I’m frequently asked, “How do you get things done?”
The theological answer is, “By the grace of God.” By God’s grace at work through the Holy Spirit’s power we have ability, energy, and wisdom to get stuff done. And, by God’s grace, much of our life is enjoying a front-row seat to our gracious God multiplying our time, effectiveness, and impact, much like the little boy who gave his lunch to Jesus to see it multiplied over and over.
The practical answer is, “By some simple routines that add up to a big difference.” Here are some of those practical things in no particular order:
1. I Listen a Lot
The Holy Spirit speaks through Scripture, conscience, creation, other people, teachers, authors, and more. Leaders need wisdom and creative vision, which requires a lot of listening integrated throughout the day, amid other duties.
2. I Plan Far in Advance
The further in advance you can get the big parts of your work planned out, the better able you are to work on it a bit at a time and not be rushed at the last minute. For example, my preaching schedule is organized through the end of 2013, with every sermon series and weekly sermon on my calendar. As another example, I have a plan for my book publishing through 2015 with tentative deadlines for manuscripts planned out. Of course, I can course correct as needed, but working on things a year or two in advance allows me to always have multiple things in various stages of progress as I’m collecting information, reading, making notes, and more. It also helps my team know what is going to be happening and helps them do a great job getting ready for upcoming projects with me.
3. I Always Carry a Notebook
Life is filled with learning opportunities that we forget if we do not write them down. I want my mind clear to think and listen. So, I use a simple notebook to catch ideas, projects, plans, checklists, and more, thereby freeing up my mind to be present in the moment with the people and things before me. I find that plans, articles, book ideas, theological concepts, family needs, Facebook and Twitter posts, and more come to me in flashes at random times. So, I write them down for later.
4. I Always Carry Something to Study
The day always has gaps of anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more. I fill all these gaps with study. Wherever I am, I always have something I can be reading or working on. Always.
5. I Utilize Research Assistants
I write my own books, preach my own sermons, and do my own work. But, as needed, I farm some research out. Most pastors cannot afford this. But, odds are you have a few academic types in your church that drive you nuts as they are not leaders but are readers. Give them a job as your volunteer researchers. Have them do book summaries, track down theological information, and help you out with big research projects.
6. I Use Logos Bible Software
I know it’s expensive, but it’s less expensive than the print version of the resources. This allows me to have an enormous library with me anywhere I go. With the Cloud feature, it also means I have an enormous library of Bible resources on my iPhone. It’s flat-out amazing and a game changer.
7. I Don’t Waste Time in the Car
When I drive, I will pray or take the time to catch up on phone calls, usually to encourage leaders and check in. Sometimes I also listen to lectures related to what I’m preaching or writing, as places like iTunes U have a mountain of free lectures on various subjects and theological categories.
8. I Pack My Laptop Everywhere I Go
I have a daughter who runs track and three boys who play on a combined total of six baseball teams—this means I spent a lot of time sitting to cheer them on. So, I have a folding chair complete with a side table to hold stuff and a covering in case in rains. I have written the majority of a few books sitting at my kids sporting events while cheering them on.
9. I Work after My Kids Go to Bed
At night, it’s quiet, email and other correspondence die down, and I find it a good time to read and work on planning and projects a bit.
10. I Have a Bullpen
In baseball, a bullpen is a collection of pitchers, each of whom is a specialist who is best utilized in a particular situation. Every leader needs a bullpen. My bullpen includes theologians with more training than me, pastors of larger churches, business leaders with more experience than me, fathers with children older than mine, husbands with marriages longer than mine, and a doctor with insight far greater than me. As needed, I meet with and learn from the people in my bullpen. They help me do better by the grace of God.
11. I Sleep 9 Hours a Night on Average
If you do not sleep, you will get brain fog, low energy, and not be productive. You will start pounding caffeine and energy drinks and wear out your adrenal glands and neurotransmitters. You will then get sick, probably starting with sinus infections—I know because I have. Personally, I need around 9 hours of sleep a night to be at my best and stay healthy. You may work a lot of hours, but you will not produce a lot of results if you do not sleep well.