I am often asked how I manage to get done all that I get done in a week. When I was a TD, people regularly asked me how I was able to work full-time at the church and have time to write this blog, produce a weekly podcast, attend trade shows and have a family. The short answer to that question is that I don’t really do much else besides work. And I do that because I enjoy it and because that’s how God made me. I have a very high capacity for getting a lot of things done.
But with that said, there is always room for improvement. And at some point, I’m going to want to slow down and do something besides work all the time. I came across this slide share quite some time ago, but it’s been sitting in my queue of things to write about. Having looked through it a few times, I thought it would be helpful to share, and of course, comment on.
Plan for Less Work Each Day
I love the quote from David Heinenmeier of 37 Signals (#2). Too many of us plan to accomplish 8-9 hours of work each day and go home feeling like we failed because we kept getting interrupted. This is especially true in ministry, when interruptions are really opportunities to serve people. But if we have committed ourselves—even mentally—to getting 8 hours of tasks done, we’re going to be frustrated, or working longer. Now, there are times when we really do need to put our heads down and power through, but if we leave ourselves some margin, we actually get more done and are happier in the process.
#5 Reminds us that multi-tasking kills our focus. Now I know most of you out there are severely ADD and will answer email, order materials for a project, schedule the tech team on PCO and upload the sermon. All at once. I’m guilty of this as well. But I can tell you, when I turn off distractions and focus exclusively on one thing, I get a lot more done. At work, I’m known to put my IEMs in, quit Outlook and Safari and just work on a design. After 2 hours, I’ve usually made incredible progress, and then I have time to check in on email. Give it a try.
Working Longer is Not Better
Study after study is showing us that working 9, 10, 12 or 14 hours a day is just not productive. After about 8, our productivity falls off to the point that we’re really better off going home. I remember a time when I had been at it for about 16 hours and was trying to patch a lighting system. I had the patch list on one computer and the plot on the other. I was so tired that I could look at the patch list, then to the plot and forget what fixture I was dealing with. It was time to go home.
Again, I get that there are times when we need to push through. But I know I get tired, slow and cranky when I work too long, and I’m not really helping anyone. Knowing that I have to get things done in 40 hours makes me work more efficiently, and I go home feeling a lot better.
John Maxwell reminds us in #20 that if we can get something done 80% as well by someone else, we should let them do it. Now, I know this goes against the grain of all my fellow perfectionists out there. But I can tell you that your standards are too high. I know mine are. For the vast majority of tasks, if something is done to 80% of our high standards, it’s still darn close to 100% for everyone else. So let it go and focus on the things only you can do (#18).
This may even mean getting a volunteer to do something you are currently doing. At my last church, I enlisted one of our most committed video directors to schedule the video teams. It wasn’t a ton of work each month, but he had a passion for video and the team, and did a great job of making sure we were staffed each weekend. In fact, in the four years he did that while I was there, I rarely even thought about it. Having that task out of my queue freed me up to do other things; like upgrade the system the team worked on.
What is your favorite time management hack?