My guess is that, like me, you want to accomplish more this year than last year, not less.
I think the challenge with New Year’s resolve is that we overfocus on the what and the why, at the expense of the how. So we end up with great goals and superb motivation but no strategy.
Today I want to drill down on seven practices that can help you accomplish more than you thought was possible. At least they helped me accomplish more than I thought was possible.
These reflections come out of a conversation I had with a friend the other night. We were at his place, talking about the year we just finished up and the year ahead.
He asked me about my new book on leading change that came out last month. He asked how I did it (worked full time in ministry while writing a book). I told him about early mornings and figuring out how to redeem my time.
Then he said he always wanted to write a book, but wasn’t sure he had the discipline to do it.
I assured him he did (he’s a cop – he has a ton of discipline). But it got me thinking…what are some practices that have really helped make the most of the time God has given us? The following practices aren’t unique to me. I’ve just adopted best practices from whoever I can. But they have made a big difference in my life.
The strange part is, God didn’t give me (or you) any extra time last year. Nor is he planning to this year. We each get the same amount we’ve been given every year. Our challenge is to figure out how to use it more productively.
Here are some practices that have been helping me:
1. Get eight hours of sleep. I used to think that cheating sleep was the key to productivity. 5 hours sleep used to be a badge of honour for me. Not any more. I find when I’m fully rested, I can produce more in three hours than I otherwise would in eight. I encourage you…get to bed on time. Get up early (it’s 5:00 a.m. for me these days). At least four nights a week, I shoot for eight hours sleep. I try to never settle for less than 6.
2. Take naps. I have always been a napper, even as a teen ager. I used to be embarrassed by it. But a few months ago, Michael Hyatt blogged about napping, arguing that it’s not a sign of weakness at all. To me, it removed the stigma (thank you Michael). I try to nap every day. If I can’t get it in at lunch, I’ll take it at 4. I nap for about 20-25 minutes, and when I wake up I feel like I had eight hours sleep. It’s a new lease on the rest of the day, and I have so much more energy than I did just 30 minutes earlier.
3. Leverage your most productive window. I’m personally best before 10 a.m. My best thinking happens then. I try to reserve that for my message writing and big projects and then move into meetings later in the day. I also think well when I’m cycling…so sometimes on a message writing day I’ll take a bike ride to clear my thoughts. Some of my best ideas come when I’m not in front of a keyboard. Don’t fight that when it happens – leverage it.
4. Work out. I struggle with this. I have asthma. For almost 35 years it was severe enough that exercise almost did me in anytime I did anything physical. But we got ride of the carpets in our house almost 10 years ago and since then it’s been better. Four years ago I joined a gym. Two years ago I invested in a good road bike. Cycling and some other training has put me in the best physical shape of my life so far. And being physically fit has a direct impact on mental and spiritual fitness.
5. Have a purpose behind ALL your time. Too much time gets wasted in our culture. It gets squandered. We even talk about ‘killing time’. Ouch. Workaholism is a problem, but far more people suffer from slackaholism than workaholism.
What if you just decided to have a purpose behind ALL your time every day? Spend time with your family…but have a purpose behind it – fun, creating memories, building relationships.
Make your rest productive by ensuring it’s restorative. If our goal is to love and serve God and others, our time (ALL of our time – downtime and worktime) should be aimed toward that greater end. Rest when you’re tired, but don’t be lazy or purposeless. Laziness is resting when you’re not tired. Purposelessness happens when time is spent non-strategically.
6. Create a filter for who to meet with. You have more opportunities than time available. The problem is that our time gets devoured by tasks and people that don’t help us fulfill or work mission or life’s mission. This has been a hard one for me, but I’ve decided there are people I’ll meet with and people I won’t (Andy Stanley has a brilliant leadership podcast on this principle). It’s hard to say no, but it’s even harder to look back on your life and see what you missed by saying yes too often. This practice can free up hours of time every week. It might even give you a full day back.
7. Write down big goals and share them. Two years ago, I wrote down that we needed to get our church financially healthy. Last weekend, we surpassed our weekly budget target for the week. That’s no big deal, except our church was closed last Sunday. People gave anyway (Giving Rocket has been extremely helpful in helping us achieve operational financial health). Last year I wrote down that we needed to develop a leadership surplus. I’m still working on that. A year ago, I wrote down that I wanted to write my second book. It released last month. Write it down. Share it with someone. Be accountable.
Those are some strategies and practices that have helped me. What’s helping you? What do you agree with or disagree with in the list?