Tips for Getting More Done Every Day

I ran across this infographic not too long ago and thought it did a great job of summarizing some keys to remaining efficient and productive in both work and life. Check it out!

Tips for Getting More Done This Week!


Time Management 101: The Weekly Schedule

Over the years I’ve occasionally come across a person who prefers to rely on memory for upcoming events and appointments. I can only imagine that they either have an amazing memory, a very simple life or are in store for a rude awakening someday. If you have any level of responsibility over other people, whether that be at work or at home, then I highly recommend the weekly schedule. In fact, the more people in your life, the more important a weekly schedule becomes.

The Weekly Schedule – Ugh. Personally, I would love to do many other things than work on my schedule each week. It’s work and it requires forethought and emotional energy. However, I have NEVER regretted it once I’m done. It falls into the category of things to do that won’t serve you now, but will reap great rewards later.

Benefits of the Weekly Schedule:

Peace of Mind.

When you have scheduled your week really well, you will know that you won’t forget or miss anything important that week. You will prioritize your time based on the allotted hours you have available and can know that you’ve done your best.

Maximized Creativity.

When you choose to free your memory up from having to remember basic things, you increase your brain bandwidth so that you can focus on other things. Who wants to lie in bed at night and try to think up what the schedule is supposed to be tomorrow?

Increased Productivity.

Building your schedule each week will allow you to build the most appropriate hours into your week for the most important things, which means you’ll get the things done you really need to.

A Balanced Lifestyle.

If you build a great weekly schedule, then you will make sure you leave room for ALL the priorities in your life, rather than one or two. For instance, it’s harder for an honest person to schedule a work-week that excludes loved ones when you intentionally choose to schedule every aspect of your week.

Stronger Relationships.

Again, a good schedule will make sure your family, friends, direct reports, and colleagues get the attention they need. It’s nearly impossible to balance your relationships without the weekly schedule.


Create a New Schedule Each Week.

Yep. You heard me. Build a new schedule each week. No, wait. That probably doesn’t apply to everyone. Of course, if you’ve read this far, it probably still applies to you. The only reason I can see for NOT building a new schedule each week is if you don’t have kids or grand-kids, your job is exactly the same every day, and what you do each week is also exactly the same. I know a few empty nesters and retired folk who can just build a basic schedule and live with that. For the rest of us, we will need to rebuild our schedule each week.

This is especially true for pastors. Most pastors have enough flexibility that they can modify their weekly schedule at will. I find that building my weekly schedule forces me to be faithful to my responsibilities at work while honoring my family time and personal life.

Commit to a Certain Number of ‘Work/Ministry’ Hours Each Week.

I want to be a little careful here. Full time ministry is a holy calling and a great privilege. However, too many times pastors and spiritual leaders sacrifice the holy calling to love and protect their family on the altar of church work. The fact is, for pastors, what’s ‘church’ for everyone else is ‘work’ for them. Hopefully, it’s a great joy and service to God when at ‘work’, but it is ‘work’ nonetheless.

Every once in a while, I come across a pastor who does the opposite as well. They are paid a full time salary, but only put in 25 or 30 hours of ‘work/ministry’ on a given week. In the long run, this is dishonoring to the church, to the Lord, and eventually to your family. Unless you have specifically made arrangements to work part-time with your board, you should put in no less than 40 hours of work/ministry every week. If God has called you to full-time ministry, then He has called you to fulfill that role in every way you can.

My target for each week is between 40 and 45 hours. Sometimes I may work over that, other times under; but I am faithful to those numbers. 

Block Out Work Hours in Your Calendar.

This may not be relevant to everyone, but it is to me. I block out the hours I intend to work each day of my week. This allows me to make sure I’m staying ‘in-bounds’ in terms of my committed hours and it also sends a clear message to everyone who has access to my calendar when I am at work and when I am not.

Build Your Weekly Schedule Before Your Week Begins.

I used to build my schedule on Monday mornings, when my week begins. I discovered that, by waiting until Monday, I missed scheduling out Monday. In fact, sometimes I wouldn’t even get to building my weekly schedule until the day was nearly over! So now I try to build my week on Friday or Saturday at the latest.

