time management

Efficiency part 2

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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?

People Efficiency

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.

Efficiency

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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.

The Power of Time Management

John Maxwell said, “The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.”

Anyone can make a to-do list, but many of us fail when it comes to prioritizing. Sometimes we feel busy but we are not always productive. Learn how to make the most of your days by learning the art of time management with these 7 vital keys.

7 Keys to Effectively Managing Your Time:

  1. Make planning a vital ________________.
  2. List every ________________ and ________________.
  3. Determine ________________ and ________________.
  4. Turn off the ________________ web.
  5. Do one ________________ at a time.
  6. Set ________________.  
  7. Take frequent  ________________.

 

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