Efficiency can be defined as “the ability to get lots done while maintaining quality”. It is vital that all leaders continually examine their efficient use of energy, time, resources, organizational and communication skills. Discover 7 key tips for becoming more efficient.
One of our favourite training events around here is our monthly All Staff meetings, a gathering of staff from every My Victory site coming together to learn, discuss and creatively plan together. We train on a specific topic each month and in May, the topic was “Efficiency”. I defined efficiency as “the ability to get lots done while maintaining quality”.
The Myth of Multi-tasking
We began the day with a discussion around the concept of multi-tasking and how it has become ingrained in our culture. In fact, “telling a leader not to multi-task is like telling a pig to stay out of mud!” The prevailing thought, is that the most intelligent and gifted leaders have the ability to multi-task. I know I’ve bought into that lie myself, but the truth is we are fooling ourselves into believing we are getting more done. In reality, we are actually accomplishing less and the quality of the work is poor. When the work may not be up to par, it means wasting even more time and energy going back to fix the mistakes. Really efficient people know that concentrated effort with few distractions leads to better work product in faster times.
Add the complexity of managing multiple projects, and it is easy to get pulled into the multi-tasking mindset. The key to efficiently following through on a project while avoiding the multi-tasking mindset, especially with a lengthy time line is to start with the right step, planning. Set aside some time to plan out the project and if it’s possible, break it down into bite size chunks that you can work on a little bit at a time. For instance, I have set aside Thursdays as my project day. And I have a running list of projects I need to work on, broken down into weekly deadlines. I set out to accomplish these tasks week by week so that I can avoid my natural tendency to procrastinate, to wait to the last minute to start and then become overwhelmed with the workload.
Manage Your Energy Not Your Time
Efficiency can be defined as the ability to avoid wasting materials, energy, efforts, money and time in producing a desired result. As a leader you are always giving out and so it is vital to regularly refuel. But, there are some people that seem to be extra demanding on a leaders energy — those who are critics and extra demanding that can, if not put in check, suck the very life and energy from a leader. They become "energy vampires". It seems that the loudest voices are always the negative ones and so it is natural as a leader to focus on who is the loudest, but this is not always wise.
A good leader will put up healthy boundaries. I’m not saying you never listen to them or you push them away completely, because I think a leader always needs to listen — even to his critics. But, I am saying have a healthy set of boundaries and limit the energy vampires as much as is possible.
Outside of 'energy vampires', leaders often waste their energy all by themselves. So to combat this, I constantly make course corrections when it comes to my energy. I am always studying myself and learning how I work most effectively. I have learned what routine and schedule I can keep to maximize my energy, daily, weekly, and yearly. This includes my sleep schedule, my wake up routine, my work priorities, my recreating time, etc. Right now I am studying food and a diet that will work best for me to maximize my energy and brain power. I am at the age now where I can no longer eat what I want, when I want, without much effect. I need to fuel body, soul, and spirit to maximize my efficiency and it is a constant study to figure that out.
I think it is more important to maximize your energy rather than just your time in order to maximize productivity. That means I focus on the entirety of my day, instead of just my work time. To me time management means what I do during my work time. But energy management causes me to focus on sleep, diet, exercise and on my breaks throughout the day. It’s not a matter of having enough time in the day, it’s a matter of having enough energy to effectively work the priorities in the day. Therefore, it is important to focus on ways to maximize your productivity by maximizing your energy. No, this does not mean more coffee or red bull. There are a lot of healthier, safer ways to maximize your energy. Make every minute count. That means sleep, diet, exercise, and recreation.
Divide Your Days into Priorities
I first discovered this method on my own, when studying how I work best, and confirmed my results reading it in articles. I have themes for each day, for example, Monday is message prep day. Tuesday is leadership development day, when I focus on meeting with my direct reports and leaders prepping for the week ahead. Wednesday’s are my meetings and counselling days. Thursday’ are my project days. Fridays are my recreation days. Saturdays are my family days. And Sunday is church day. Having themes to each day doesn’t mean that I don’t do anything else on that day, it just means that each day has a focus and a goal of what must be accomplished and what is priority for the day. This helps me mentally prepare for the day and to be in a focused mode right from when I wake up.