Observe the Sabbath Day by Keeping it Holy.

I know I’m preaching to the choir, but sometimes us pastors are good at preaching and forget it applies to us too. I know I do! Build at least one full day off into your schedule. I won’t tell you what to do on that day, just stay away from church emails and your office!

Schedule Your Life, Not Your Work.

The best way to ensure we don’t go home and become a couch potato is to schedule what will happen when you get home. Make sure you set aside time for your spouse and kids, for rest and recreation, for friends, and for your health. I’ll be honest, this is hard for most of us (and me). I think we often enjoy the ‘spontaneity’ of just coming home with little planned. The problem is that little planned can easily turns into hours of nothing.

Big Rocks First.

I think you know what I mean. You figure out what is most important for you to accomplish that week (it likely changes week to week) and schedule the appropriate time in. Hint: look at least three or four weeks out when you put in your big rocks. You may discover that there is something coming up that you know you’ll need to work on now that you should schedule time for. I’ll talk more about project management and advanced planning another time.

Eat The Frog.

Perhaps you haven’t heard the analogy yet from author Brian Tracy’s book “Eat That Frog“. The principle goes like this: If you had to eat a frog as part of your day, when should you eat it? Answer: first thing, get it over with. Take care of whatever you have facing you and dread doing early in the week.

Follow Your Plan.

Obviously, your time is wasted if you build a schedule and then just do whatever you feel like doing anyway. The point of the weekly schedule is to keep you on target.

Advanced Weekly Planning:

These next few ideas are not for the newbie. If you can successfully build and follow a weekly schedule, then consider taking it to the next level.

Build Your Ideal Week.

This is something I learned from Michael Hyatt right HERE and have utilized at various times in my life successfully. The idea is that you block out what you want every day to look like in a perfect world, and then build your weekly schedule based on that ideal.

Identify Your Ideal Blocks.

You have blocks of activity that you know you HAVE to accomplish each week in order to survive. If you are a pastor, you should figure out how many hours you really should block out for sermon prep. If you are a worship leader, same thing. You should also identify how much time you should block out each week for ‘Admin’ time – that’s time to return calls, handle emails, etc.

Treat Blocked Time Like Meetings.

You know those blocks of time are critical to your week and will ensure you don’t go overtime or compromise something important you have planned. So be very intentional about keeping your blocked time for things like admin, sermon prep, event prep, etc. Sometimes people will ask me if they can meet with me during a time I’ve blocked out; often my response is simply, “Sorry, I already have things I need to work on during that time. Let’s setup a time to discuss it tomorrow or next week.”

Block Out Flex Time.

No schedule is perfect. Leave room every day for flex time. That way, perhaps you’ll be able to make the occasional trip to the bathroom and call your spouse!

Consider Creating Themes to Your Days or Hours.

Again, I learned this from Michael Hyatt right HERE. What I like about this idea is that this principle should allow you to focus better by minimizing the constant need to multi-task each day.

Schedule Two or More Weeks Out.

I don’t always do this, but when I do, I love it. It forces me to think more long term and shows me what my limitations are in terms of time available for people and meetings. If I over-schedule in meetings one week, I can intentionally make up for lost time the following week.

What do you think? What else could you add to your weekly schedule to maximize your productivity?

Get Things Done With A Responsibility Summary

If you’ve never seen the 1969 Ed Sullivan episode of Erich Brenn doing his plate spinning act, today’s your lucky day. Click the image above and enjoy!

Plate spinning is great for a comedy act. It’s not so great in the office. Unfortunately, for many of us, we feel like we have too many plates and we can’t seem to get them moving or, worse yet, we have them spinning and they are all crashing to the ground while we try to keep others going. It doesn’t seem to matter what we do, we can’t keep up!

I’d like to propose a strategy that can help you succeed in managing your projects and time. It’s not a magic button, but I believe that it can be a huge help to you. I’ve talked about The Responsibility Summary before in a previous post as well. Enjoy.

The Perils of Multitasking

MultiTaskingToday is a good day at my desk. It is empty of everything except one piece of paper on my left that holds information I need to put into my OneNote, one book on my right I might pick up and browse a little later, my coffee and my computer keyboard, mouse & monitor. My phone is on ‘Do Not Disturb’ and my cell phone is turned off. I have one application open on my computer – my browser, allowing me to type this post.

