To reach the finish line you have to do something…

I often find myself looking at all the things I have to finish (because of my obscenely large todo list) and it overwhelms me and I shut down.  I’ll end up procrastinating and wasting time because I don’t think I have enough time to get started and finish something in the time I have in the moment.  I discovered a secret.

It is what you do in the moments that bring progress and eventually lead to a finish.

Are you stuck because what you have in front of you seems to big to accomplish in the time you have to get it done?  Then capture your moments and do something that brings you closer to the finish line.  Resolve that you may not finish it in that moment, but you will be closer than what you were before.

Don’t stay stuck, get started.

Do something.

The finish will come quicker than you thought it would.

My Daily Workflow

What do you do on a typical work weekday?  My typical work week fluctuates but here’s what I do on a day that I don’t have to travel or have any meetings:

  • When I first wake up my morning routine consists of waking up the kids,  a shower, teeth brush, hair setting, getting dressed, having a big glass of orange juice, and sometimes a bagel.  While I’m enjoying my breakfast and the kids are getting ready for school and my wife is packing their lunch I will try to get through my Bible Reading for the day on my YouVersion Blackberry app (I’m currently doing the M’Cheyne One Year Reading plan)
  • Once the kids get ready (hopefully with no fights) I’ll say good by to my wife and will load everybody into the car (actually a minivan) and drop them off to school on my way to work.  On the 10-12 minute drive to work (depending on traffic) my usual practice (not always, but usually) is to just spend time talking to God and thinking about the day ahead.
  • When I arrive at work I usually start my day off by unpacking my laptop and setting it up on the desk (hooking all the peripherals and whatnot – my dream is to have a nice 24″ widescreen monitor to extend the viewing space but alas, at this point, it’s just a dream)
  • If I didn’t get the chance to read from my daily Bible reading plan earlier I will do it after I get the laptop setup.  I will also try to get in a reading from a C.S. Lewis anthology that I’m working through.
  • Occasionally I will tweet any cool insights I think are worth passing on (unfortunately, lately “occasionally” means “rarely”).
  • When I log in to my laptop after everything has started up I load up Google Chrome with Gmail as a pinned tab.  Then I load up Google Calendar and Remember the Milk as separate instances of Chrome in the apps setup that Google Chrome allows (a really cool way of running web apps as if they are desktop apps).  I do this because I “alt-tab” A LOT and this makes it much easier to switch between applications that I use.  I also open Firefox and have our church management app started up in it (Church Community Builder).  I haven’t completely switched over to Chrome yet, there are still a few things that I like running on Firefox better.
  • Oh and one other app that is always running in the background is TweetDeck.
  • After I’ve set all the first apps up I then start up FocusBooster.  A short while ago I heard about the Pomodoro Technique from Scott Magdelain and since then I’ve been using it to power through all the things I do on a work day.
  • By now I’ve usually taken about 30 to 45 minutes of the day.
  • The next thing I usually do is tackle email.  I go through my inbox and triage it – either writing responses, making a todo task from it, or archiving them.  Dealing with email is an ongoing task through my day and communication overall is a huge part of my typical work day.
  • Once I’ve finished getting the first batch of email done I will then move on to working through the to-do list that I manage with Remember the Milk.  Tasks range from preparing for weekend activities, ordering materials, creation of promotional material for upcoming events or classes, writing messages or training materials, leadership development,  communication with leaders,  ministry planning and implementation, research, overseeing the budgets and finances of the ministries I’m responsible for…well – a lot of stuff.
  • I’m also a person authorized for signing church cheques – which invariably means that there will be things for me to sign through the day.
  • I’m also the unofficial tech support person.  What that means is if something isn’t working right with someone’s computer I’m the go-to guy.  I’m also the go-to guy for how-to use-software-to-get-things-done that we use at the church (as much as possible I try to pass off some of this stuff to our Church Administrator as this is mostly his job BUT then, I love this stuff!)
  • I’ve already mentioned that I use the pomodoro technique (well, try to use it is probably a better way of putting it).  That means that every 25 minutes I take a 5 minute break.  During the breaks I read through the posts coming into my Google Reader account and if there are no feeds to read I will work on updating my tumblr blog with highlighted quotes from books I’m reading.  I also do this during my lunch breaks.
  • When magazines come into the church that we share among the staff I will usually read them during my lunch break and sticky tag the articles I want to have for reference into my Evernote account.  When I’m done going through the magazine I pass it off to my secretary who will take care of scanning it for me (whew! Thanks Tanya!).
  • When I’m stuck on something (either facing a tough call with an individual or getting writer’s/creative block) I will usually drop what I’m doing and spend a few minutes just praying about it.  I learned a long time ago that prayer really does help. Sadly, though, I sometimes forget this.

