12 Favorite Productivity Principles

I am a pastor and have a variety of tasks to fulfill each week – study, prayer, counseling, visitation, teaching, administration, etc. I also enjoy reading about productivity and learning how best to use my time for both professional and personal pursuits. I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks along the way and have compiled my twelve favorite productivity principles below. I trust you will find them helpful in your life as well.

(Note: I will post a tip a day on the blog and compile all twelve principles in one longer posting here: 12 Favorite Productivity Principles)

Links to individual articles in the series (updated as added):

1. 20/20/MIT – First things first
2. Morning, afternoon, evening rule – Finding your rhythm
3. Habit stacking – Habits are hard, but routines are routine
4. Ideal weekly schedule – A place for everything, and everything in its place
5. Appointments, tasks and information – Using the right tool for the job
6. Task processing – One thing at a time (micro-tasking)
7. Working with resistance – Resistance is not futile
8. 10-3-2-1-0 rule – Countdown to a good night’s sleep
9. Capture notebook and pen – One book to rule them all
10. “Briefcase” principle – Avoiding the last-minute rush
11. “Default” principle – Choosing enjoyment over easy
12. “Do it first” principle – Tell what you’ve done, not what you will do
00. Miscellaneous – Your mileage may vary

PP4: Ideal weekly schedule – A place for everything, and everything in its place

(Part of the series: 12 Favorite Productivity Principles)

4. Ideal weekly schedule – A place for everything, and everything in its place

Take some time to think of all the things you need or want to do on a weekly basis. What would the ideal week look like for you? Now, using what you learned from the first three principles (1-first things first; 2-the morning, afternoon, evening rule; and 3-habit stacking), design your ideal weekly schedule. Put everything on it, including time for family, leisure, rest and sleep. Some people like to map out 30-minute blocks, but I just use broader one-hour blocks.

Designing an ideal weekly schedule gives you several immediate benefits.

  1. It helps you face reality. If it doesn’t all fit in the calendar, you are trying to do too much.
     
  2. It helps you prioritize. Once you see what you can realistically do, you can choose the most important things.
     
  3. It helps you know what to do next. Once you have determined the best times to do your various tasks, you will know what you should be doing at any given time.
     
  4. It helps you set aside large blocks of time. This is essential for regular, deep, focused, uninterrupted work.
     
  5. It helps you be flexible. The ideal weekly schedule is simply that – an ideal. It doesn’t mean that it will work out that way every week. Life happens. We face all sorts of interruptions and unforeseen circumstances. The ideal weekly schedule allows you to be flexible, because you use it more as a guide rather than as a strict rule.
     
  6. It helps you get back on track. When you do get interrupted, you know what you missed, so you can reschedule or get back on track.
     

I have a basic, ideal weekly schedule that I tweak or redesign from time to time depending on new goals or life circumstances. Here is an example of my current ideal weekly schedule. Once again, I use this more as a guide rather than a strict rule.

ideal-weekly-schedule

(Note: Click to enlarge)

 
That’s it for this week. I hope you are enjoying the series. I will be back with the next four tips Monday-Thursday next week. In the meantime, please feel free to share the links with family and friends! (You can click on any of the Share buttons below.)
 

PP3: Habit stacking – Habits are hard, but routines are routine

(Part of the series: 12 Favorite Productivity Principles)

I learned this third productivity principle from S.J. Scott’s excellent book, Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness. The idea behind this principle is that there are many small habits that would improve our lives if we did them every day, but we often don’t do them because they are so small and easy to forget. Some we learned as children and do automatically, such as brushing your teeth, but there are others we would like to do but we leave undone day after day. Habit stacking helps you incorporate these small habits into your daily life by organizing them into routines.

For example, two habits I always had difficulty establishing were taking vitamins and drinking water. Both are small enough tasks and easy to do, and yet I would continually forget to do them. Now they are part of my morning routine. The first thing I do when I get up is drink a glass of water, take two vitamins, and then drink two more glasses of water. Then I’m off for my morning walk. As habits they were hard to develop. But now that they are part of my morning routine, they are automatic.

Two other habit stacks I have incorporated into my day are: 1) tea and stretches routine – doing five minutes of stretching and planks in the morning while I wait for my tea to brew; 2) ready for work routine – when I get to work, I fill my water cup, quickly clean/organize my desk, review my MITs for the day and pray. There are many others, of course, but that should give you the idea.

Habits are hard, but routines are routine. There are many small habits that would improve your life if you did them every day. If you try to do them individually, you will inevitably fail. But when you stack your habits into routines and tie them to specific parts of your day, they become automatic. Give it a try!

