The Productivity Vacuum

 —  March 13, 2014 — 1 Comment

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I work in what one would call an “open office.”  For some it would be a “good” thing not having walls around their desks, giving them the ability to be highly relational and creatively collaborative all of the time. When I come to the “office,” I am there to get the administrative “stuff” out of the way. I have tasks I need to get out of the way. This would be fine, except I work with others who see “office time” as “connection time.” What this means is that I rarely feel like I can be productive in getting my “check list” accomplished.

Fortunately, I figured out how to remedy this atmosphere that is a “productivity vacuum” for me. It involved communicating with my staff about our different office time needs. I also need to take the time at least once a week with my team, to meet that relational need. It got me thinking about those universal ways we can be unproductive:

Plan Your Work & Work the Plan

A mentor of mine taught me this awesome saying, “Plan your work and work your plan.”  The “plan” is not the accomplishment. We have to take steps to FINISH the plan. Follow through brings momentum. I actually believe that getting the admin stuff under control gives more time for relational building.

 Tyranny of The Urgent:

We are working our plan when BLAM something blows up. All attention is diverted to put out the fire. This is fine in times of crisis.  However, it’s easy to never work our plan and ONLY be a firefighter. Learn the difference between a real and perceived emergency.

Prioritize:

This can be the hardest part of all we need to get done. There are times when we people need us and it’s true that they are more important than the “stuff” that needs to get done. HOWEVER, we also need to learn what should be at the top of the list and order what needs to be done well.

 

Jack Of All Trades and Master of None: 

It’s my job to do it all!  An inability to delegate is one of the worst blows to productivity. No one person can accomplish everything. Nothing is getting done with excellence while everything is a little bit mediocre.  Make a list of all of your responsibilities.  What MUST you do yourself?  What does your leadership say HAS to be in your hands?  Then what is left?  This is what you delegate. You’re right no one will ever do it as well as you do. However, the more you give away, the more others become invested.

There are so many other ways productivity is lost. I can think of times when my vision for ministry wasn’t clear or when I failed to communicate that vision.

The point is to identify what gets you “stuck” and then to work on that ONE thing first…

What is your productivity vacuum?

Leneita

article.2013.03.12One of the questions we are often asked is: How do you get it all done? To be honest, no one gets it all done. But, we have come up with a few techniques over the years to help us squeeze more into each day. This week we want to take a little time to help you boost your productivity.

Turn off notifications
Notifications are the derailment of getting stuff done. And while you may pride yourself on giving quick answers and having instant follow-up, what you are actually doing is interrupting continued focused thought in one particular area. Try prepping your next sermon using iA Writer (iawriter.com) and see if the focus helps you prepare faster and more effectively.

Do email in bursts.
Similar to the “turn off notifications” idea: Only check your email a few times a day. This one is harder than ever with that little “new email” icon or unread number calling out your name to check it incessantly all day. Stop the email madness! Do email in the morning, noon, at the end of the workday and just before bed and you can knock out a bunch in one block rather than let it persist all day.

Never eat alone.
Everyone has to eat lunch! So make your productivity matter even over your lunch hour. Spend time with a mentor, a student, a volunteer, your spouse, one of your kids—make every meal count.

Manage your meeting times.
It doesn’t take long for a meeting to turn into a marathon, so master the subtle ways to help move them along. Ask good questions, make sure there is a clear objective beforehand, and don’t be afraid to help bring it to a conclusion so you can be on time for the FCA meeting or volleyball game coming up next.

Get out of the office.

Have a secret location that no one knows about where you go to “get stuff done.” Starbucks by the church is a little too obvious for me—I (Josh) love a little Boba place around here that is quiet, has free wi-fi, and no one has any idea where I’m at for a few hours to crank stuff out. I can be ultra productive there and get totally in the zone.

Open your door/close your door.
I love the “open door policy” of our church, but there are certain times it just isn’t a realistic option. Don’t be afraid to close your door 20% of the time to help you get things done without interruption.

What is your best tip for productivity?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



Interesting article in USA Today this past weekend about turning off – something youth workers are notoriously poor at doing consistently. Want to get more work done? Work less. Want to be fulfilled in your job? Make it part of your life and not all of it. Want to have longevity in ministry? Get away from it every once in a while. Here’s a clip from the article, be sure head there for the rest:

Do you take your smartphone to bed because you claim to use it as a nightlight, say it’s the only alarm clock you have, or need to make sure you don’t miss a critical text?

Here’s the problem with that thinking: Now that the phone is only an arm’s reach away, it’s easy to check a few e-mails, perhaps sending off a few responses so you have one fewer thing to do tomorrow.

You’ve just stepped onto a very slippery slope that will make it difficult not to be connected 24/7. You’ve become one of those millions of workers who fire off e-mails at midnight or reach for the smartphone before your first cup of coffee every morning.

You may claim that you have to work this way because your job — or your employer — demands it.

