Archives For Productivity

focus-follow-one-course-until-successfulOne of the foundations of what we do when we try to be strategic:

*FOCUS = Follow One Course Until Successful*

Get rid of all those distractions and stay focused on the task at hand.

Some people think it is best to diversify and keep pursuing tons of stuff at once. But if you look at the successful people in any given industry, you’ll typically find that they have figured out how to be ultra laser-FOCUSED on just a couple of things (if not just one!) at a time.

*Thoughts on this? Let me know what is the one or two things (ONLY) that are at the top of your focus list.*

One of the most common questions that I get, is–“How do I get more traffic and followers of my blog and content?”

One of the first suggestions is: go guest-blog for others, like crazy! –AND make sure it is your best content.

That response is usually, immediately followed by puzzled looks and defensive arguments, with the inquisitors trying to guide my recommendations for things to do on THEIR sites, rather than on others’. …But they’ve got it all wrong.

I’ve always looked for other voices, to share on one of my blogs. It’s boring, if you keep hearing from the same voice, day-in and day-out. Variety is the spice of life! And you can really learn things from a diversity of perspectives.

But when the idea of guest-blog posting–for my blog, or another’s–comes up, sometimes people don’t “get it.” They think that there’s no “WIIFM (What’s In It For Me),” for them. Once you try to explain the benefits, 50% of them will “get it” (as you see the light bulb go on, above their heads).

For the other 50%–don’t take it just from me! Here’s a sample of posts that make the case for why you should be guest-blogging. And I’d invite you to do it here on this site, as the “first, next step!” 😉

More Reasons Why You Should Consider Guest Blogging For Me:

  1. Guest Posts Can Help Grow Your Blog
  2. 5 Benefits of Having Guest Writers on Your Blog
  3. Build Your Social Network
  4. Discover Business Opportunities
  5. The Indirect SEO Benefits of Guest Posting
  6. Get Quality Traffic
  7. Identifying Quality Content
  8. Develop Rapport and Credibility

It’s been a month since you’ve settled on your New Year’s resolutions.  How’s that working out for you?

Here’s one worthy change in your routine that might have missed your list — but it is easy to learn, easy to implement, amazing in what it will do for your life at work.  Address head on, the dread that you have for going into work.

First you have to acknowledge that your workplace has become a place where you can’t get any work done:

 

Only after this realization, can you take up the Modern Meeting Manifesto and take aim at the crippling reasons for death by meeting that we all experience working with others in the work environment of today.  This past year, I was fortunate enough to read the short but powerful book by Al Pitampalli — Modern day warrior against the machine.

Al Pitampali - Modern Meeting Standard

Like Jason Fried, Al has taken the risk of prescribing some radical things that our current workplace environments don’t accept too easily.  But if you can embrace just a couple of the prescriptions that Al provides in his book, The Modern Meeting Standard, your 2013 will be dramatically different in nature.

So go ahead, take a quick read and then dare to make a difference in order to get off of the hamster wheel you are stuck in.  If you’re smart you’ll follow the 7 principles of the Modern Meeting Manifesto:

  1. Meet only to support a decision that has already been made.  Meetings aren’t for making decisions by committee.
  2. Move fast. End on schedule. Force yourself to hold brief meetings.  Once you do this, you’ll force yourself to *not* waste time and get to the point.
  3. Limit the number of attendees. To many meetings are simply informational for various participants.  Quit it.  Only gather people who can refute, confirm or change the decision being presented.
  4. Reject the unprepared.  Send out agendas prior to the meeting period.  No agenda, cancel the meeting.
  5. Produce committed action plans.  Hold people accountable.  Don’t just say the group will do things.
  6. Refuse to be informational. Read the memo, it’s mandatory.  Meeting leaders must do their work before the meeting.  Participants must do their work before the meeting.
  7. Work with brainstorms, not against them.  Brainstorms are one reason to bring several people into the same room together.  Embrace it.