This is a veritable miracle. It’s a rare day that I am not overwhelmed with information, interruptions, emails, texts, calls, you name it. I can say with all honesty that, when I’m trying to multitask, I’m not as smart or productive as I could be. Neither are you. Check out this infographic laying out some startling findings.



The Responsibility Summary

Should you be overwhelmed? That’s an interesting question. Of course, if you aren’t overwhelmed then it’s a no-brainer, probably not. But if you ARE overwhelmed, wouldn’t it be great to know if you should be or not? Years ago I remember a conversation with my boss about my workload. Here’s the simple version of what it sounded like:

Boss. “Here’s something else I’d like you to do.”

Me. “I’m overwhelmed with the work I already have.”

Boss. “What work do you already have?”

Me. {Insert measly & inadequate attempt at describing my workload here.}

Boss. “I think you need to work on your time management skills. Here’s something else I’d like you to do.”

Me. “OK” {Walk away overwhelmed.}

The problem is, neither he nor I really knew if I had too much on my plate or not. We didn’t know what my capacity was and we didn’t have a clear understanding of what I was doing. I see this happen a lot. People are overwhelmed with work and since they don’t know if the problem is them (time management skills) or the job (they have too much work), they assume it’s the former and try to get by. This doesn’t have to be.

A couple years ago I found myself in this predicament and developed a one page summary of all my responsibilities. It has been, without doubt, one of the most meaningful and effective documents I’ve ever made. It is NOT a Job Description and it is NOT a Task List. It is a Responsibility Summary. I love it, my boss loves it, and everyone I know who has successfully made one loves it.

First, let me outline some of the benefits of this one page document, once it’s been developed.

  • It brings clarity to you.
    The primary benefit is simply the fact that you have clarity about what you do (or should be doing). You’ll never have to wonder what you have on your plate that your forgetting. 
    The Responsibility Summary is a big picture snapshot of everything you’re working on.
  • It brings clarity to your boss.
    If it’s clear to you, then it should also be clear for your employer. When I first showed this document to my boss they loved it. It allowed us to have a very clear conversation about my job and the projects I was working on. What I really liked was that I didn’t have to convince my boss that I had a lot on my plate, it was right there in front of him. And when he told me to add something to my plate, it was real easy to ask, ‘What needs to change in my responsibilities so I can do that for you?’
  • It clarifies priorities.
    It’s a lot easier to see what’s important and what’s not important when looking at a Responsibility Summary. At one point I saw something that was on my “Future Projects” list and something else on my “Current Projects” list that needed to be switched. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was working on the wrong thing.
  • It reveals dead weight.
    Similar to the priorities benefit, the Responsibility Summary shows you what you shouldn’t be doing. Recently I was working with an Executive Pastor at a local church and when we finished his Responsibility Summary we saw that he spent a lot of time fixing computers. This wasn’t a good use of his time. So we built a strategic plan to train and delegate that to someone else.
  • It highlights problems.
    With the same pastor mentioned above, we also noticed that there were a lot of important projects in the “Future Projects” listing and almost no projects in the “Current Projects” listing. The reason was easy to see, he had so many “Ongoing Responsibilities” that he had no time to work on projects. This needed to change and we used the Responsibility Summary to develop a plan to change that.
  • It confirms suspicions.
    Most of the time, a wise person will be able to look at a Responsibility Summary and be able to determine if that individual simply needs to strengthen his time management skills or if he does, in fact, just have too much on his plate. There’s little room to wonder anymore.
  • and more…
    The more I help people develop their Responsibility Summary, the more I’m finding it useful in different ways. For me, it’s a ‘must do’ for any organization or person.

The structure of a Responsibility Summary is simple. The hard part is sitting down and figuring out what needs to go into each section. For most of us, that can be stressful and overwhelming all by itself. I’m going to outline what to do here, but I will also provide a download link to a simplified version for you to use. Don’t download and build it until you’ve read the ‘rules’ below!

