Set aside review time

Set aside review time

One of the most productive things we can do each day is review what is going to happen, and later review what actually happened. I can’t tell you how useful this has been for me to make sure I don’t miss deadlines and keep on schedule.

Generally, I encourage people to review their tasks/projects on a daily basis, but to also have a general weekly review, which comes from the GDT method.

Weekly

For my weekly review, I look back at the last seven days and I look ahead to the next seven to ten days. This allows me to keep ahead of schedule on projects/dead lines that I may not normally see by only looking seven days ahead, but are important for me to still get done this next week.

My weekly review, on average, only takes me a few minutes now because I’ve become very faithful in scheduling tasks in my task management app: Asana. Because the majority of tasks are already there each week, I only have four steps to take for my upcoming week:

  • Make sure no individual day has too much to do, and move tasks around accordingly.
  • Figure out when I will complete tasks that didn’t get done from the previous week
  • Review my pending tasks to make sure some of them haven’t become more important than what I previously scheduled
  • Fill in any additional gaps with tasks I’ve kept pending.

What’s amazing about this weekly review is that it can be done so quickly now that I’m in a rhythm, but it’s extremely valuable and I wouldn’t trade this weekly office habit for any other.

Daily

With the weekly review done, the daily ones become much more simple. Since every day should have been adjusted to have a workload appropriate for the day, I only have to make adjustments to my schedule if something comes up. When it does, I can either:

  • Keep pressing on and hope time opens up later
  • Figure out which tasks weren’t as necessary this week and bump them off till next week.

Usually I opt for number one, but occasionally I’ll just bump tasks to the following week if I really start to fall behind.

Odd work weeks

My work week, like many pastors, is broken up. I work Monday through Thursday, and then Saturday and Sunday (I do a lot of admin on Sunday afternoon and night). Because of this, I tend to do my major week review on Thursdays, and then a minor week review on Mondays. This has worked for me, and I hope you can find one that works with your odd schedule as well.

When things fall apart

This week has been a perfect example for me. I have been getting increasingly sick and last Tuesday it all came to a head when I had to go to the doctor because I couldn’t walk even a block that night. The rest of the week was extremely painful and very unproductive. So I opted for option two and I bumped as much as I could off until later and I focused on doing the necessary, and now that I’m feeling much better (not totally there, but better), I’m able to start adding back in more of my normal routine.

I hope this helps you think about what a weekly review could do for you, and how you could implement one into your routine. If you have any thoughts to add or questions, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

3 principles to maintain inbox zero

3 principles to maintain inbox zero

Your inbox (especially your email inbox) is a touchy subject for most people. Everyone assumes that they get more emails than the next person, or that their situation is just a little more busy, but let me tell you: organizing your inboxes (especially your email inbox) will benefit you in the long run.

There are many methods to maintain inbox zero, but here are 3 principles behind the many methods in order for you to keep all your inboxes at a healthy level.

1. Don’t worry about having a perfectly empty inbox

Although this seems to go against the topic at hand, your first step towards inbox zero should be to not stress over a single email or task in your inbox. The reality is to keep a true inbox zero, you have to be watching your inboxes constantly, which is very unproductive. This leads to number 2…

2. Have a schedule where you filter through your inboxes

Whether you choose to go through your tasks inbox twice a day, and your email once, or whether you choose to check all your inboxes at the end of the day, or some other method, having a specific time set aside will help you conquer your inboxes like nothing else. Having time set aside will not only relieve your stress (because you know it’ll be dealt with), but it’ll help your inbox actually stay empty regularly because you are dealing with the things that come in rather than sweeping them under the rug.

3. Have a workflow to process your inbox

Part of the reason people never end up filtering through their inboxes is because they don’t have a filter to put them through. If you are to stay on top of your inboxes, you have to have a predetermined plan on how you are going to handle the onslaught of emails, tasks, etc. For me, almost all of my emails end up as a task in Asana, as an event on my calendar, or they are something I respond to/act on immediately.

By knowing that I have a plan on how to respond to all of my emails brings a lot of confidence when I approach my inbox. So whether I have 20, 50, or 500, I can go through and process them based on the “act, schedule, delegate, or archive” method of processing. Some emails literally take 5 seconds to reply to and be done with and as I’ve written before, it’s always best to reply to email as you read it the first time. These are acted upon. Others are scheduled onto Asana or my calendar. Additional emails become delegated by forwarding it onto someone else, and lastly, there are some emails that are merely informational where I sometimes archive it to Evernote for some things, or I merely archive it in my email client itself.

