Too much to do! Too much stress! Not enough time! More expectations! More demands! More information! More interruptions! People, meetings, calls, emails, documents, events to attend, speaking engagements, budgets, training ….. and the list goes on!
Does that sound familiar?
In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with information, the urgent, and ever increasing expectations.
The weight upon us and the pace of our lives often leave us feeling dissatisfied, stressed,and sometimes burned-out.
There must be a better way! There is!
Over the years I have worked hard at working smarter. My goal is to increase effectiveness and to decrease stress. I make no claim to having arrived—I haven’t. I have learned to juggle the myriad demands paced upon my professional and personal life by developing habits and leveraging technology to help me work smarter.
Below is a brief summary of how I approach my work and responsibilities. If you want more detail or have a question, simply leave a comment and I will respond with more information.
Time of Arrival at the Office
I am usually in my office by 6:00-6:15 AM, sometimes earlier—depending on how often I hit “snooze” on my alarm! This enables me to beat the rush hour traffic, making me less stressed and more efficient. I’m also in a better mood for devotions.
Prayer and Devotions
I start the day with prayer and Bible study. My devotional time is blocked and locked on my calendar. It is not always easy to begin the day with prayer and Bible study. Some days I don’t feel particularly spiritual and don’t feel like praying or reading my Bible. I am tempted to start reading and responding to email.
It doesn’t matter how I feel. I pray and study my Bible anyway. My soul is almost always warmed and enlivened through prayer and Bible study (coffee also helps!) but not always. It does not matter—I pray and study anyway. God never told me to feel like praying or to feel like reading my Bible—he simply commands me to do so.
My prayer is that the “Lord will bless the work of my hands, that he will grant wisdom, that as I plan my way he will direct my steps, and that he will grant me holy rather than selfish ambitions in my work.”
I am currently reading through the Bible using the ESV on the iPad. I leave the computer off and go to another chair in my office to pray and read. This is called “fleeing temptation.” J
Review of Next Action Items and Upcoming Appointments
After devotions, I have 30 minutes set aside to review reports, NEXT ACTION items, the day’s appointments, etc. I am able to do this easily and effectively because I use the Task function in Outlook to manage my To Do list and projects. I am able to see at a glance what is due today and for the week.
Time is scheduled before and after every meeting for prep, travel, and follow-up. This allows me time to walk into a meeting well prepared with documents gathered. It also ensures that I setup follow-up meetings, write a memo or email, etc., immediately after the meeting so that “balls are not dropped.”
When someone other than a parent or staff member stops by and asks “do you have a minute,” usually a salesperson, if I’m not in a meeting or leaving for one, I will give him or her a little time in order to give a good testimony of the gospel. However, if this is an unscheduled drop-in, I start by meeting him or her at the door. I remain standing. This significantly shortens the unplanned meeting. I will invite the unscheduled guest to sit IF I believe the issue has the potential to benefit the school and if I have time. Otherwise, the meeting will end as a standup meeting or my assistant will schedule a follow-up meeting. In other words, in so far as possible and polite, I attempt to control my time rather than having someone else control it.
I also use lunch for meetings. I have to eat anyway so I might as well make it productive. Very seldom do I eat without meeting with someone.
I normally leave the office at 4:00. I go home and run four miles on the treadmill while catching up on the news—I accomplish two things at once! I shower and eat and then go to any evening meetings or events that I may have.
I am almost always in bed by 10:00 and up at 5:00 the next morning.
Friday mornings are blocked on my calendar for project work—off campus to minimize interruptions. This is an important time each week. I am able to focus on those BIG rocks that can be crowded out by the urgent.
I have the blessing of having a wonderful administrative assistant. I have instructed her to log all phone calls into Outlook’s Notes function. This provides a permanent record of every call. After returning the calls I make quick notes on each log. This ensures that I return calls in a timely fashion and I have a record of my response—which can be as easy as “Returned, Left Message, Referred, etc.