  • Determine Your Job
    Someone once asked me if he could make a Responsibliity Summary that showed his whole life. I don’t suggest this. Make one summary for your work. If you want, you can make another one for your ‘other job’, your ‘personal life’, your ‘church leadership’ or whatever else you want. Just don’t try to combine them into one sheet.
  • Determine Your Columns
    You probably don’t want to list your responsibilities in one big list. In the end, it will still seem overwhelming and hard to read. Think of what you do and ask, “Are there 3 or 4 categories that I can use to separate my responsibilities?” As you work on this, you might change this around over time. IMPORTANT: If you find you have one column that’s really full and two others that are really empty, you probably need to re-think your categories. Here are a couple of examples to help get you started:
    • A pastor might use: Executive / Ministry Oversight / Active Ministry
    • A secretary might use: Event Planning / Follow-Up / Office Management
    • A facility staffer might use: Winter / Spring / Summer / Fall OR Grounds / Facility / Staff
    • An associate might use: Youth Dept / Care Dept / Active Ministry
  • List Ongoing Responsibilities
    The first row in each column should list your Ongoing Responsibilities. This should include ANYTHING you do on a regular basis that takes an hour or more of your time. It could be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual responsibilities. Remember, in general these should not be tasks. They are responsibilities. You might also consider putting a note under or beside them clarifying the frequency and the amount of time you spend on them. Do not include vague things like ’email’ or ‘phone calls’. Those are not responsibilities – they are tasks that help you complete responsibilities. Here are a couple of examples:
    • Lead Staff Meetings (W/3)  – the ‘W’ means weekly & the ‘3’ means 3 hours
    • Create/Propose Budget (A/15)
    • Counseling (W/5)
    • HVAC Maintenance (Q/5)
    • Ongoing Website Maintenance (M/4)
    • Easter Service Planning (A/12)
  • List Current Projects
    The second row in each column should list projects you’re working on right now. A Current Project is NOT an Ongoing Responsibility. It has a definite end in mind and it’s not something you will probably do again – at least within the year. You may not know when the project will get done, but you do know that it will or should eventually be completed at some point. Also, Current Responsibilities MUST be projects you are ACTUALLY working on. Just because it’s on your list of things you SHOULD be working on, doesn’t mean you are working on it. If it’s not in your schedule to work on it in the next few days/weeks, it probably shouldn’t be listed as a Current Project, but as a Future Project. Honesty is important here. You don’t want to lie to yourself by making it look like you’re doing something that you actually aren’t. Another important thing to remember here is that eventually a Current Project may turn into an Ongoing Responsibility. For example, ‘create a blog’ might one day turn into ‘post to the blog’, Here are some examples of what a Current Project might be:
    • Interview/Hire Secretary
    • Research how to do a Capital Campaign
    • Propose new system to track attendance
    • Upgrade all computers to Windows 7
    • Create a blog for Youth Dept
  • List Future Projects
    You don’t want to forget this last row. These are the projects that you either SHOULD be working on, but aren’t, or that you eventually want to work on. Over time, you may see that a particular Future Project just never seems to make it to the ‘Current Project’ category. This begs the question, ‘Is it really that important?’ and if so, should someone else be doing it or should something change so that I can do it. Here are a few more examples, although they can/will potentially look just like those in the Current Projects list, depending on if they’re getting worked on:
    • Develop online store
    • Write new Welcome class content
    • Create policies for advertising events
    • Research new database options

Here are a few final thoughts about this that you might want to keep in mind.

  • It’s not easy.
    I’ve already said this, but it’s worth pointing out. Building your first Responsibility Summary might be difficult and painful, especially for certain personalities. In the end, it’s worth it, if it’s done right and used regularly. Hang in there and don’t give up until it’s complete.
  • It may take several drafts.
    Like any new venture, it may take several drafts before it turns into something useful. You’re building something from scratch and it’s OK if you don’t get it right the first time, or even the second time. Keep at it, try new ways of organizing columns and you’ll eventually end up with something you like.
  • Update it monthly or quarterly.
    This is a working document, but it’s not meant to replace your task list. Update it monthly or quarterly, but don’t wait any longer than that. If you have a quarterly review with an employer, then get into the habit of updating it before your meeting and bringing a copy in with you. If not, then put in your task list to update it regularly throughout the year.
  • Look at it.
    The goal isn’t to make a cool document that summarizes your job. The goal is to use the information on that document to help you be more productive and effective in what you do. Analyze your Responsibility Summary every once in a while and ask questions like, “Should I be doing that?”, “How can I move that to a Current Project?”, “Why do I spend so much time on something that’s not my main job?”, etc.
  • Tell me how it goes.
    I’m not kidding. I need some stories of how the Responsibility Summary has helped people in my coaching. In fact, if you’re willing, send me a copy so I can use it in further teaching as I coach people in the area of productivity. Thanks!

