Because of the size of my family and the roles I am fortunate enough to embrace, I’m often asked “how do you do it?” Typically the person asking that question feels overwhelmed by what they have to do, want to do, and need to do and for some reason—some very deluded reason—they think I have figured this out. Every man and woman regardless of his or her calling and vocation must address the question of “how do I get done what I need to get done and want to get done in the little time I have to get it done?”
Honestly, I do not have this all figured out. I do not know anyone who does. I, just like everyone who asks me that question, have more on my to do list of what I want to do and need to do than I will ever get accomplished. I have been fortunate enough to be able to pray, think, and read through issues surrounding both a theology of vocation and effectiveness that have enabled me to continually become more and more effective.
The following are a couple of things that work for me. They may not for you, and perhaps you have something better. But these have helped me tremendously.
First, begin with a biblical understanding of effectiveness over productivity. The difference between productivity and effectiveness appears slight but they are vastly different. Productivity is a matter of getting things done. Typically, productivity equals doing more things in less time. Effectiveness on the other hand is a matter of getting the right things done at the right time.
Paul in Ephesians 5:16 says, “making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Of course there is much context surrounding this verse but a simple principle—without reading into the text—is that we as followers of Christ must be concerned with our effectiveness versus being productive. We each must posses a greater concern for effectiveness (making the most of the time) than keeping ourselves busy being productive. The question of “How can I be more effective?” raises the issue of not how do I get more done, but of how do I get the right things done.
Effectiveness is key to pastoral ministry. Whether planning your year or your day, a theology of vocation and effectiveness drafts the key question of “What do I need to do next to live out my God ordained roles and calling so that I may be more effective for the Kingdom?’
To paraphrase Peter Drucker, “It does not matter how much you get done if you’re doing the wrong things.”
Second—and these next things are more pragmatic—touch things once. Every now and then I find myself moving papers from one side of my desk to another. I was busy, but I did not really get anything done. I was not able to share the gospel, disciple others, or visit someone in the hospital. But the papers look better on the left side of the desk, until the next morning when I move them over to the right again.
Shuffling papers is not effective. The challenge with this principle is to only touch things once. If you cannot look at the mail, do not pick it up. If you cannot responds to emails, do not open your inbox. Challenge your own effectiveness by committing to touch things only once.
Third—and this overflows from the touch it once challenge—batch stuff together. Make as many phone calls as you can at once. Use your voicemail or an assistant to collect the phone calls and then return them at one time. The same rule applies for email and social media. Designate a time to address it at once rather than as it comes across your way. Being effective is doing the best at the moment, not the most throughout the day.
Learn what time of day you do what best. Then guard it. I have painfully figured out that I am not a night person. For myself after about 9:30 pm at night a task that would normally take me 20 minutes to do takes about 40. This is a diminished return.
There are others however who thrive between the hours of 1 and 2 in the morning. Neither a night owl or morning person is better than the other. They are just different. God has created us each unique and we each react differently to the time of day. The challenge we must each wade through is to figure out when we are most effective and do our best to guard that time.
Personally, I do the majority of my sermon preparation and writings in the morning hours because I have more energy and think more clearly. The afternoons are reserved for people, visitations, meetings, counseling, and other administrative things that I do not necessarily want to do but must be done. It has taken me years to figure this out, but sticking with it has been extremely beneficial. They key is to figure out what time of day you are most effective for your most important kingdom role and then guard it. Only you can do what you have been called to do.
There is so much more when it comes to developing a working theology of calling, vocation and effectiveness. These four things have been a great help to me. Hopefully they will to you as well.