One of the big items all of this points to is that meetings are expensive.  They interrupt a lot of co-workers from doing uninterrupted productive work.  And the combined cost to bring all those people into a single room is crazy expensive.  Meetings can be short.  Meetings can have less people.  Meetings can produce more results and momentum.  Only if you convene meetings only when necessary.

What is stopping you from just canceling the next recurring meeting that you lead?  What consequences would there be if you really did NOT hold it this week?

my desk at work - workspace environment

Here’s a photo of my current workspace. The environment in which you work is so important since it effects your ability to focus, concentrate, collaborate, and be creative.

Here are some photos of inspiring corporate workspace environments:

SWATCH COMPANY
Swatch Office

Three Rings Agency
creative workspace

Switzerland Fed Institute of Tech’s Architectural School
Federal Swiss Institute of Tech creative lab space

 

Neogama
Open workspace
team collaboration spaces

Need more inspiration? I love this blog with the tag line “this ain’t no disco, it’s where we work” – great photo galleries of creative work environments from around the world.

What does your current workspace look like?  Go ahead and share a photo of it here below with us.  Whether it looks like a tornado hit or if it is a clean as a clean room.  It would be great to see what the current state of your own workspace environment looks like right this minute.

You can upload to instagram, twitpic, flickr, or other photo site and drop a link below.  Or even embed the image in your reply.  Super users can take a video clip and share a tour of your own space. 

The recent post where I shared the 5 questions I sit down and ask and answer myself at the end of each week has been a popular post.  It is encouraging to hear the feedback that you are considering to start the same of simliar praxis.

For me, having a mechanism to regularly check in to increase self-awareness of various milestones I’m going through as well as the potential obstacles and opportunities ahead has been very fruitful.  Some of you have asked to be able to see and read the 5 actual questions I use in my own journal.  I print out a page with multiple copies of the set of 5 questions and then cut them out so they’re accessible whenever I need them.

five questions for your own self-reflection and productivity journal

I just opened up a new 3-pack of  8.5″ x 5.5″ thin journals which I picked-up from Staples.  I love the green color cover and the pocket inside the front cover where I can stash my little cut outs of 5 questions ready to be taped to a new page.  

Journal with pocket

There really is something to putting pen to paper and writing, drawing and listing out various things that are evolving in my head.  And having the prompt at the top of new journal entry is much better than always looking back and trying to remember which question I’m answering on a given page.

tape down the 5 questions and answer!

If you missed the video where I walk through the 5 questions in a bit more detail and what I’m trying to adress with each, check out the original video post here.

BTW, I really love reading your comments and emails and seeing how you keep yourself in check and how some of you are even modifying the questions to suit your own context/niche/industry/needs.  Be sure to leave a comment below!

Do you think a weekly journal check-in is too frequent? Not enough? Or just right?

 

Tomorrow is another day, another week.  That means that Sunday evening is a time unwind, rewind, and re-focus the mind.

Here’s a personal praxis of mine which I wanted to share with you since it has come up twice recently with some friends in conversation.  I thought it might be useful to share this with you, but also to solicit input from you too as to what you are doing, or what you think could help improve this weekly exercise.

Basically, I find the time toward the end of every week to pause and ask myself 5 questions about the week that just passed as well as the week ahead.  Michael Hyatt and others suggest you review your life plan topline objectives each and every day so you can keep you eye on the prize and have better operational discernment as things come up.

Self reflective power questions for better productivity

Similarly, these 5 questions help me re-tune/re-align my energy and focus using self-reflective feedback as well as revisiting strategic vision on a regular basis. I’m finding that one of the biggest benefits is that the result gives me permission to take more things off my plate every week because they are not supportive of where I’m trying to go in the big picture. It helps me pour more into the activities, programs and people who are important to me.