What do you do when you are serving under another leader, or have someone you are leading that comes, interrupts, and asks you to “re-theme” your day? Interruptions are par for the course in ministry. I have just come to accept that. So, again, having a theme for a day doesn't mean that nothing else can happen in that day, it just means I have a priority of what needs to get done by the end of the day. One of the reasons I have my message prep day on Monday’s is because having to have a message every single week is probably the most important thing I need to contribute to the church every single week. By putting it at the beginning of the week, it always me to get it off my mind early in the week allowing me to focus completely on my team and congregation for the rest of the week. It also is a bonus because if I have an interruption on a Monday, I still have 5 more days in the week to get the message done and I don’t have to panic or scramble last minute to put it together. Again, I think it is important to find a routine that works for you in your world and I think that includes thinking through the inevitable interruptions that will come.
Schedule Re-create Time
Setting aside reading time in my week is vital to staying fresh and full of new ideas. As a result, I actually have that time scheduled into my calendar. It’s not an extra, it’s a priority. Other routines that help me with creativity is regular Bible reading time, prayer time, exercise, date nights with my wife. I have found that most of the best creative ideas happen when your brain is relaxed on not focused on day to day tasks. I have also found that it is important to stay fresh and alert and that is only possible with routines of re-creation or recreation times.
Create an Organized Work Space
It is so tempting to dive into our work day rather than re-organizing our work space, but we know that an organized work space is more efficient than a disorganized one. I am a little OCD I guess when it comes to clutter. I find it very distracting to work in a cluttered environment. So, I guess I come by it naturally. But, that being said, when I get really busy it is easy to allow things to pile up on my desk or in my work environment and pretty soon it becomes a big mess. I have actually learned that even though it doesn’t feel like I have time to organize the mess, if I make the time, I will be more efficient and focused with my work times. I have learned to regularly clean up is better than letting it pile up until it becomes overwhelming. So, I will take time at the end of the day or first thing in the day to organize and to get the clutter cleared away.
Establish Your Personal Health Habits
At the all staff I mentioned working out, drinking water, taking breaks, and most important for all leaders; being spiritually disciplined. That may sound religious but re-creating ourselves is key to efficiently managing our mental and emotional health. Create a daily habit of reading the Bible. It is amazing how much strength can come from regularly feeding on God’s Word. Another is prayer time. I don’t set aside a big block of time to pray, but instead find it works better for me to regularly pray in short spurts throughout the day. That way, I can keep God at the centre of all of my business instead of only what is on my mind first thing in the morning. Another spiritual discipline for me is listening to faith building worship music. I find so much strength in worship — especially when I am discouraged. Worship has a way of breaking down walls of discouragement and helps me remember that God is still in charge and that he is with me.
Make Appointments for Preparation
Make appointments for preparation rather than using the margins of your life. Margins are the extra times in your days. The minutes in between meetings, or before or after work hours. I think it is important to make time to prepare, not just for presentation or sermons, but for meetings and projects. I have found that meetings are much more efficient if I prepare for them rather than just winging it through them. This includes team meetings and one on one meetings. I can be much more focused if I have thought through the meeting and potential scenarios ahead of time.
Choose the Right Channels for Communication
Probably the biggest time waster in every organization is unclear and incomplete communication. It’s tempting to text or email all communication to avoid wasting time face to face but that doesn’t always prove to be efficient. I would way rather communicate face to face or by Skype than by email or text. Way too much can be misinterpreted in email and texts because it is impossible to fully understand tone, or attitudes through simple words on a page. There is so much more to communication than just words. So, it is much more efficient to meet face to face and it is a must when it is potentially sensitive talking points. Probably my biggest inefficiencies and time wasters are issues over communication and having to deal with miscommunication. These are meetings that happen because I didn’t communicate something properly and now have to go over it again, or clean up a mess I made because I wasn’t clear or miscommunicated something to someone
It is vital that all leaders continually examine their efficient use of energy, time, resources, organizational and communication skills, following Jesus as their example. It is especially vital for us in the church because our inefficiencies will cost people’s eternities. That is simply much too high a price to be paid. It’s not just about us. It’s about them. And we must fulfill our mission with the outmost efficiency because the church is the hope of the world and we are on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.