Make sure you read to the bottom of the article for some really practical volunteer team tips, too!

JG

Arrived at Starbucks to get some work done:
Grande Americano…Check!
Facebook messages…Checked!
Facebook notifications…Checked!
Read Twitter updates…Checked!
Send Tweet…Check!
Respond to Twitter DM…Done!
Refresh Email…Check!
Respond to emails…Done!

Why am I here again…Oh yeah, to get some work done. Here are 5 tips that help me complete tasks without losing track of time in the black hole of social media or just plan old fashion distractions.

1) Close the Door!
In the office my team knows to not disturb me when my door is shut. But even with the door shut other people’s urgency can often become my issue, or the phone can ring, unscheduled appointments drop by. Oh yeah, don’t forget the elementary basketball teams practicing in the gym above my office.  When these “blessed interruptions” continue it is time to head out and study.
You can’t shut your door in Starbucks unless you take your work to the **restroom. When I go out to study I try to sit in a low traffic area or sit with my back to the distractions.

2) Headphones
I actually like the atmospheric noise of a restaurant or coffee shop but there are time when i just need to block it all out. My favorite headphones, Bose® QuietComfort® 3 Acoustic Noise Canceling headphones ($349), were a gift and they are amazing at blocking out sound. When I am not using those I have my ZAGGsmartbuds ($49) with me playing Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, Saxon Shore, or a Beastie Boys Instrumental.  Why these albums? Because they are noise with little recognizable words.  They have become a distraction scrambler for this A.D.D. brain of mine.

3)Hit the Off Switch
You may need to use the internet in your study time but if it is not necessary turn it off. While you are at it turn your phone off, or at least set it to silent. If you need to check voice mail do it periodically.

(Cell Phone Tip: The only people I need to hear from when I am away are my wife and my ministry assistant.  Instead of setting my phone to silent, I created a ringtone that is 10 seconds of silence. When I activate that as the “default” ringtone I set my wife’s and assistant’s ringtone from “default” to anything with sound).

4) Concentrate!
Concentrate! Timer ($.99) is a great app for iPhone and iPad that counts down your work time and your breaks.  Want to take a 12 minute break every 48 minutes?  Want to work for 30 minutes and take a 20 minute break?  Set it and get to it!  I set this app and then crank away at my workload.  I reward myself with breaks where I can check my facebook, twitter, email. When the break timer rings I go back to work (taking healthy breaks or productively wasting time…you decide).  It is way cooler than I am making it sound…at least I think it is.  Check out Concentrate! Timer.

5) iA Writer
Recently I have been writing “The Wired Ministry” column for Group Magazine in iA Writer with my iPad and bluetooth keyboard. This app is a distraction free word processor. When you open iA all you see is a white screen with character, word counts, and a couple other things to help you navigate.  Bottom line is this app, for your Mac ($8.99) and iOS ($.99) devices, is inexpensive and so good.

**mental note, take “Out of Order” sign to Starbucks next week.



Free Text Blasts…

 —  March 23, 2012 — 1 Comment

I am convinced that there is no “one way” to get info to our youth but there are better ways than others. We call students, mail things to homes, use flyers, we have a youth ministry web page, a facebook group, and the list goes on and on…

This can get exhausting but I heard that a person needs seven contacts to really remember something. Whether that is true or not it is a good idea to have your info out there in multiple forms so your audience can have access to it at their ease.

All that said we know most people have a cell phone and that cell phone is on them all the time. The text message alert has been a hugely successful contacting method for our ministry. You can send out group messages with services like the ad based textmarks…a free or pay service (I do not recommend ad based services for youth, you have no control over the ads. I have discontinued my service with them due to the nature of their ads). You could also use a pay only service like Simply Youth Ministry’s Communicate tool, which is a solid service, and you will never have to worry about content because it is 100% from you. While these services are great and come with different perks you still have to pay and in some cases BIG BUCKS but did you know you could do this for FREE?  you don’t get all the perks of a service like “Communicate” but it does the job of getting a message to multiple cell phones.

1) PREPARE…
Create a card to give to students asking for:

NAME:
CELL NUMBER:
CARRIER:
(If they are not 18 years old it might be a good idea to ask for a parent’s signature so you are not responsible for running up a students cell phone bill.)

Once these cards are filled out and back in your hands just add the info to an address/email program like Microsoft Outlook or Gmail’s contacts. But instead of entering their cell number in the “mobile phone” entry, enter their number in the email entry as an email address. You can find the proper extension for each major carrier below.

2) INPUT…
For example if my cell number was 815-555-1234 and my carrier was Verizon I would add new contact for “Brandon Early” with the email of “8155551234@vtext.com” to my address book. After entering all the cards I would create a distribution list called “TEXTING” (or what ever you want to call it) and add all these new entries/subscribers to this list. Now you are set to send out FREE group text messages from your computer. Anything I send to “8155551234@vtext.com” will come to that cell phone as a text message and if they “reply” it comes to my inbox.

