Do Yourself A Favor: Get OmniFocus 2

My Favorite Task Manager

OmniFocus 2

 

Get OmniFocus 2

Small business owners, pastors, church planters, entrepreneurs, ministry professionals, and anyone who has a lot of freedom in their work needs something to help them stay on task.  OmniFocus 2 is my tool.

If you want to make sure you don’t drop the ball on tasks then please, do yourself a favor… get Omnifocus 2.  I love it.

There are a lot of task managers out there.  This one is highly adaptable to the way that you track your tasks.  I am goal oriented and it helps me track goals through the powerful folders feature.  Within the folder you can setup incremental projects that lead to the accomplishment of the goal.  Inside of those projects you can place your tasks that lead to the accomplishment of the goal.

I don’t recommend products unless I use them.  I literally use this app EVERY DAY.

  • Integrates with Calendars seamlessly.
  • I have it on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
  • Contexts, I use this as a “hats I wear” feature.  It helps me keep things straight as a Husband/Father, Pastor, Network Leader, Business Owner, and Individual.
  • Send tasks directly from email to your task manager.
  • Attach important reference material.
  • The Review Perspective is something I do every Monday as I setup my schedule for the week.
There are lots of people who have done free essential training for OmniFocus 2 online.  Here’s a great resource: https://www.youtube.com/user/learnomnifocus
Let me know if you have questions.  I’d be happy to answer as best I can.

Who Do You Want To Be?

My first step before I start getting specific about my goals

characterized

How are you characterized?

If you ask your spouse  come up with 3-5 non-physical descriptive words to explain who you are what would they be?  If you asked friends or colleagues that same question what do you think the answer would be?  If you’ve never tried it I highly suggest it.  Making people choose a few words causes them to be more careful with the words they choose.  It’s a fun exercise, but not exactly the point of this post.

I ask people that question as it relates to this past year.  How would you characterize me in 2017?

After I process that feedback (sometimes it is harder than other times).  I start to think about how I’d like to be characterized at the end of the next year.

An Example

For instance, at this time last year I decided I wanted to be more clearly characterized as someone who prays.  I know, I’m a pastor, that should come naturally.  I’ll be honest… it doesn’t.  But I want it to be more natural.

So about this time last year that was on my list of things I wanted to be characterized by.  That gave way to a goal of writing in a prayer journal weekly which I’m happy to say I did.  Prayer isn’t a lot easier for me, but it has definitely become a larger part of my life.  My kids know I keep a prayer journal and they know when they come to me with a problem or something they’re worried about the first thing I do is ask if they’ve prayed about it yet.

 

My advice before writing goals is to think about what you want to be known as at the end of this next year.  Think about the type of person you want to BE, before you think about the things you are going to DO.

 

What do you want to be characterized as this next year?

Plan: Control Your Calendar or It Will Control You

A look at a productive week in church planting

Plan

 

You’ve got to plan.  Organizing your week is pretty key to productivity in church planting.  You’ve got to drive your schedule or it will drive you.  I tend to set my week up in terms of blocks of time and the rhythms of my family and my church. At the bottom of this post is what a typical week looks like for me.

Everyday Stuff

I wake up early.  I always have.  I’m not a genius by any means (which is what a few friends have asserted).  I just like getting early.  4 is early even for me, but my boys have inherited my odd sleep schedule.  In order to beat them awake I have to get up at 4 to get some time alone with the Lord ad begin study.

I try to workout or run everyday.  I typically tag it with lunch.  I’ve found my energy level increases significantly when I workout and/or run.  I’m not any kind of a magnificent specimen of the male figure by any means, but I’m healthy, can bench my body weight (usually), and have completed a marathon.  I don’t attribute that to natural athletic acumen, but just some consistency in my regiment.  I HIGHLY recommend pastors exercise regularly.

Sunday

Sunday is devoted to our worship service, counseling and our life group.  I get up early, go to Starbucks and get a 5 shot venti peppermint mocha (nonfat milk, no whip cream) and look over my message, check our volunteer schedule, meet with my executive pastor, and think about what has to happen on Sunday.  In the evening we have our life group at 5pm.