Here’s a short video clip sharing the 5 questions I ask myself at the end of every week:

 

What I do is have an actual printout with the questions on the page multiple times.  Then I cut out the paper strips containing all 5 questions each so that each strip can be easily pasted into a blank book journal like a MoleSkine.  And then I go through and answer each question one of a time and write out or draw out my response.  Being able to look back at some of the previous responses has been very instructive too.

I would love your feedback. If you’ve never done anything like this, is it something you might try out? 

What are your thoughts on making sure to hit these 5 questions weekly? Is it worth being self-aware of these things and carving out precious time in the schedule to accomplish it each and every week?  What other questions would you ask of yourself?

If you’re like most organizational leaders, a significant part of what you do on a daily basis is process emails. . . Responding to emails, initiating emails, filing, deleting and forward emails.  We all do it.

The problem with the clear majority (95%+!!!) of email is that when you sit down to process your email inbox, you are deciding to let other people’s agendas dictate how you spend your time IMHO.  So figuring out how to tame that inbox is one of the most strategic things you can do for your own work.

One of my colleagues is a master of killing that inbox every day.  So I asked Rich Birch, to share some of his best practices for dealing with email.  Take heed and you’ll find hours being freed up every week so that you can spend more time on things that are on *your* agenda, not others’.  Enjoy today’s post below.


Remember when email was fun? I do.
I was one of those kids with an email address in the 80s. It’s true. My parents got me a subscription to CompuServe because it had an online encyclopedia. I used to sell access to my friends . . .only $0.25 per printed page! (But that’s another story!) Back in those days it was magical to send emails to people all over the country.

 

Email isn’t fun anymore. In fact, for most people serving in a church, it’s a drag. It seems like an interruption to what God is calling you to do. Your behind on answering your emails and afraid that there is a message waiting from someone who is disappointed you haven’t got back to them . . . so for some weird reason we avoid dealing with our email . . . and the cycle continues.

Email Inbox Processing Best Practices

I need to confess . . . I kinda like email. It’s a great way to move information around . . . to prepare people for face to face meetings . . . to connect with a wide variety of people.

Here are 6 “not-so-obvious” email tips from what I’ve learned after almost 25 years of trying to figure out this email thing . . .

1. Email Is Not Your Job

Don’t mistake what you are called to do in your ministry with doing email. Email is just a tool. You are called to connect people to the church and build up leaders. Email simply aids the core function that you do. If you feel like all you do is email all day – talk with your supervisor and restructure your job. You are more valuable to the Kingdom than just answering email.

2. Schedule Your Time

Set aside time every day when you are going to process all of your emails. Don’t just keep scanning the list of emails . . . “checking email” is not dealing with emails. Sit down for an hour and respond, delegate, defer or even delete every email. When I’m at my email best – I’m up early in the morning and cranking through the email from the day before.

3. Don’t Use a Smart Phone

 I’ve had a Palm Pilot, BlackBerry, iOS devices and my beloved Android. These are all fun toys for filling in time when you have a few extra minutes during your day. They are terrible for processing email. All you ever do on a Smart Phone is read the headlines of emails . . . which gives you the false sense that you are actually dealing with your inbox. You’re not. Put the iPhone back in your pocket and go do your work . . . later sit down at a computer and do your email.

4. Filters Are Your Friends

Every email program has some sort of filter function built in. These filters will automatically process emails when they come into your inbox. I currently have over 40 filters running on my inbox. I have emails that I get every month that I need to forward to other people . . . my system automatically forwards those emails and I don’t ever see them in my inbox. I want to highlight emails from some people as urgent when they arrive . . . as soon as my email sees that certain people email me it flags them for me. I’ve heard that some people will even filter out those pesky forwards from parents who always send them their way . . . of course I’ve just heard about that and have never done that. 😉

5. Reply Sparingly

There is only one sure fire way to reduce the amount of email traffic coming into your inbox. Send less email. I’ve sent 28,000 emails since 2007 . . . in that same time I’ve received 55,000 emails. Every time I send an email I think to myself “I am going to receive two emails in return . . . is this email that important?”

