Efficiency matters not only in the big picture but in the small day to day picture of leadership in every organization. While we covered a lot of territory last week, efficiency is such a huge and vital topic that I wanted to continue with it this week.
Efficiency of Space
Popular with some organizations is the open office concept. But there are pros and cons on how well this works and doesn’t work. We have been studying this concept for about 3 years now because we are very quickly outgrowing our space and need to find a way to be more efficient. It was 3 years ago that we visited one of Life Church’s campuses in Tulsa, Oklahoma and we witnessed first hand an open office concept with 17 staff working out of a relatively small space all together. When we asked them about it, they all loved it but were quick to mention a few drawbacks with the idea that they have found workarounds on it.
The first drawback is when someone comes in for a private meeting with one of the team, so they had set up private meeting rooms around the outside of the office, just like the ones you’d see at a real-estate or lawyers office. They also had set-up little private offices with a computer so that if someone needed quiet, concentration time they could book that space and work. I think that was good. I think it is also important to note that the site pastor had his own private office as I’d imagine he would be needing a private space most of the time for counselling and Sunday prep, etc. So, overall, I think it is a good idea, as long as it is paired with a few workarounds in mind.
Our Media team currently works in an open office arrangement. Josh, our lead in media, says one workaround they discovered was to learn each other’s peak times. What he was saying was that the team working together had to get to know each other and their individual preferences first, before they hit their maximum productivity level as a team. I think that is very important when it comes to the open office concept. Take the time necessary to get to know the people working around you.
Everyone is different and works differently and in order for the open office concept to work, the team needs to be respectful of each others differences and work with that. I also picked up something important from Josh’s experience with his team. The necessity of noise cancelling headphones for optimum concentration!
Efficiency of Breaks
When we talk about efficiency, some may think we want people to work harder and longer, but you can become more efficient by taking breaks. There was a recent study conducted by DeskTime App. They monitored employees computer use and found that the most productive 10% of their team worked hard for 52 minutes, then took a break for 17 minutes. I know that sounds really odd, but that is what the study found. I don’t think we need to be rigid with the 52-17 principle, but the thought is that our brain’s natural rhythms of attention requires that we can only concentrate for 45-90 minutes at a time and then we need roughly 10-20 minutes rest. Strategic breaks equal efficient work. So, find what your natural rhythm is and stick to it.
This applies to your downtime too. I used to just have days off and I would do whatever I felt like doing on my days off and my evenings off. I discovered that when I did that I usually ended up more tired than I was going in to my time off. Have you ever binge watched a TV show for hours, or played video games for hours thinking it was relaxing you only to discover you are more tired at the end of that than you were before?
Well, that is what I found for me. So, now, I view my rest time as recreation time or re-creation time. I schedule things in my off time that will refuel me as well as give me rest. I schedule time to go to a coffee shop and read a book. I schedule date nights with my wife. I schedule daddy dates with each of my kids. I schedule holiday times in seasons I know I will be tired. Some holidays are family holidays and some are just me and Joy-Lynn. I also schedule a time each year where I go away by myself for the better part of a week to read and pray and plan
In a recent training session, I promoted “getting up early”. Maybe being a “morning person” is a personality thing or just a discipline thing. Maybe its an age thing. When I was younger I loved sleeping in and staying up late. But now, maybe because of age, or maybe because of the level of responsibilities in a day, I’d rather go to bed at a decent time and wake up early to get back at it with fresh thinking. Did I just admit to being old?
There are a myriad of distractions that come at us during any given day. Its the whirlwind of being a leader. But the biggest common thread is people. People are the biggest distraction because they are unpredictable. But, as a leader and especially as a pastor you can’t live or work without people. So, you have to live with it and learn to be flexible and remain efficient. Solomon, the ancient king of Israel and wisest leader who ever lived said this in reference to people problems he was facing “Where there are no oxen the stable is clean, but much strength comes from the ox.” Its so true, isn't it? Where there are no people, we could be crazy efficient, but much strength comes from people!