I also return calls in the car using hands-free voice activated dialing. NEVER dial when driving. (That sentence will make my attorney happy!)
Managing Email and Information
Email management is a challenge—but not impossible! Rather than outline strategies for managing email in this article, I have created a PowerPoint Presentation that you may find useful. At the end of the presentation are links to short Microsoft training videos.
Click HERE to download the PowerPoint Presentation. You may share the PPT with whomever you wish; I only ask that you refer them to this blog.
My Think Week is one of the most important practices that I have developed over the years. As I write this, I am preparing to leave for my Think Week. I will be reading 10 books and a stack of research documents—all on my iPad. For more information on Think Week see my previous post: How To Find Time to Focus, Think, and Work.
I got the idea for Think Week from articles I read about Bill Gates and his Think Week. Here are two articles that may interest you: Article 1: Bill Gates in Secret Hideaway, Article 2: Bill Gates Think Week.
Tools I Use
- I strive to be as paperless as possible. To the extent that I have everything in digital form (which is almost everything) I can have my documents with me anytime and anywhere. They are also searchable and shareable. This is far more productive than keeping up with paper, legal pads, notebooks, post-it notes, etc.
- I use a Dell laptop on a docking station with two monitors. On the left is my project management/brainstorming software—Mindmanager from Mindjet. The center monitor is used for Outlook and other Microsoft products (Word, etc.)
- I make extensive use of video-conferencing. I use ooVoo-think Skype on Steroids! Video-conferencing makes phone calls far more personal, there is less temptation to “multitask” while on a phone call, and you can share your desktop and/or files while on the call. Video-conferencing also reduces the number of emails I must process.
· I use the iPad for virtually all of my reading and note taking. There is a very effective and powerful note taking application called “Note Taker HD.” Used with a stylus it is as effective as a legal pad but with the advantage that all of your notes are in one location, searchable, and shareable.
Software I Most Frequently Use
- Microsoft’s Office 2010
- Docs-to-Go on my laptop and iPad. This program syncs all of my laptop documents to my iPad so that I have everything with me at all times. Docs-to-Go also enables me to read, create, and edit Microsoft documents-Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
- Mindmanager with a Catalyst subscription—for project management, brainstorming, and collaboration. The program tightly integrates with Outlook and Microsoft Office products making it an extremely effective task and project management tool.
- The new I.E. 9 browser and Google's Chrome. They are fast, secure, full-featured, and customizable.
- Note Taker HD—replaces a legal pad.
- Logos Bible Study software—on my laptop and iPad. For in-depth Bible study.
- Kindle software on the laptop, iPad, and iPhone—I carry my library in my pocket.
- Skydrive—for online document storage, creation, and collaboration. Skydrive and MS Webapps integrate seamlessly with Microsoft Office.
- ooVoo for video-conferencing.
- Twitter—for keeping up with the news.
- Jott—for leaving myself reminders when I’m in the car.
- Adobe Acrobat Pro—for PDF creation and electronic forms completion and signing.
- Loseit-see below.
Staying fit is critical to reducing stress and being efficient and effective. Although it gets tiresome, I count calories (I use a software program called LoseIt on my iPhone) and I track my exercise using the same program.
I run four miles a day six days a week (Sunday off) unless providentially hindered. I maintain my weight within the “ideal range,” for my height and age.
I do NOT like running and I do not like counting calories—but—doing so makes a big difference in how well I sleep at night and how much energy I have each day.
Because I do not like running, I do not sit down when I get home—not even for a minute!! I walk immediately to the closet and change into my exercise cloths and mount the treadmill.
Life is hectic and our jobs are demanding. Learning to thrive rather than merely survive as a leader is a challenge. It can be done. Attention to one’s spiritual and physical health, establishing good practices and habits, and making appropriate use of technology can all, when used in combination, reduce stress while we strive to accomplish more for God’s glory.