6. Use Gmail

I’m biased. Gmail is the solution for email power users. This cloud based system mops up any client based solution by a long shot. Their SPAM killing is amazing. You get tones of free space. You can harness the power of Google’s search technology for your personal information world. The threaded conversations keep you up to date. The “labs” feature has all kinds of great hacks for making email more efficient. It’s free. If you are still using an old school “client” to process your email . . . where have you been for the last 5 years?
I’d love to hear your tips for dealing with the email reality that we all face in ministry. [Leave a comment below on how you deal with email!]

Rich Birch - KillerChurch.comRich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000 people in 12 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. Currently Rich serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey.
Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution. He blogs at www.killerchurch.com

As we have pushed forward into the information age, ministry has followed suit in many ways. . . ministry work has evolved so that it isn’t strictly about counseling, facilitating discipleship, teaching on a one-to-one or one-to-some basis. Sophistication in communication resources has allowed growth-oriented ministries to find themselves planning, producing & presenting more content, running more outreach programs, serving more people by collaborating in teams and more.

This has changed the daily routine of ministry work a bit for some.

Have you ever had meetings to plan volunteer training, or leadership lunches, or ministry team retreats?

I’m sure you have at some point, if its not already a regular occurrence in your work.

Are you aware that you’ve gotten to the point where you are meeting about meetings?

Today is a Monday, and it’s typically a meeting-heavy day here.  I already know not to schedule any meaningful calls or meetings with new people on Mondays because I’ll be consumed with various standing meetings.   In the end, Monday’s are not really a day where I “get work done.”  Have you ever felt the same thing?

How do you change this? At least for the people you manage and interact with?

Before you figure it out, here’s a great TED talk where Jason Fried discusses “Why work doesn’t happen at work?” to put it into context:

One of my colleagues at work, Rich Birch, has offered up this response:

 

The author, Al Pittampalli, is trying to dig one layer deeper than usual to figure out how to radically change our work habits around meeting and productivity.

Rich has arranged an opportunity for us to sit down internally with Al this coming January, and I’m excited to read his book, READ THIS BEFORE YOUR NEXT MEETING — and then interact with him to see how I can activate some of the insights for my own praxis in year ahead.

I definitely want to ramp up productivity in the next year, what about you?

 

QUESTION: Are you sick of meetings? What do you do *during* your inefficient meetings? Got any tips to make meetings radically useful to everyone that comes? Share your rant or tip below in the comments. I’m looking forward to hearing all of it!

Whether you are in a ministry situation where you are a solo pastor, team-based ministry or non-profit organization, there’s one thing everyone surely shares in common: tons of stuff to do on your plate.

Overworked, burned out ministry leaders are everywhere. You can see them a mile away – they are ineffective, impersonal, rough on the edges and just plain old not fun to be around.

One of the key success factors for a vibrant personal ministry is not taught in seminary: Adapting your own personal workflow so that you become more productive over and over again.

Here is one method that I find very helpful when coaching others that are seeking a way out from the overwhelming demands put on them(selves) in their vocational roles: Continue Reading…

For many churches, the calendar is driven by the academic year because the ministry has many families with kids involved.  And if that’s the case, we’re right at the point where you’ll be rewind the clock and “start over” with your ministry programming this fall.

Aside from the Sunday School and youth ministries, the other parts of the church might also be preparing for a new small group season or new lay leadership team installations, or new . . .

It might all be “new” but at the same time, it can quickly become “old” and repetitive…just the same old thing over and over again year in and year out!

ministry-rut

I don’t know about you, but when this happens it can quickly lead to paralysis and lifeless leadership on my own part.

But what can you do about it? Well, just sitting there and playing along isn’t going to solve anything!

Here’s some tips — eye-opening ways of approaching your “job” as a pastor or ministry leader to help “unstick” what’s “stuck” for you right now: Continue Reading…