I hope these principles help you figure out your best method of dealing with the onslaught of things we receive. If you have additional thoughts or ideas on the subject, I’d love to hear them!

Utilize machine time

Utilize machine time

I love productivity methods.

When I worked for Starbucks, I got to see firsthand how a global company infused efficiency into everything they did at the store level. They had many methods and workflows, however, one of their methods that can apply to every person, regardless of their work and home situation, is to utilize machine time.

Utilizing machine time is basically sequencing tasks that require waiting time so that you can accomplish the most in the time you have.

Some examples of things I do that have “machine time” are:

  • Podcast editing/uploading
  • Doing laundry
  • Washing dishes

Podcast editing/uploading

Every week, our church has a podcast that goes out every Sunday afternoon/night. As I edit the audio and setup the podcast, I have about 8 minutes where the audio is being exported from Garageband before I can upload it. Some people would simply go on Facebook or other social media sites while they wait, but I use this time to setup the rest of the podcast and prepare the social media posts so by the time the audio is ready to be uploaded, everything else related to it is ready too.

I’m sure you can think of many times you sit and wait for technology to boot up, buffer, or sync, so that’s why I’m giving two very different and less obvious examples of how to find and utilize machine time below.

Doing laundry

Laundry can easily become an overwhelming task, but so often, we could fit throwing a load into the washer or dryer in between other things because we have another 30ish minutes of waiting/machine time before we can do anything else with it. A perfect example of this was when my wife and I had to go get more quarters before starting laundry (we have a coin machine where we rent) because we only had enough money for washing, but not drying. Rather than getting quarters and then waiting until we had enough for both washing and drying before we stared, we threw the clothes in the wash, got quarters, and then the load was almost ready to be put in the dryer when we got back. We just saved half an hour by thinking of this! How much time and stress could we save if we put a load of laundry in the washer or dryer every time we left the house rather than waiting for it to become a four hour ordeal?

Washing dishes

This example may not apply to many, but I hope it shows you that “machine time” doesn’t have to incorporate an actual “machine.” We don’t have a dishwasher where we rent and so we have a small drying rack on the counter. We could wash all the dishes after every meal, but then we’d have to dry 2 racks worth by hand instead of letting the drying rack and air actually dry them for us. Instead, we wash dishes throughout the day, every couple hours so we never have to dry the dishes. Additionally, it helps me to get up from the computer, stand, and take a break for my eyes (otherwise I’ll work all day without a single break, and yes I consider washing dishes a break). By washing them every couple hours, they’re always dry and we save ourselves the time of drying them (and I get a great reminder to take a break to wash some dishes every couple of hours).

Everyone’s life situation is a little different, but I hope these ideas can help you find your own workflows in your life that could use some reorganization in order to utilize the downtime each task presents. I’d love to hear any ways you utilize machine time in the comments below!

Learn your keyboard shortcuts

Learn your keyboard shortcuts

We all use computers.
Most of us everyday.

However, are we using them efficiently? There’s always more you can do with a computer, such as using a text expansion app which I wrote about last week, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing more beneficial for the average user than to learn and memorize your keyboard shortcuts.

There’s always more effective ways to use your current applications, and even great apps you’ve never heard off that could improve your workflow – but the best single way any person can improve how they’re utilizing their current computer workflow is by learning the shortcuts to the current applications their using. It’s amazing how much time you can save by using keystrokes rather than right clicking or scrolling through endless menus. I hope the benefits are obvious, so here are two methods I like to use when learning new keyboard shortcuts:

Search the menu bar for shortcuts

One of the best places to find the most useful shortcuts is the menu bar. Under “File”, “edit” and the others, you’ll find the actions that the application creator decided were the most commonly used and most useful. You’ll find actions such as Save, Open, Copy, Paste, Paste and Match Style, Sync, etc. depending on the application you’re using.

By looking here first, you’ll be able to take inventory of the actions that will likely be the most useful.

Use a shortcut finder application

On both the Mac and on Windows there are applications that can show you all of the available keyboard shortcuts for any application you’re using. There are normally more shortcuts available than what you’ll find in the menu bar, so applications like these can help you find any additional shortcuts you may not otherwise find. You can find these by searching Google for things such as: “keyboard shortcut app”.