Strength also comes comes efficiently planning. Last week we discussed “theming our days”. Labeling each work day with a theme. One of my theme days is back to back appointments. I keep notes during each meeting in Evernote for my regular appointments or in a file folder for sporadic counselling sessions. Or, I have my assistant sit in on my meetings, if they are not private counselling sessions and take notes for me. This way, I can remember what was said and easily and quickly recall the notes and review them the next time I meet with that person. I make bullet points and to do lists from each meeting and will transfer my to do’s at the end of the day to my calendar or running list of to do’s I keep in an Evernote file.
Getting things done right the first time is efficient but that efficiency can break down when I get in a hurry. So, I have learned different tricks though to battle the chaos that sometimes overwhelms me in a day. Besides using Evernote, and it really has become my best friend over the last couple of years, I also keep a blank legal pad on my desk so that I can quickly scribble notes throughout the day of things I need to get done or ideas I want to follow-up on. Then my goal is, at the end of each day, to either complete the list or transfer it to my calendar or Evernote to follow up on. It feels good to rip off the scribbled on paper at the top because it is all done and start fresh the next day with a clean page—literally.
Efficiency in Your Systems
Most leaders can spot inefficiency a mile away. My pet peeve is things that don’t work, equipment that doesn’t function property and slows everything down. Like when the internet goes out! I think there is nothing that frustrates me more than technology that doesn’t work as it should, when it should, and you end up wasting time fixing things instead of working on your projects. It's actually one of the reasons I switched to Mac ten plus years ago. I was tired of updates and viruses or prevention of viruses taking all of my time instead of just doing the work. That’s not a plug, that’s just what being frustrated led me to. I way rather spend the extra money for something reliable than go cheap and have to waste time figuring it all out. Ok…haha…rant over :)
In David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done” and his 2 minute inventory tasks. Allen's defined his 2 minute inventory as have a list of 2 minute tasks on hand that whenever a little window of time opens up during your scheduled day, you can capitalize on it by getting right to the list. Whether that’s cleaning out your email inbox, checking your voicemail, approving a request, signing cards and thank you notes, or whatever, having a running list like this on hand will greatly improve your efficiency. It’s amazing how much time we can waste thinking about what we should do instead of actually doing it. I have been using this method for some time now and I love it, it has greatly helped my productivity and concentration
Emerging leaders often pick up work habits from those they admire. What works for one may not work for another. You have to learn how you work best, and it is something I am still working on, to be honest. I regularly study myself, mostly my frustrations or stress. When I feel either, I have to ask why? Is there a way I could more efficiently work to avoid that stress or frustration? If so, what would it be? Then I ask, How are others handling that same frustration or stress? Because there is always someone who is busier than me or has more responsibilities than me, so how are they doing it? Then experiment. Does it work for me That’s the key. Every great idea may not fit the way I process information or priorities. And sometimes the season I’m in requires some radical updates.
Often times, the first experiment is a dismal failure, but there is something I can tweak or change that will work better for me in my environment. Then just change and make it work. I don’t know how many times I have changed my weekly schedule and will probably change again. That’s not a big deal, just as long as the changes help me expand me and my team.
Efficiency in Communication
One of the greatest distractions today is our email and cell phones. We can get interrupted any time, any where with messages and posts. I heard recently that the average person today spends over 167 minutes on their phone each day. That’s nearly 3 hours! So, I have learned to turn off notifications and often have my email and social media apps off on my computer, except for a few times each day so that I can control when to answer.
But as leaders, we have to find a balance in being efficient with our response time. As a pastor I realize that my responsibility is my response ability. I need to respond as soon as I can to emails and messages from people. So, those response times get added to my 2 minute list and I check emails or respond to messages in the in between times. Other times in my week, when I am not needing to specifically focus I leave my notifications on and respond immediately to messages. That way they are cleared off my plate immediately and not lingering in my head as “one more thing I need to do today.”
Efficiency matters not only in the big picture but in the small day to day picture of leadership in every organization. The efficiency challenge is a daily one, especially in ministry. But efficiency matters in church leadership because lives matter, people matter. 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.