Monday

Monday is typically an administration day where I’m working through weekly planning and message prep.  I know a lot of guys take Mondays off.  I’m not a fan of that, and you can read about that here.  My rhythms make me want to work through what happened the day before so I spend much of Sunday looking at numbers, assessing how Sunday services went, etc.  That’s just how I roll.

Tuesday

Tuesday is meeting day.  Normally, I’ll have anywhere from 5-9 meetings on Tuesday.  They vary in how crucial they are.  Typically, I meet with our administrative assistant and creative arts director.  I have regular lunch meetings and time with a couple people I’m discipling.  At night we have our staff meeting.  Most of our staff is part-time and this is the best day for them.

Wednesday

Wednesday is a message and planning day.  I finish my presentation outline and look ahead to what might need to be worked on for upcoming messages.

Thursday

Thursday is make up day.  It is an odd when everything goes according to plans on Monday – Wednesday.  Thursday is a miscellaneous day where I catchup on the things that weren’t done throughout the week. Thursday is my alternate evening meeting day and I’ll do meetings at night with our finance team or elder team on this night.

Friday

Friday is kind of special meeting day.  I meet with men I’m discipling.  I take interesting meetings (this week we’re meeting with a builder for our future long term home).  Friday’s work typically ends at noon.  I take that time through about 5pm on Saturday off.

Saturday

Saturday is rest and family day.  We’ve had soccer lately, but soccer has finished up for this season.  The important thing for us on this day is to be together, take a nap, and relax.  I’ve found that around 5 or 6 pm I start thinking about Sunday and all that’s coming so typically after dinner I’ll go to the bedroom and start my Sunday prep.

My Routine, What About You?

This is my routine.  I’ve based it on my natural rhythms and what my family, staff, and church needs.  What’s your rhythm

 

GRACE Gets Things Done

5 Steps to Getting Things Done for God's Glory

GRACE

“I don’t need to be productive, I need to be Godly.”  That is a constant refrain I get from church planters that I coach.  They want to read their bible, prepare sermons, and hang out in coffee shops.  There is nothing wrong with those things, but the work of church planting is SOOOO much more than that and requires productivity.  I try to remind them that the grace that saves and sanctifies us also works in us to be productive.

Remember 1 Corinthians 15:10:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

 

God’s grace towards us causes us to be Godly and that includes being productive for God’s glory.

The Origin of My System

I became a Christian when I was 16, a week before my 17th birthday. I started a bible study at my high school. Through that I felt called into ministry.  I told my parents, they told me they disagreed. The next year, my senior year, we started the bible study again and saw 30 people cross the line of faith and connect to a church. I talked to my parents again about going to pursue a bible degree and they relented.  They said I had to go to an extraordinarily conservative Christian college. I didn’t know anything about the school, but was just excited to go.

When I showed up on campus for freshman orientation I was given a student handbook, no big deal. Every place has rules. Then I got the dorm handbook.  I thought sure there are extra rules it’s a Christian school. Then I got a society handbook, then we got a sports handbook then we got a chapel rules sheet then another rule book for student government.

Then I learned that I was accountable for all the rules before classes started. That’s when demerits would start. I asked what demerits were. They explained the what happened.

  • 75 Demerits = Socialed.  Essentially, no contact with the opposite sex on campus.
  • 100 Demerits = Campused.  Students at this level weren’t allowed off campus except for church or approved ministry.
  • 150 Demerits = Expelled.  If you got to 150 demerits in a semester you were out.

Time to Get Serious

That’s when I got serious. I needed to get out, but needed the degree.  I figured my shelf life there may be 4 years but more likely I’d blow up by then. So one Friday night I sold out to the idea: I must graduate in 3 years. I sat down with the course books, an outdated idea today, and started looking and working.  I went through multiple iterations, but by bed time (yes that was a real thing) I’d worked it out.