That’s a typical work day for me and I try to reserve at least two full days where I can do much of the above.  However,  there are other things that happen through the week that I also do:

  • Meet with people (I’m currently using a neat tool that I came across called TimeBridge for booking appointments.  Here’s the link I give out to people who want to see me. (about 2 hours a week meeting with folks)
  • I try to take some time for personal leadership development and I’m currently enrolled in a leadership coaching course (Coaching Level II) that takes up about 4 hours a week.
  • I’m also currently mentoring a Bible College student (about two hours a week)
  • I’m also currently helping a Chinese immigrant learn English (about one hour a week)
  • Staff prayer and meeting (2-3 hours a week)
  • I’m teaching some of our staff coaching skills (avg about 1 hour a week, our sessions are spread over a few months and aren’t every week)
  • I handle all benevolent requests coming into the church and correspond with our benevolent committee in making decisions on the big requests.
  • Hospital visits (I’m terrible at this and don’t do it that often)

Once I’m done my day at work I will head home and on the evenings that I don’t have to head out again:

  • Get welcome home hugs and kisses from my kids (and I realllllly try to not get upset when I see all their backpacks and coats and boots spread all over the place – this is something I’m working on. Pray for me.)
  • I take a 10 minute breather (sometimes a nap, but usually just a quick browse through any mail that came in).
  • Enjoy supper prepared by my AWESOME wife Kerryanne.
  • Listen to my kids talk about their day around the dinner table.
  • Spend a few minutes with my children reading their books and helping with homework.  When that’s done,  I might play a bit of the wii with them, or I might wrestle with them (which is getting more and more dangerous every day)
  • I’ll spend some time talking with my wife about her day and she’ll ask about my day (and we’ll try to outdo each other with our war stories….just kidding!)
  • The kids usually start getting ready for bed around 7:30pm and are in bed by 8pm.  I’ll go around with my wife and hear them pray and then pray over them.  I LOVE hearing my kids pray – it’s so awesome hearing their faith expressed in their talks with God.  When I was a kid, I was taught to pray “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray my Lord my soul to keep…” and I prayed that EVERY night.  I had that sucker down pat.  But my kids?  We’ve told them to get frank and honest with God from day one – and that is exactly what they do.  Every night is a surprise as we listen to them pray (I really am going to have to blog some of them!)
  • IF all goes well with the children going to sleep (I swear my youngest daughter, Jenna has caffeine for blood), then Ker and I will sometimes try to get in a TV show together.  Invariably, however, I have my laptop with me and I’m either writing a blog post, working on my WordPress plugin, or doing some freelance work to earn a few bucks on the side.  Currently, I’m doing more freelance work (we’ve got a goal of eliminating our credit card debt so I’m doing custom web development work on the side to help towards this goal).
  • Around 11pm Ker and I will head to bed together and I’ll read out loud the Bible Reading plan that we are currently working through together.  Sometimes we’ll discuss what we’ve read, but usually we’ll alternate praying together and then go to sleep.  I used to stay up and do more coding or reading on the internet but lately I’ve been staying in bed and crashing for the night.

So there you have it.  A typical work weekday for me at my church.  What’s your typical work day like?

[photo from flickr user: wurz]

The tyranny of lists

Crazy ListsI’ve got a confession to make. I’m addicted to lists. The problem is, my addiction can be a bit overwhelming at times. You may ask, what do you mean an addiction to “lists”? Well let’s just say I’ve got more todo lists floating around than aliens at a trekkie convention. And it’s just as silly too.

I’ve got a todo list in the admin section of each website I maintain (4), I’ve got a todo list on my desktop at work, I’ve got a todo list on the stikkit webservice (well actually more than one todo list), I’ve written simple text files that contain todo lists for various coding projects I do as a hobby, I maintain a todo list on my Palm Tungsten E, and last but not list (err least) I have a nice fancy todo list on a pad of paper in my home office desk drawer (albeit it’s been sitting there since…well a long time).

I’ve tried to convince myself that I keep all these lists for the right reasons:

  1. De-clutters my brain to help me focus on what I am doing rather than wasting precious bio-computing power on remembering what I’ve got to do.
  2. Provides a way of marking milestones and tracking tasks achieved. (There’s nothing like looking at a list at the end of the day and seeing a bunch of checks, or stroked out lines!)
  3. Prevents me from forgetting something (see point 1)
  4. Organizes my life and helps me plan what to focus on – saving time because I’m not trying to figure out what to do next.
  5. Multiple lists are for multiple streams of activity – I do try to put relevant information on the lists that matter (for instance my blog lists only have todo items related to that blog, I don’t use them as reminders for my appointment with the dentist).

Even though these are great reasons for keeping a todo list I think it’s possible to go overboard and become a list-aholic. I think I’ve crossed the threshold into the realm where I have so many lists, and so many todo items that,

  1. My brain is cluttered with all things I want to add to a list.
  2. I’m adding items faster to lists than I am completing – the checks and crossed out lines are dwarfed by the enormosity (hey is that a new word?) of unfinished tasks.
  3. I’m starting to forget things because there’s lists I’m forgetting to check.
  4. There’s a point at which the organized lists start to cost time rather than gain time. In the realm of a list-aholic the number of todo items becomes so overwhelming that choosing what to do becomes a brain exhausting feat.
  5. Multiple lists are like leaves in the fall. On the tree they look pretty – but once they start to fall it’s just a big pile.

Here’s the thing. I really think that the more dependent you become on lists, the greater risk you have of becoming a list-aholic. What’s worse, you start to lose your ability to remember anything! It’s true! I really believe that if I continued down the path I’m on I will eventually have to have a list that has my name, my address, my phone number, my PIN, my wife’s birthday, our anniversary… aww man, I’m writing a list again!

O-kay here’s the point and the question to discuss: Too many lists (todo items) actually decrease productivity. Do you think that’s true?

As for me and my addiction? I’ve decided to start changing:

  1. I’m going to try consolidating various lists I make (stikkit looks good right now)
  2. As much as possible keep a ratio of completed to new items at 2:1
  3. Practice remembering more instead of relying so much on writing it down/typing it up.
  4. Keep shorter lists – don’t add anything to todo unless it really really needs to be added.

Shucks, I just realized I’m writing another list – now I’ve gotta go and get 8 things done…