Take the time to learn the habit

As with everything, all this talk is useless without action. However, learning new things can be overwhelming and can feel like a waste of time, but I promise you that you’ll never regret adopting a keyboard shortcut to replace a slow mouse click. I encourage you to take the time and learn just one new shortcut a week. By taking some of your four most common clicks and learning their shortcut instead, you’ll save yourself tons of time in just one month – and this is a benefit that you’ll continue to receive!

What’s even better is that most Mac programs (I can’t speak for Windows) keep similar shortcuts between them so by learning a new shortcut, you’ll often be learning a shortcut that applies to all of your applications!

I hope this helps encourage you to learn new keyboard shortcuts and speedup your computer work so you can get more done, and get to the many other important parts of life.

Manage your mobile notifications

Manage your mobile notifications

We live in a day when everyone is checking 15 different means of communication constantly so that they get the most recent update on their friends lives. Want to stop the madness? Manage your notifications.

When it comes down to it, not all apps should be allowed to interrupt your day. As I look through the possible apps on my phone that can provide notifications, I’m astonished at some of the ones listed:

Fandango
Dictionary
Every. Single. Game.
eBay
Flickr
iCatcher
LinkedIn
Shazam

And the list goes on.

If you want to keep the “noise” of constant notifications out of your life, you have to decide which of these are truly important. I, for example, get alerts for only 5 apps: Messages (texting), Phone, Google Voice, FaceTime, and Reminders. I receive badge icons for a few others (like my todo list and habits list), but not for any social media or games especially.

I use to receive alerts and badges for many apps, until I realized how this was cutting into my normal day-to-day life, and especially decreasing my productivity. If you’re getting sick of how many alerts you have as well, here’s two steps for you to take:

Remove alerts from unnecessary apps

For the iPhone, you can find this under: “Settings” and then “Notifications.” Here, you see every app on your phone and if they currently have any notifications set. The options are:

  • Banners – non-obtrusive popup at the top that will go away in a few seconds.
  • Alerts – these popups are front and center and will stay there and keep you from doing anything else on your phone until you either choose to act on the alert, or ignore it.

You also have the choice to have it show in the notification center, if the notification will give a sound, have a badge icon on your home screen, or if it’ll show up on your lock screen.

Keep future apps from giving notifications

One of the best features of the iPhone is that when you open an app for the first time, it’ll ask you if you want to receive notifications. By choosing “don’t allow” on 99% of apps, you’ll save yourself the hassle of being bombarded with notifications, to only go into the notification center and remove all of the notifications that you’ve allowed.


I hope this helps you keep your notifications at a reasonable level and in a way that stays useful for you!

When To File, When To Archive

When To File, When To Archive

We all have things we need to file away, and pastors and ministry leaders are no exception. Between sermons, graphics, background checks, insurance forms, tax receipts, etc – the amount data we have to put somewhere seems to never end. I hope this post can help provide some guidance in the first step to filing your stuff well.

There are essentially two forms of information sorting that I like to call: file and archive. Filing is the idea of folders, subfolders, and files. It’s the most common organization system that we’re all familiar with. The second, archiving, is more like having a large bucket, or filing cabinet with no folders inside – only files. Some people use only one or the other, but I think that the best option is to use a combination.

When to File

Filing tends to work best when you need to group a specific set of files together because they are regularly used together. I use a filing system for things like a specific event I’m working on or a set of graphics I always use for Sunday morning. However, as technology advances, there are fewer things that are more efficient to file, and more things that are better to simply archive.

When to Archive

Archiving is more of a “hunt and gather” approach to organization. As mentioned above, technology has allowed this method to be very efficient. The concept of having a huge filing cabinet not organized by date, name, type, group, or any other method use to mean complete chaos. It would have taken forever to find the most simple document. However, with the ability to search your files on the computer, this method has become a true contender. This method, depending on your software of choice, could mean simply putting all your files in one folder, or using an app like Evernote. It’s become much more efficient to archive most files I come across. My basic rule of thumb is that if I won’t need this specifically with other files, then I normally archive it. As mentioned in Evernote, I sometimes use tags to still group specific files together, but archiving generally tends to have an individual file approach to it. Normally, I can search a few words and find the file I’m looking for faster than if I would have filed it away 5 folders deep anyway. This means I saved the time I didn’t spend filing it, and I was able to access it quicker!

I hope this helped you decide to save time via archiving as computers have made this option a great organization assets. However you decide, be consistent, and enjoy the benefits of being organized!

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