Many thanks to my friend, Matt Heerema, for setting the blog up on a new and much faster, more reliable server. Thank you Matt!
Matt is the founder and owner of Mere Agency, a web agency that offers services in the area of organizational strategy consulting, website information architecture, design, website construction, and website hosting services. (Full disclosure: I do some contract work for Matt.)
Matt and his company do fantastic work , and if you or your organization are looking for help in any of those areas, it would be worth checking them out.
When working on the book, I had my wife write up a short call-out box on how she has utilized some of the concepts I discuss in the book. I thought this might be a helpful way to show how the concepts in the book apply to every area of life, including our home lives.
I loved what she wrote. It was brief, clear, and fun to read. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to include it in the final draft because of space constraints. (Though it won’t be in the printed book, I do plan to make it available in the online toolkit for the book; so hopefully it can still be useful to a lot of people.)
However, you can already read it now in advance at Melissa McDonald’s blog The Cross and the Kitchen Sink.
Melissa’s blog does an excellent job showing how the gospel applies to truly every aspect of our lives — including the kitchen sink. It is refreshing to see her thoughts on how the gospel plays out in everyday life, especially in relation to family and the home.
Recently she asked if my wife or I would do a guest post on how productivity serves homemakers. This seemed like the perfect place for the call-out section my wife had written for the book, so I sent it to Melissa as a guest post for her blog.
So, check out How What’s Best Next Applies to Homemakers at her blog (and make sure to take a look around at the rest of her blog while you are there!).
Chris Misiano organizes and oversees on-campus events at Liberty university and, on the side, has been my assistant for the last year-and-a-half. I am amazed at his productivity and ability to stay on top of things. He is also an incredible writer. Here are three very helpful articles that he has recently produced that I found to be very helpful:
- A Liturgy for Saturdays. On a much-overlooked area in productivity: how to use your Saturdays well! Great thoughts here, and I agree.
- Staying on Mission. Loved this article on the value of a personal mission statement.
- Connection in an Age of Digital Distraction. Very helpful recommendations on project management software that don’t add to your load but help manage it.
Yes! From Seth Godin:
The shortcut that’s sure to work, every time:
Take the long way.
Do the hard work, consistently and with generosity and transparency.
And then you won’t waste time doing it over.
It seems to me that most of our approaches to productivity tend to orient our focus at the wrong level. We end up focusing on the runway level — next actions — and the 10,000 foot level — projects. This makes it hard to prioritize across areas of your life.
For example, if you come into work in the morning and say to yourself “what projects to I have going on?,” you might make some good progress that day. However, your thinking is necessarily narrow — it is focused on what projects already exist, and the focus is to get that loop closed when there might be broader things that are more deserving of your attention that day. Further, these broader things may not be anything captured on another existing list, like a next action list, because in a very real sense it is actually impossible to make any next action list “complete” (perhaps more on that later).
So how do you identify those broader things? I think by going to the 20,000 foot level, which is areas of responsibility. So instead of saying to yourself “what projects do I have on my plate” or “what actions do I have on my plate,” you instead say “what are my main responsibilities? Now, what are the most important things I can do today to advance the responsibilities that most need to be advanced at this time?”
In this way, you aren’t relying on any lists to ultimately show you what to do. Rather, you are relying on reflection. You might refer to your lists to make sure you are considering everything, but by putting the focus on reflecting on “what do I need to do now,” you allow new ideas to arise that are more in tune with current priorities. That is, you can adapt better, focusing on what is important now rather than on what was important two weeks ago, but you couldn’t do then so you put it on a list.
This is how I operated in college, without the assistance of any planning system (or even calendar–ironic, I know!). Every few days, I would simply say to myself “what is coming up in each of my classes?” Then I would identify what was most important, and get it done. The advantage there was that I had a pre-existing syllabus for each class; in the world of ordinary life, you are having to create much of your “syllabus” for your life as you go.
The irony is that, when a planning system inclines you to think mostly from the 10,000 foot level and runway, it can lead to lack of focus because there is simply so much to consider, with the result that you are worse off than not having any planning system at all.
But used right, a productivity system puts you way ahead. If, instead of using it to substitute for thinking (that is, instead of simply saying “what’s on my project lists and action lists; OK, I think I’ll do this), you use it as a support to keep some of the heavy lifting of remembering important ongoing things off your mind, it can be helpful. Then, what you do is operate from a stance of reflection at the 20,000 foot level of responsibilities, and refer to the lists to help fill out your options on what each area might needs, rather than relying on the lists as an exhaustive catalog of all your options.
A great article from the 99%.The 5 most dangerous creativity killers are:
- Role mismatch
- External end goal restriction
- Strict ration of resources
- Lack of social diversity
- Discouragement/no positive feedback
Here’s one of the most important highlights of the article. There is truth to the fact that constraints often add to our creativity by creating the “entrepreneurial gap” that requires novel solutions (and thus creativity) to cross when resources are scarce.
Sometimes, however, that reality is used to justify strict rationing of resources in an organization and a caviler imposition of restraints on creatives. That is a complete misunderstanding and misapplication of the entrepreneurial gap. As the article points out:
Although self-restriction can often boost creativity, the Harvard study shows that external restrictions are almost always a bad thing for creative thinking. This includes subtle language use that deters creativity, such as bosses claiming “We do things by the book around here,” or group members implicitly communicating that new ideas are not welcome.
Here’s one other important point: a shortage of time is not good for creativity!