PP2: Morning, afternoon, evening rule – Finding your rhythm

(Part of the series: 12 Favorite Productivity Principles)

2. Morning, afternoon, evening rule – Finding your rhythm

A second productivity principle I find helpful is the morning, afternoon, evening rule. The idea is that different parts of the day are better suited for different tasks. I’ve found that the following arrangement works best for me:

  • Mornings for creative work (writing; thinking; creating)
  • Afternoons for action work (tasks; chores; administration)
  • Evenings for reflective work (walking; reading; unwinding)

Thinking about my day in these larger categories gives a rhythm to the day and helps me as I plan out my regular weekly schedule as well as my specific tasks for each day. By doing the types of tasks that are best suited for the various parts of the day, I gain momentum and find that I am more productive throughout the day.

PP1: 20/20/MIT – First things first

(Part of the series: 12 Favorite Productivity Principles)

1. 20/20/MIT – First things first

The most important productivity principle for me is, appropriately enough, to do the most important things first. This is often called the “big rocks” principle, named after Steven Covey’s famous illustration of putting the big rocks in the jar before adding the smaller pebbles and sand.

I like to break this down into two areas. What are the most important things for me to do every day? And what are the most important things I specifically need to do today?

The two most important things for me to do every day are to read my Bible and pray. To make sure I do this every day, I do what I call my 20/20 – twenty minutes of prayer followed by twenty minutes of Bible reading.

For prayer I take a twenty-minute prayer walk first thing in the morning. I talk to God about my upcoming day, confessing any wrongs I have done, thanking him for the good things in my life, praying for my family and loved ones.

Then I come home, make a nice hot, cup of tea, sit in my favorite chair and spend twenty minutes reading from the Bible. I use a Bible-reading schedule that helps me read through the Bible each year. This is a peaceful time each morning as I read and reflect.

Now there are other things that are important for me to do every day as well – exercise, grooming, spending time with family, etc. I have a system to make sure I do all those as well. But these are the two most important things for me, so I make them a part of my morning routine and do them first every day.

Then I spend just a few minutes writing down my MITs – my most important tasks for today. I write down between 3-5 tasks that are the most important things for me to do today. I keep that list with me throughout the day and make sure I work on those things first rather than put them off until later.

The 20/20/MIT is essential for me to make sure I do the most important things every day. I encourage you to think through what the most important things are for you and to use some form of the 20/20/MIT to build these things into your daily life.
 

Poem – “Complete in Him”

I had the privilege of reading this beautiful poem at the funeral of a church member a few weeks back. Joan lost her husband, Jim, and the poem was written by Joan’s mother, Anna Campbell. The title of the poem is “Complete in Him.”

“COMPLETE IN HIM”

I stand complete in Jesus,
He’s everything to me.
My every need he will supply;
He’s my sufficiency.

Though once my eyes were blinded,
By faith I now can see.
Christ gave to me his righteousness;
He is my purity.

He is my joy and gladness;
He makes my sorrow flee.
In time of danger, fear, and dread,
He’s my security.

Each time I face life’s battles,
He never fails to be
My sword, my shield, my captain;
He is my victory.

For me he died upon the cross;
I’m justified and free.
His resurrection now I share;
He’s my Eternity.

By: Anna Campbell; Copyright 2005

 

Saul and Goliath

Have you ever heard the story of Saul and Goliath? I didn’t think so! Yesterday’s message in the David and Saul series was about Saul and Goliath. The message was called Paralyzed by Fear, taken from 1 Samuel 17:1-31. Here is a brief outline of the message:

I. You have a fearsome foe (1-11)
   A. You are in a spiritual battle (1-3)
      – Ephesians 6:12
   B. The enemy is stronger than you are (4-7)
      – 1 Peter 5:8
   C. The enemy opposes God and God’s people (8-11)
      – Revelation 12:17, 13:6

II. The problem with fear (12-24)
Giving in to fear:
   A. Will make you lose time and opportunities (12-16)
      – Ephesians 5:15-16
   B. Will leave you going through the motions (17-22)
      – 2 Timothy 3:5
   C. Will make you want to quit the fight (23-24)
      – Ephesians 6:13

III. Getting past your fears (25-31)
   A. Remember the benefits of following God (25)
      – 1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 103:2-4; Revelation 3:21
   B. Be zealous for God’s honor (26-27)
      – Psalm 4:2-3, 119:53
   C. Don’t let others discourage you from following God (28-31)
      – Numbers 13:30-32; Joshua 1:9

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Note: Click on the Sermons tab at the top of the blog for this and other messages.
 

