How to Get Things Done

Kent Shaffer —  December 13, 2012

There are a lot of books, articles, and stage talks on how to get things done. In some ways, the topic has become so romanticized in Western culture that some love the pursuit of learning about it to the extent of not having time for real productivity.

There are a slew of tips and research worth paying attention to:

Start things (that’s the hardest part). Don’t multi-task. Pick one task and focus on it for a long, uninterrupted stretch of time. Be deliberate. Break large tasks into smaller steps. Eliminate distractions like social media. Schedule your day and tasks in the morning or the evening before. Write down your long-term goals and the milestones for achieving them.¬†Checking email too often makes you stupid. Too much data can make you stupid.

2 Reminders for Productive Ministry

Yet in the midst of a sea of how-to advice, I think it is important remember a few key things about ministry:

#1 :: God’s plan doesn’t always seem productive (or at least efficient).

Joseph’s journey from slave to Egyptian ruler wasn’t efficient. Moses waited 80 years before leading the Israelites. From a Western perspective, these timeframes seem excruciating. From a Western perspective, a few months can seem too long. There are certainly situations that need to be sprinted through, but the race Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 9 and 2 Timothy 4 is a patient marathon.

There is a big difference between being lazy and patiently working hard. At the heart of the gospel and The Great Commission is a responsibility we have to selflessly love, serve, teach, and proclaim. And almost the only way to do this is through the patient nurturing of relationships. In ministry we must fight against the desire to replace relationships entirely with big events, programs, and systems that give the appearance of results. These things are great when built upon a culture that invests in relationships, but without that relational depth, they rarely disciple people as well as we think they do.

When making disciples, do you want quantity or quality? God looks at the heart, but pursuing quality is often full of messy ups and downs that feel unproductive.

# 2 :: Do what’s most important.

The busyness of ministry always has more important things to do than you have attention to give. Focus on what is most important and trust God to take care of the rest. Focus more on God’s voice through Scripture and the Holy Spirit and less on the opinions of your church’s biggest donor or the best-selling author celebrity pastor.

My 5 Favorite Productivity Tools

I’m far from a productivity guru. I have, however, experimented with an abundance of techniques and approaches to getting things done. My workflow rhythm changes every few months, so I try to custom tailor my task management to each specific season of life.¬†These are my 5 favorite tools from recent years:
  1. NeuYear Wall Calendar
    It helps to visualize the year’s biggest responsibilities, events, and milestones charted in one place for quick reference. It gives a sense of urgency that helps goad productivity towards the next fast-approaching deadline. It reminds me of what I need to do today to accomplish what need to be done next month. Perhaps most importantly, it’s helped me see if I am leaving enough room in my schedule to spend time with my wife and kids. I recommend the Dry Erase version of the calendar.
  2. Google Calendar
    Google Calendar weaves every aspect of my life, my family, and my workspace into one master schedule on my phone and computer.
  3. Gmail App
    Rather than using an app for notes. I write notes as an email to myself when on the go.
  4. Paper Notepad
    For daily planning and task management for a day in the office, I’ve found jotting down a quick schedule and to-do list each morning on a notepad to be the most helpful. It helps me focus on the tasks at hand by removing the clutter of future obligations. And I love the feeling of accomplishment from physically scratching off a completed task.
  5. Asana
    For long term planning and team interactions, I use Asana. It is free, less time-intensive, and a more versatile solution than popular alternatives.

For Discussion:
What are your favorite tools, tips, and techniques for productivity?

Kent Shaffer

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I live in an RV with my wife and 2 kids and work with OpenChurch.com to help Christians collaborate and build a global Church library of free, open content.

2 responses to How to Get Things Done

  1. I also use a calendar to write stuff down. Everything. Notes. Thoughts. Everything.

    So then it’s all in one place.

    But it’s so true, God’s ways don’t always seem productive. They seem to take a long time, is what I have found out.

  2. I think all of those productivity tools are spot on. I have to vouch for number 4 as well. The days that I skip over making a list at the beginning of the day I find myself working all over the place and not really being as productive as I could be.

    The days I write a list and stick to it, I force myself to stay on track and get so much more done. It’s so organic and maybe “old fashioned” to all the technology out there, but there is something about pen and paper and physically scratching that task off, just like you said.

    Great article!