While money and physical resources are important to creativity, the Harvard study revealed that mental resources were most important, including having enough time.
Creative people re-conceptualize problems more often than a non-creative. This means they look at a variety of solutions from a number of different angles, and this extensive observation of a project requires time. This is one of the many reasons you should do your best to avoid unnecessary near-deadline work that requires novel thinking. Also, when we are faced with too many external restrictions we spend more time acquiring more resources than actually, you know, creating.
Live58 is a movement to end extreme poverty in our generation. This is a helpful connection from the latest email newsletter by the team:
When we think of justice, the environment isn’t normally the first thing that comes to mind. Perhaps we think of human rights, or all those crime shows. But when Paul said in Colossians 1:20 that Jesus came “to reconcile all things to Himself,” you’ll notice that he doesn’t say some, and he doesn’t say people. He says all things. This means all of God’s creation.
Earth Month (with Earth Day earlier this week and Arbor Day today) is a reminder for us as Christians to take care of the creation God has made us stewards over. One of our solutions to extreme poverty is Environmental Stewardship, as most of the world’s poor are completely dependent on their environment for survival. Unfortunately, up to half the trees being cut down in developing countries are used for fuel wood, creating rampant deforestation and adding to the devastating effects of rural poverty. This fuel wood is then used for traditional cook stoves, which are causing indoor smoke pollution and killing almost 2 million people, mostly women and children, each year.
Our Environmental Stewardship partner, Plant With Purpose, works with communities to build improved cookstoves. These stoves require 50 to 60 percent less wood and also burn cleaner, which decreases the need for cutting wood and the risk of smoke-related illness or death.
While we shouldn’t make the environment an idol or fall into the notion that nature is equal in importance to people (it’s not: Matthew 10:31), we shouldn’t look down on good environment stewardship, either. In fact, as Live58 shows, there is often a relationship between better stewardship of the environment and not just improved human lives in general, but helping the poor specifically.
You can read more about the work Plant With Purpose is doing to improve wood burning stoves in the developing world. Also, for a good example of thinking wisely and Christianly about environmental issues, especially through the lens of climate change, see Glenn Brooke’s helpful post Thinking Wisely About Climate Change.
In a couple of weeks, there is a very exciting conference occurring in Chicago- Pastorum 2013. If you are able, I would encourage you to make the trip to Chicago to attend this time of learning and connecting with other teachers, pastors, students, and scholars. Speakers include Mark Futato, Ed Stetzer, Lynn Cohick, and many more. The conference begins the morning of Thursday April 11, and runs through the afternoon on Friday April 12.
Sessions at Pastorum begin with Bible Backgrounds, then move to Old Testament and the Intertestamental Period. On Friday, session 3 walks through the New Testament and then the conference wraps up with session 4- Connecting the Dots. There are also panel discussions “where speakers and attendees collaborate and share ideas for applying academic subjects to the local church.”
The folks at Pastorum have been kind enough to offer free registrations to ten readers of What’s Best Next. To win one of these registrations (a $100 value!), be one of the first ten readers to email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you further instructions. Note: you will be responsible for providing your own transportation to and from Chicago, as well as your lodging and meals while attending the conference.
I am really impressed with the vision of Poverty Cure:
PovertyCure is an international coalition of organizations and individuals committed to entrepreneurial solutions to poverty that challenge the status quo and champion the creative potential of the human person.
This vision, rooted in their biblical understanding of poverty and the true solutions to it, is why I am so excited about their work. They recognize, as they summarize on their website, that the solution to poverty comes from partnerships, not paternalism; enterprise, not (primarily) aid; and empowerment, not dependency.
They have a new six-part DVD series on charity, justice, and human flourishing that fleshes out the core principles of their thinking, and which I am really looking forward to watching. The series is based on this premise: We often ask how we can alleviate poverty. But that’s the wrong question. “The real question is, how do people in the developing world create prosperity for their families and their communities?”
In other words, overcoming poverty is not first about bringing aid, though that matters. The long-term solution to poverty is in the people themselves, and we recognize this when we consider people in light of what the Scriptures have to say. People are innovative, creative, talented, and capable. One of the chief problems in the developing world is that injustice — often through lack of property rights and rule of law — shackles people from being able to create wealth. The best way to serve the global poor is thus to address these roots and help enable people to thus lift themselves out of poverty, rather than to focus on tactics that ultimately create a dependency rather than unleashing people’s innate potential.
I love how they put it in the DVD: “when you recognize that people are made in the image of God with creative capacity, it changes absolutely everything about how we approach charity, missions, and development.”
I hope to watch the full series soon, and will let you know my thoughts when I can.
I’m really looking forward to Hugh Whelchel’s recent book How then Should We Work?: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work. I’ve had a chance to dip into it a bit, and one of its stand-out features is a very helpful, succinct, and clear history of the different views on work and calling through the ages. I especially love his summary of Luther’s recapturing of the biblical view, especially his points that:
- Vocation is the specific call to love our neighbors. That’s the essential meaning of the doctrine of vocation.
- We live out this calling in the world, not by retreating from it. “Accord to Luther, we respond to the call to love our neighbor by fulfilling the duties associated with our everyday work.”
- “We can only truly serve God in the midst of everyday circumstances, and all attempts to elevate the significance of the contemplative life are false.”
Hugh is executive director of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, whose mission is to equip Christians with a biblical theology of work and economics. They are doing excellent work, and I highly recommend them and their work.