Sunday Morning SoundBytes – 6/2/2019

Sunday’s message was the first in the new David and Saul series from 1 Samuel 16-31. The message was called The Lord Looks at the Heart, taken from 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Here is a brief outline of the message:

I. Samuel’s heart for God (1-5)
   A. Mourning for sin (1)
      – Psalm 119:136
   B. Trusting God in danger (2-3)
      – Psalm 118:6
   C. Obeying God’s commands (4-5)
      – Deuteronomy 6:5-6

II. God’s rejection of David’s brothers (6-10)
   A. God does not look at what man looks at
      – Isaiah 55:8-9; Matthew 5:3-10
   B. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart
      – 1 Kings 8:39; 2 Chronicles 16:9

III. David, the man of God’s choosing (11-13)
   A. David was the youngest of all his brothers (11)
      – 1 Corinthians 1:27,31
   B. David was ruddy with a fine appearance (12)
      – Proverbs 15:13
   C. David was anointed, then filled with the Spirit (13)
      – Acts 1:8
   D. David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14)
      – Psalm 78:72

Applications:
   1) Don’t judge others by their appearance (John 7:24)
   2) Don’t dismiss your own gifts for service (1 Peter 4:10)
   3) Don’t overlook Christ (John 1:10-12)

Note: Click on the Sermons tab at the top of the blog for this and other messages.
 

Sunday Morning SoundBytes – 5/19/2019

Sunday was a message about dealing with the pain of infertility looking at the story of Rachel in the Bible. In the message we talked about issues such as infertility, IVF, surrogacy, foster-parenting and adoption. This was the next message in the Famous Mothers in the Bible series. The message was called Rachel – The Desperate Mother, taken from Genesis 30:1-24 and Genesis 35:16-20. Here is a brief outline of the message:

Dealing with the pain of infertility:

I. Be careful not to blame each other (Genesis 30:1-2)
   A. Anger and blame will only harm your relationship
      – Genesis 3:12; Psalm 37:8
   B. Bring your deepest hurts and desires to God
      – Psalm 62:8; Proverbs 30:15-16

II. Be careful with your options (Genesis 30:3-13)
   A. Be cautious with modern technologies (IVF, surrogacy, etc.)
      – Psalm 139:13-14
   B. Be open to fostering or adoption
      – Psalm 68:5-6; Ephesians 1:5; James 1:27

III. Be careful not to compromise (Genesis 30:14-21)
   A. God takes the sexual relationship very seriously
      – 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6
   B. Know there can be long-term consequences to your actions
      – Galatians 6:7-8

IV. Trust God’s timing and plan (Genesis 30:22-24, 35:16-20)
   A. Trust God to provide for your family in his way and in his time
      – Philippians 4:19
   B. Every child is a precious gift from God
      – Matthew 18:10

Note: Click on the Sermons tab at the top of the blog for this and other messages.
 

Sunday Morning SoundBytes – 5/12/2019

Sunday’s message was a Mother’s Day sermon from the Famous Mothers in the Bible series. The message was called Leah – The Unloved Mother, taken from Genesis 24:19-35. Here is a brief outline of the message:

I. Don’t put all your emphasis on physical appearance (Genesis 29:14-20)
   A. Godly character is more important than physical beauty
      – Proverbs 31:30; 1 Peter 3:3-4
   B. Man looks on the outside, but God looks at the heart
      – 1 Samuel 16:7

II. Don’t let anything interfere with the marital bond (Genesis 29:21-30)
   A. Husband and wife share a one-flesh relationship
      – Genesis 2:24
   B. The husband should love his wife as he loves his own body
      – Ephesians 5:28

III. Don’t base your identity on your children (Genesis 29:31-35)
   A. Children are a gift from the Lord, not a means to an end
      – Psalm 127:3
   B. Find your identity in Christ alone
      – Philippians 1:21
   C. Trust God’s sovereignty and praise his name
      – Genesis 29:35; Job 1:21

Note: Click on the Sermons tab at the top of the blog for this and other messages.
 

Mary (Degarmo and Key)

Sunday’s message was an Easter sermon called Desperately Seeking Jesus, taken from Matthew 28:1-10 and focusing on the women coming to Jesus’ tomb early Easter morning.

I shared the following song with our church after preaching the message. The song is called “Mary.” It’s an old Degarmo & Key song from their second album, “Straight On.” Enjoy!

Mission and Conflict Sermon Series (Matthew 10-12)

On Sunday we finished our sermon series called Mission and Conflict from Matthew 10-12. Here are the links to all the messages in the series:

Mission and Conflict Series (Matthew 10-12)
On Mission from God – Matthew 10:1-15 (Jesus sends out the twelve)
Warning and Encouragement – Matthew 10:16-31 (Facing opposition)
Jesus and Division – Matthew 10:32-42 (Not peace but a sword)
A Faithful Messenger – Matthew 11:1-19 (John the Baptist)
Those Who Do Not Repent – Matthew 11:20-24 (Woe to you)
Rest for the Weary – Matthew 11:25-30 (The easy yoke)
Lord of the Sabbath – Matthew 12:1-14 (Jesus and the Pharisees)
God’s Gentle Servant – Matthew 12:15-21 (Fulfilling Isaiah)
Jesus and Satan – Matthew 12:22-37 (Blasphemy against the Spirit)
The Sign of Jonah – Matthew 12:38-45 (Asking for a miraculous sign)
Jesus and Family – Matthew 12:46-50 (My brother and sister and mother)