You’re already going as fast as you can, doing as much as you can. Even if you take the time to read this, it’ll probably be more “skimming” than reading. Some may ask, “Why would anyone want to add to that load?” Fair question. However, this is about cutting some of those things you already do that keep you from getting what you really want done. So, this is about five things to do less in order to do more of what you really want. So here are the five.
1. Limit your time wasters
What do I mean by timewasters? These are the things that compromise your focus and your ability to get done what you need to get done today. It could vary from someone dropping-in your space unannounced to social media. For example, A time waster for me is email. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in email. I like email. Email is important for ministry and for business. But email can be a time waster too. Another time waster for me is social media and so are people dropping by unannounced to visit while I’m working. Here is how I handle all of these. I pray there is something helpful here for your situation.
For email, I turn it off and only check it twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. I do this so I can concentrate. Like you, I need time to think, plan and pray. Praying for pastors and churches is part of my job, so I don’t need to be distracted by emails. I can check them when I schedule it. I try to do something like this with texting, but it is harder to not look, and I usually justify reading and answering texts by saying to myself, “It will only take a moment and then I can put it out of my mind.”
For social media, unless you are working on it for your work or ministry, turn it off. I generally spend my time on social media in the evenings and weekends.
Drop in visitors, which has become more rare post covid, but when they do, I thank them for coming by and tell them it is good to see them. I ask what has brought them by. This way I can determine if it is a visit of an important pressing nature or just a casual visit. Certainly, if they are in crisis or experiencing what they would consider a great need, I would make every attempt to help. If it is not in that category, I don’t let them sit down. I share with them that currently I have other obligations. If they would like to meet, we could set up a time so that I am able give them my full attention. I then seek to calendar them in when it is most convenient for me according to the circumstances. This sort of scenario could also happen if you work in an office with other coworkers. There is usually at least one person who likes to spend a little too long chit chatting or “just dropping by” to say “Hey”.
2. Practice the Pareto Principle
If you are not familiar with the name, you will be familiar with the idea. Basically, it is the observation by an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto of the 80/20 rule. You would know it in church as 80% of the work of the ministry done by 20% of the members. In economics, it is 80% of the wealth is owned by 20% of the people. Likewise, for taxes, 80% of the taxes are paid by 20% of the people. In healthcare, 80% of the cost is incurred by 20% of the people. It goes on and on. Understand, I’m using generalities. I’m not up to date on the actual percentages for these, I’m simply using these for illustration purposes.
The application of the Pareto Principle for you is found in this question: What 20% of the work you do will generate 80% of the results? You identify that 20% and that is where you put your time and energy. This is how you get more done. This one question may be the best productivity question you ask yourself all year.
3. Make a daily to do list
With your personal Pareto Principle in mind. You then can make a list on what and how you are going to spend your time and resources. A list does not just state what you are going to do, it also tells you what you are not going to do. For you personally, if it is not on the list, it is not in the 20% and therefore you need to avoid it.
Obviously, there are exceptions, the boss calls you in. He’s had a brainstorm and wants you to stop everything and do his great idea. Emergencies happen. But brainstorming bosses and emergencies should be the exceptions. That is why they are called exceptions. If they are the norm, then you are either a first responder or the environment you are in is out of control.
I’ve written about list making in a previous blog, you can see it here: Four Ways to Postpone Your Procrastination. Here’s the relevant part.
I like to make a list every day. I try to create the list the night before. I break the action items down to their simplest form. For example, If I’m hosting a meeting, I don’t just write down “Host meeting.” That is too just too big a thing to make it one step. Break it down into several. I write down:
1. Confirm date and time.
2. Secure a location.
3. Determine program
4. Create guest list
You get the idea. What I don’t get done that day, I move it to my list for tomorrow. I very rarely get all my “to dos” done every day, but I get a lot more done than if I didn’t have a list. I also get the endorphin pleasure of scratching off items that are completed!
4. Start with your hardest task first and work your way down
In other words, when you make your Pareto list, prioritize the stuff that is the hardest to do, and the stuff you least like doing first. You will gain so much more energy by moving the big and hard stuff out of the way first.
In correlation with this, you will generally be at your best energy earlier in the day than later. I do know some people who have good energy in the late afternoon, but that is not most people. Do hard tasks when you have the best energy and can use that momentum to get more stuff done as the day goes by.
5. Don’t over commit, but evaluate
Learn to say “No”. You’ve probably heard this a hundred times, but it is still true. You will have to say “No” to many good things in order for you to say “Yes” to the best things. This is part of the “tyranny of the urgent”. You can download the PDF of this great article here: Tyranny of the Urgent. This will help you to stay focused on what is both important and not urgent. This is the place you want to spend most of your time and energies.
Leave space in your calendar for those emergencies that come your way. There really is a virtue in having margin in your life. Opportunities that are wonderful will come your way and you need to have the margin to be able to consider taking them, rather than having to let it pass by.
Not overcommitting relates to more than time. It relates to finances. Too many people live one paycheck from being out on the street. You need to have a financial cushion to land on when you need it. Margin is good for the body, mind, and spirit. It gives space to breathe and to renew. Be strategic in both your “yes’” and your “no’s”. This along with the other things will help you to do less so that you can do more.