Don’t just download this and start using it until you’ve read through this page. You won’t fully understand what to do. It’s too easy to put things in the wrong categories/columns otherwise. Note: This download is in Microsoft Word format. Enjoy!

Everybody Say ‘asana’!

I sort of consider myself a productivity nut, meaning I like to learn about and find new/better ways to be more productive. Last year I discovered an online task management system that was helping me manage my to do’s, projects, etc. ( It had been working well for me, but there’s also a decent learning curve, making it hard for someone who’s not a nut like me to figure it out – this is especially true because for it to be truly useful you had to understand how to use tags properly.

Well, a few weeks ago, my friend, Bob Kniley (another nut), told me he thought he had found a new online task management system (with a great price – FREE) and suggested I check it out. I fell in love with it within 10 minutes of reviewing it. I have now transferred all of my tasks to asana.

What makes it a very effective system is the fact that:

  • It’s very user friendly (easy to learn for the non-nuts).
  • It allows for layered tasks (nut language for, ‘it lets you have a big category of tasks, with a ton of projects in that category, and a ton of tasks for each project, with as many steps as needed for each task’).
  • It emails you your upcoming, due, or overdue tasks if you want it to.
  • It lets you email tasks into your task list from your mail client without going to the site.
  • It allows you to collaborate by assigning tasks to other people – and it’ll keep you informed of their progress if you want it to.
  • Did I mention it’s free (note – it’s free if you have less than 30 people included in any given workspace).

I recommend you check it out! You’ve got nothing to lose and perhaps a lot to gain!

Forget Everything

Here’s a sign of an UNPRODUCTIVE person – they forget some things. Not everything. Just some things. They forgot to send an email. Forgot to show up for a meeting. Forgot to send the proposal. Forgot to prepare for the devotional. They remembered a lot of things too. Everyone was glad they remembered those things. But mostly, people were frustrated about the things they forgot.

** paradox **

Here’s a sign of a PRODUCTIVE person – they forget everything. Really. Everything. If you were to ask them what they are doing next week, they would smile and say, “I don’t remember.” If you asked them what tasks they will be working on tomorrow, they would reply, “I don’t know.” If you saw them in the mall and suggested that perhaps they are forgetting something, they could suggest back with confidence, “Yes, I have forgotten everything.”

You have to admit. You’re a little curious how this works.

The difference between these two people isn’t really about what they forget. It’s about how they remember. A productive person chooses to empty his mind of the details of his day, week, month, even year. He doesn’t try to remember what’s going on next week. He doesn’t have to remember to go to a meeting or prepare for a devotional. He just does.

He does because he has created systems to remember all of those things for him.

For example:

  • He maintains a responsibility summary (one page) which informs him of all of his major responsibilities, current projects, and future projects.
  • He uses his calendar to keep track of his appointments, meetings AND to schedule time to work on his most important projects/tasks on any given week (and he schedules an hour each week to prepare/plan out the upcoming weeks).
  • He utilizes an information management system which keeps all the important information about his life and ministry organized and accessible.
  • He has two or three in-baskets which funnel information, tasks, activities, and ideas to the most appropriate place and in a timely fashion.
  • He regularly checks his to-do lists to ensure he’s working on the right things at the right times.

With those five systems developed and in place, a productive person can go home from work every day and forget everything. He can empty his mind of all the clutter of the day and the worries of tomorrow and enjoy his family & free time (which was on his calendar anyway).

How much do you forget?

photo credit: Flооd via photopin cc

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