productivity, prioritization & efficiency

Productivity

Greg Crooks (Executive Pastor of Watermark Community Church) joins Adam and John to discuss what productivity looks like in the life of a church leader. You’ll hear about six helpful principles for productivity. We hope you leave encouraged with practical wisdom for making the best use of your time and work.

Podcast Link

Introduction (01:01)

Productivity allows us to thrive, use our time well, and participate with God in the mission of the Church. Remember that the Church is the hope of the world and God has given us spiritual gifts to invest to that end. Take a look at Jesus in John 17. Jesus brings glory to His Father by finishing the work that the Father had set out for him to do. We get to do the same.

Greg notes that productivity can sometimes be even harder in the church world than in the corporate world. The relational aspect of working for a church makes stakes often appear higher. There are so many more people that need to be interacted with.

There will always be a need to balance the tension between the personalities that tend toward “getting things done” and the personalities that prioritize “being relational.” This is really a sliding scale. We need to find out where we are on this spectrum and strive to move closer to the middle. It is helpful to always ask yourself, “What time is it? Is it a time to work? Or is it a time for relationships?”

Six Principles for Productivity

  • Catch It (03:50)
  • Prioritize It (07:48)
  • Schedule It (12:11)
  • Focus It (15:39)
  • Think What’s Next (23:53)
  • You Do You (27:50)


1. Catch It (03:50)

Have a place for everything you are working on. This doesn’t mean write everything down everywhere. Instead, find a singular place to congregate everything. Where does everything end up? Understand the goal may not be to immediately do all this stuff, but catching things allows you to have your arms around your current workload.

There are a few tools you can use to catch it all: Evernote, Todoist, Microsoft To-Do, Wunderlist, OneNoteOneNote to name a few. Find one that works for you and can be a simple place to put all your ideas. Then, after everything is caught, Greg compiles a list of the top 20 things he considers to be the biggest things up-next at Watermark. He then communicates this list to the elders. He insists on being ready to articulate what progress has been made over time and point out what is stuck at the end of any given month. This will help find what decisions need to be made and what resources are still needed.

2. Prioritize It (07:48)

Not everything “urgent” task you have to do is created equal. Start to isolate what are the key priorities you need to work on. What tasks are strategic? What tasks are for today? For tomorrow? For this week? For this year? Throughout prioritization, there is a need to focus on alignment with your team and your boss. Be asking yourself what is broken about things that are really important. What should we get to as an organization that we aren’t getting to? What are some really fun and valuable additions I could make? As a subordinate, make sure that you are always clarifying that your priorities align with those of your oversight. Alternately, for those in positions of leadership, make sure to not label everything top-priority. When people are running around with 8-10 “top-priority” tasks, priority ceases to be a useful tool.

Start every day and week with the hardest thing you have to do. When new things come up, make sure to consistently realign. Don’t get stuck just wanting to cross things off a list. Make sure to always do the most important things first.

3. Schedule It (12:11)

“What gets scheduled, gets done.” – Greg Crooks

Make time for the most important things. Be sure to put the things you care about on your calendar. For every task, find the time, the plan, and the place. Write these things down. Remember that a task often gets done in the amount of time you give it. Sometimes smaller dedicated blocks of time, work better than long stretches. Does your calendar reflect your priorities? Is the time you are spending accurately reflect what you are working on.

4. Focus It (15:39)

There is an onslaught of distractions and interruptions. They quickly fill up our days. Productivity is aided immensely by carving out 60-90 minute blocks of time where you are intentionally not available. During these times, go somewhere where you are not going to be disturbed. Temporarily remove yourself from social media, email, people, etc. Jesus himself models this behavior in Mark 1:35. Once again, ask yourself “What time is it?” If it is time for focused work, then your environment should reflect that desire. After an hour or ninety minutes has passed, take a break, check your media, email, talk to your team, etc. These focused blocks of time don’t have to consume your whole week, but they will be some of the most high productivity hours you will experience. Use this time for your best work. Attempt to revisit projects that you have been working on previously. These new chunks of time may give you new eyes. Note when “getting away” isn’t an option, headphones can often replace the “closing the door” effect.

Greg, John, and Adam talk specifically about email. Our culture is likely over-responsive with email. Responding immediately or keeping a zero-inbox are given immense weight in the modern workplace. However, these things are often poor goals and may end up hurting us more than it helps us. Instead, batching your email responses can be super helpful. Pick 1-3 times throughout the day where you block out space to look at and answer emails. Stop looking at today’s emails as some sort-of blinking light. Instead of immediate responding to everything, try processing today through the previous day’s emails. You may note that many of yesterday’s emails will have answered themselves. Digital and electronic communication is often less important than we think. For really urgent or important stuff, people will call or come find you. Also try to continually unsubscribe from useless emails.

5. Think What’s Next (23:53)

Think about some of your largest projects, conferences, or retreats. Often, if you always only focus on the next big deadline, it will come and go and you will realize there is nothing planned on the other side. So always think about what is next. Make a timeline that has all the work on it. Everything you can think of. After everything is on a timeline, ask yourself: what are the things I can work on today that will keep the ball moving down the field? Chances are there is someone in leadership around you that would be blessed by this intentional forethought and planning. When you have something huge in front of you, it can sometimes be paralyzing to take that first step. The most helpful thing might be to just find something easy to do. It could be small, like sending an email, or opening a new document. The important thing is to just find something.

6. You Do You (27:50)

Lastly, you have to personalize all of this stuff. We are all doing different things in different fields in different roles. Ask yourself about you. When are you your very best? Where are you your very best? Is that in the morning? Is that at night? Think about auditing your energy levels, your focus, and your creativity.

Remember, you don’t have to use any particular set of tools. There isn’t a particular program or schedule or strategy that works for everything. You need to find whatever system works for you. Leading ourselves well is perhaps the most important and productive thing we can do. Keeping yourself healthy, informed, well-read, also helps you to be productive.

Wrapping Up

Some final thoughts.

If you know someone who is particularly distracting, make sure to, once again, ask yourself what time it is? Make sure to be honest about if it is a good time to be interrupted. If it is a time where you really need to be productive, being easily accessible in your office may not be the best place for you to be.

Beware the danger of being partially present in whatever you are currently doing. Try not to be half-on/half-off. Attempt to be fully present wherever you are. Make your productivity sink deeply into a those few focused time slots in your week. Treat intentional time of work as a finite resource. Give your best to your most important tasks.Communicate with your family and team when your slots of intentional, focused, productivity will be.

We can easily fall into the trap of always being needed. When we do this, we inevitably miss out on the opportunity to delegate things rather than tackling them ourselves. So don’t forget to delegate. You can’t do everything. Try delegating the role, not just the task. This will extend trust and ownership.

See things through to the end. Don’t just see things as a job. Don’t micromanage. Mobilize volunteers and people in the church body to do the things you are doing all the time. Training up leaders may be the most productivething you can ever do.


Application Questions

  • What does your relationship with productivity look like? Where on the scale of “gets-things-done” to “prioritizing relationships” do you find yourself?
  • What do your routines look like?
  • What productivity tools are your currently using? Which ones might you try out?
  • Do you believe God wants you to be productive?
  • How does productivity bring glory to God?
  • What is your best next step?

Recommended Resources

  • Deep Work by Cal Newport
  • A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard

Questions or comments? Email CLP@WATERMARK.ORG