leadership”, that “great leaders lead by ideas”. I have experienced how great ideas from books have helped me develop my leadership over the years. Books are an accumulation of years of life lessons gleaned from the author. Those years are conveniently bound in each book for the use of developing others who will have a systematic process to harvest the nuggets.

That is what I want to lay out today for you, my process for book nugget harvesting. This is not the only way, it is only, my way.

To read and digest a book I now use the following process:

Book Selection

When selecting a book it’s important to remember the impact that a book can have on your life. It’s necessary to choose the books you read wisely. The books you read must be worth the investment of your time and energy. Some of the criteria I use when selecting a book to invest my time and energy in are:

• First, based upon what do I need to learn or develop, given where I am in my personal journey.

• I select books from authors that have already affected my life and I connect with. Authors like, John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, Carey Nieuwhof, Posner and Kouzes, etc.

• Books that will help me grow in areas critical to my role.

• Using Goodreads and Amazon for recommendations from friends.

• Key subject areas I’m interested in. Some would be, leadership, communication, task management, technology, and strategy. I do not read books just because they are popular or make the bestseller lists. My time is valuable and so reading a book is an investment of my time from which I expect a return!

Prepared Environment

The best productive reading environment for me happens when:

• I remove all distractions!! Humans cannot multitask. Multitasking is worse than a lie.

• Have a regular place to read. I enjoy what Steve from Blues Clues does, he has a “Thinking Chair” that he uses.

Keep in mind your primary purpose for reading, to grow and learn. This requires focus and concentration.

Be an active reader

Being an active reader you need to engage with the book. Better to read a book in many short sessions, and not in a single sitting. Other ways to be an active reader:

• Use a highlighter, or a pen to underline.

• Using a pen or pencil to make notes in the margin.

• Use Evernote to take notes and pictures of marked up pages.

Actively reading keeps you focused and helps find important concepts for use later on. If I find myself not making several notes or highlighting, it usually means, at least for me, that the book is not worth completing and I put it aside.

There is part one of my process. I’ll post the rest of my process later, but, I’m very interested in hearing if you have a process, what is it?

Do you see how important it is to set yourself up wisely for the best reading experience? Don’t hold back creating a process for better reading for yourself.

How to set goals isn’t as bad as you think

Goal setting

January has already come and gone. The year is again progressing quicker than seems possible. This quickness is the reason it is so important that we set goals for what you want to carry out. What follows will be ways that I follow when I set goals.

Start with the end in mind.
I think it is important to start with your end picture of what you want and where you are going. Once I have the end picture, I start just 5 years out. Then I move my picture to 3 years out, then 1 year out and lastly 3 months out.

Be realistic.
Be ambitious because it is a goal after all but still realistic. If you are a ministry of 30 kids or youth and set your goal to be 300 in a year, that is not realistic. Being realistic helps you during the journey to stay encouraged and fight that discouragement off that happens so easily during life and ministry.

Re-evaluate and revisit.
Just because you set your goals in January, doesn’t mean that 5-6 months down the road you won’t be swamped with life and ministry. Knowing this, I put a date in the calendar 5-6 months down the road to alert me to re-evaluate how am I doing with the goals that I wanted to carry out. I will revisit each goal to see that it is still as important to me as it was once before when I set it as a goal.

With these 3 simple steps, setting goals is not as bad as you thought. Allow me to recommend a book titled: Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I recommend this book as you prepare to set your goals is because too often people set way too many goals and never fully reach any of them but instead have a ton of half started goals.

Setting goals can be as easy as 1,2,3.