Having already confessed my sometimes battles with the calendar, I look forward to a new year with less fumbling and more advancing the ball downfield than at any time in recent memory. This is mostly due to the system I developed earlier this year, blending the GTD and Bullet Journal methodologies in a Leuchttrum 1917 notebook. I call it Mission Control. Sticking with it is making a difference.
Managing workflow is what many people mean when they say “get organized” or “I’m setting my priorities.” But, as David Allen, developer of the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, notes, there is a different between having priorities and getting through the dozens of decisions you face each day:
‘Setting priorities’ in the traditional sense of focusing on your long-term goals and values, though obviously a necessary core focus, does not provide a practical framework for a vast majority of the decisions and tasks you must engage in day to day. (Getting Things Done, Revised Edition, 2015, David Allen, p. 57)
Here are six ways a well-managed workflow will help 2018 be better.
1. A well-managed workflow clears your mind.
Have you ever been sitting in a meeting, perhaps a staff meeting, when an extraneous but important thought popped into your mind: “Get milk on the way home.” “Don’t forget Frieda’s dress at the cleaner.” “I’ve got to get the pastors meeting on our home calendar before it’s too late.” My default setting is to push such things about of my mind, hoping to remember them later. My batting average for that strategy would keep me on the bench in Single A ball.
The more we try to remember, the more we are prone to forget. Using written reminders and written workflow management frees our minds for that which they are intended: thinking.
2. It focuses your energy.
Few things are more frustrating to me personally than wasting time and energy. If “redeem the time because the days are evil” is as true as we claim it is, then time and energy wasted is gone forever, and, dare we say sinful. I may be able to do better the next time, but I cannot do better last time. The grass withers, the flower fades.
The older I get the more attention I have to give to my energy level. What time of day do I have the most? The least? When might I go to sleep standing up? Organizing work-flow helps focus my energy to a more beneficial productivity.
3. It removes distractions.
As Ryan Rice noted in his Lifeway Pastors article, Keys to a Fruitful—Not Busy—New Year,
For some of us, “no” needs to become our favorite word.
Managed workflow makes it easier to say “no” to things because we can better recognize distractions. It is more than just not doing some things; it is knowing what not to do and why. Then, refuse to chase the distractions.
4. It clarifies your actions.
Well-managed workflow not only tells us what not to do, it can help us know what to do next. As Matt Perman writes in What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms How You Get Things Done:
Know what’s most important right where you are and focus on that.
Often when juggling multiple tasks (those of us who are bivocational or part-time staff live in this space) we can lose track of what is next. Between home, regular job, ministry position, and volunteering for something there are multiple deadlines, projects, needs, and requirements. Without good workflow management we can be tyrannized by the urgent rather than acting on the important.
5. It prevents duplication.
There’s a running joke by people who keep to-do lists: do you add something already completed just to mark it off the list? I have. But it’s really a faux feeling of accomplishment as if doing the task, writing it, and crossing it off are three different actions. What we need to do is do the next thing and move on.
Duplication does not necessarily mean doing the same thing twice. It means handling the same idea multiple times before doing it: thinking about something and forgetting it, remembering it later and writing it on the back of an envelope, losing the envelope, remembering two days later to look for the envelope, remembering the task, and on and on. Call it “disorganizationally affected procrastination.”
Duplication is the polar opposite of redeeming the time as it treats time as an infinite resource.
6. It guides you through interruptions.
In November 2015 I accepted a part-time Groups Pastor role at a church in the Nashville area. Barely two months later my wife was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer, so we buckled in for a future for which we were only prepared through God’s power. I have a full-time job, a part-time church position, am a husband and father, and added multiple doctors, hospital visits, surgeries, and more. God used work-flow management to help me “number my days” and seek to live wisely (Psalm 90:12, paraphrase) during an interrupted year.
That is an extreme example. Most interruptions are not life and death. Instead, interruptions feel like irritants. Rather than a potentially fatal disease, they are a pulled muscle or a stiff neck. They do, however, have the potential to get us off track.
Managed workflow can help keep us dialed-in to what we need to be doing (or not doing) moment-by-moment so we all may—having served our purpose in our generation (Acts 13:36) and run the race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1)—we might hear the Father say “well done.”