A few weeks ago one friend asked me what I would tell him if he wanted to learn how to be productive with his time. He went on to inform me that there's a general perception that I tend to get a lot done in a lot of different areas. While that is probably the case I feel I have a long ways to go in how I work, not only being more efficient but being more effective. Here is the list I put together to share with him. I don't take credit for any of these ideas, they are all ones I've borrowed from others.
Downtime - learn to utilize downtime. This means I almost always have a book with me or my iPhone which I can use to respond to emails or interact with people. Long waits at the doctor's office or waiting for a late meeting has actually become a time I value now.
Learn How To Handle Interruptions - we live in a society where information flows quickly and people expect prompt responses (no more waiting 24 hrs for you to respond to a phone call or letter someone wrote you.) Getting Things Done has revolutionized how I manage this.
Schedule Regular Times For The Strategic - my strength is I'm good at the tactical. However, I sometimes get caught in the trees and forget to step back and look at the forrest. I've got to schedule regular times where I look at the big picture.
Create Systems - a system is a methodology or way of consistently getting something done. Paying bills, managing finances, following-up on actions, maintaining relationships, communication are all things that you can systematize. Automate as much as you can.
Say "No" More Often - most of us say "yes" way too much. We end up doing a lot of good things and fulfilling other's expectations for our life but end up so full and busy that we miss out on the great, God opportunities. Learning to say "no" is essential.
You're a Lego - each of us are a lego with only so many relational 'pegs' that we can use to connect to others. Recognize that to maintain and invest in relationships it takes effort, time and energy. Realizing this will allow you to determine and recognize which relationships in your life really matter and allow you to pursue them fully.
Eternal Perspective - this goes along with #3, but it's easy for all of us to get caught up in the near and now. We forget about the future and the eternal perspective of what we're doing. Prayer, worship and God's word helps me stay grounded. A frequent prayer of mine is "God, let me see this situation as You see it."
Milestones & Checkpoints - this is just good goal setting, but find ways to measure your progress. We all get discouraged and lost if we don't realize and see progress being made. Schedule regular times to review these.
Two Questions - I try and ask these regularly: 1) What am I doing that I should stop doing? 2) What am I not doing that I should?
Those who are willing to work at developing themselves and becoming more self-aware can almost certaintly evolve over time into truly transformational leaders.
If they've seen people can become greater leaders and influencers by being intentional, think how much greater this can happen in our own lives if it's God-directed and God-motivated. Here are some questions I encouraged our Life Group Leaders to consider as 2009 comes to a close:
1) How has God used me and worked through me this past year?
2) In what new or greater ways do I feel God prompting me as a new year begins?
3) Who do I feel God calling me to reach out to? (these may be individuals or more general groups of people)
4) What can I do to learn, grow and increase my effectiveness in what God's called me to?