3) KEEP IN MIND…
Remember that text messages are only 160 characters. Be wise with your words and keep the messages (subject and all) under 160 characters (including spaces). Also, it is a good idea to tell your students how often you plan to send messages. The students with unlimited texting will not care but those who pay for each message might be more cautious to sign up. I committed to sending no more than two a week plus any special events or deadlines.

4) HAVE FUN…
Run contests, give away a discount to your winter camp to the first 3 people who respond to your text, pray for students and send them all a messages letting them know, add a comment to this post letting us know how you use group text messages or how you plan on using them.
Here is a list of carrier email address endings, if I am missing one you need just google “email to sms“.

Alltel (10-digit phone number)@message.alltel.com
AT&T (10-digit phone number)@txt.att.net
Boost Mobile (10-digit phone number)@myboostmobile.com
Nextel (10-digit telephone number)@messaging.nextel.com
Sprint (10-digit phone number)@messaging.sprintpcs.com
T-Mobile (10-digit phone number)@tmomail.net
Verizon (10-digit phone number)@vtext.com
Virgin Mobile USA(10-digit phone number)@vmobl.com

**UPDATE**
For those of you with smart phones you might be saying, “there’s an  app for that.” True, you can use an app to do this but you will be giving out your cell phone number to everyone on he list.  If you don’t mind that might be a better option for you.  You also can send out text messages via Google voice but you are limited in the amount of number you can send at once.

First let me say that everything Google does for my Android phone is amazing. I mostly use an iPhone but on long trips I switch over to my Droid X because Google Nav is amazing (even better than my Garmin GPS). Google Voice is great for 3 main reasons; Free 2nd phone number, Free voicemail that gets transcribed (typed out for you), and Free text messaging…a 4th reason could be the perfect integration with the phone (which IS available for iPhone), it really is a great app. There are other great Google apps but I want to share my top 14 non-Google apps.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE…In No Specific Order (all from the app store from my phone)

Top 14 Favorite Non-Google Android Apps…

Astrid - To do list with timers
Seesmic – Twitter
Youversion – Bible
Advanced Task Manager – Stop apps one at a time or all at once
Evernote – Remember Everything
Glympse – I can send an email link to let someone follow me via gps
Remote for iTunes – Remote for iTunes
Fake Call – Set a time for your phone to ring, looks like real call
Ringdroid – Create ringtones
TED – Video workshops from leading leaders
Shopsavvy – Best bar code reader/price checker
SportsTap – Great sports score app (better than Google’s)
Monkey Kick Off – Dumb game…I play it for hours
Toddler Lock – Keeps the kids occupied at crucial moments



Youth ministry is not easy. Usually fun, often exciting, hectic, busy, sometimes frustrating, adventurous, tiring, but never easy. That’s why we need times to just get away and rest in the spirit of Jesus and His disciples.

In Mark 6:31, after some intense ministry adventures, Jesus said to His disciples, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” It’s easy to forget the importance of rest and relaxation in the business of ministry. But if we want to avoid burnout and want to serve Jesus for the long haul, we need to give our minds and our bodies time to rest and recharge.

I love retreats, especially with my adult leaders, because more than a time of rest, they are also a time of relationship building. In John 15:15 Jesus said to His disciples, “No longer do I call you servants … I have called you friends.” Do you think Jesus said that simply because the disciples were in ministry with Him? I don’t think so. All of those conversations walking from place to place, the conversations in the evenings when they couldn’t fall asleep, the meals they shared together, the getaways–these were the times during which their friendships were built; times of BEING together. While very important, the other stuff was doing-oriented. I have come to the place that I am simply not interested in just working together to get a job done. I want to be able to say, “I served Jesus faithfully, reaching students for the kingdom, and I didn’t do it with hired guns. I did it with friends. We worked hard. We played hard. We laughed. We cried. We prayed. We struggled. We learned. And through it all, we were friends.”

Today let me leave you with a Scripture to live and a statement to ponder.

“Serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2).

Here is a rather full statement that I came upon recently in a devotional. Read it through a few times slowly. Meditate on it. Wrestle with it. Digest it in your spirit.

“In all the ordinary forms of Christian life, service is apt to have more or less of bondage in it; that is, it is done purely as a matter of duty, and often as a trial and a cross. Certain things, which at first may have been a joy and a delight, become after a while weary tasks, performed faithfully, perhaps, but with much secret disinclination, and many confessed or unconfessed wishes that they need not be done at all, or at least that they need not be done so often. The soul finds itself saying, instead of the ‘May I?’ of love, the ‘Must I?’ of duty” (Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911) in The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life).

Where are you at today?

Kevin Mahaffy, Jr. is a youth pastor from New York and blogs regularly at www.revkevjr.blogspot.com.