I started in the fall of 1999 and in June of 2002 I graduated with a BA in Bible and a double minor in Counseling and Computer Science without any debt. How?  I learned the importance of envisioning a goal and attacking it.  Since then I’ve developed a way to attack any problem.

Church planting is one giant cornucopia of problems to solve.  My system has gotten a workout over and over again as we planted our church.  It has been tested and we’ve found it to be a helpful tool as we deal with problem solving inside of CityView.

The Productive GRACE system for problem solving and planning

1) Get serious about the vision

  • Ask: What is the preferred reality?
  • Write out what it looks like. This doesn’t need to be complete, but what would it look like if the problem was solved. Frequently, the biggest issue with dealing with a problem is clearly seeing what it should look like.  We get caught up with 1000 “what if” scenarios and that is counterproductive.  Sit down and write out what the problem would look like if it were solved.

2) Required resources 

  • Ask: What resources do I need to accomplish this vision?
  • Assemble the named resources. Do you need leaders?  Do you need tools?  Do you need advice?  Who do you need advice from?  You want to get the resources together to solve the problem.

3) Author a plan

  • Ask: What does this look like specifically.
  • Write down a specific plan. This is taking the preferred reality and flushing it out. Put it down on paper or your digital note taking software.  If it is a large plan consider using milestones and due dates.  Make a timeline and begin to implement the plan.

4) Consistently execute the plan

  • Ask: What do I need to DO right now to make this plan move forward?
  • Keep asking this question repetitively. In church planting, problems are sometimes quick fixes, but are frequently long term and require consistently asking the question, what do I need to do today to make sure that the plan is being carried out.

5) Effectively adapt to changes

  • Ask: What are the changes that are taking place that could change my plan?
  • Things happen.  Change is going to be necessary along the way. As a church planter it feels like as soon as you have a plan down some dynamic changes.  This doesn’t mean that you don’t have a plan.  It just means that you figure out how to account for it.

 

I thought it might be helpful to share a problem that we were facing earlier this year and how we worked through it using this GRACE method.

 

The Problem: We were dealing with a lack of communication from our staff.  When we did communicate it would be through a massive group text message with 8 people on it.  This was a huge thread of gifs, emojis, real issues to deal with, and inside jokes. Further, we couldn’t keep track of answers, who was doing what, and when assignments were due.  The thread was entertaining, but painfully inefficient.

The problem was exacerbated because we only had a very small office and mostly volunteer or VERY part-time staff with limited time availability.  I wasn’t sure what our staff was doing day-to-day.  I didn’t want to micromanage, but I did want to make sure they were working and accomplishing their area of ministry.

We weren’t communicating effectively and our conversations weren’t logged in a way that we could go back and find our questions and answers well.

I broke it down like this:

  • The Preferred Reality:

    We needed a way to communicate and collaborate as a staff on a daily basis without having to be physically present with each other. We also needed a way to catalog the conversations we were having so we could find our decisions, assignments, and plans.  I’m a techie and had an inkling that the easiest way to solve this problem was through an app that might enable threaded communication.  The preferred reality was to find an app that solved our communication issues.

  • The Required Resources:

    I talked to our staff and shared the problem and got their input. I also talked to several other church planter friends who were in similar situations and found out what they were doing to overcome the problem.  Additionally, I did a google search to find apps that were collaborative communication tools.  One resource came up over and over again as useful tool, Slack.  I downloaded the app and did some YouTube training on it.

  • Author a Plan:

    The plan was simple. Everyone download the app and move all staff communications to Slack.  This meant setting up multiple channels for our staff communication.  We setup the channels that made sense to us: worship, groups, video production, finance, etc.  This was the only place where we wanted these conversations to take place.   The only people in those channels were those who were necessary to the conversation.

  • Consistently Execute the Plan:

    This was slightly more difficult. We had lived in the text world for 3 years.  That was what we were used to.  We still were texting on the thread.  I had to effectively shut that thread down.  Whenever anyone would text there about a church related issue I’d text back, “SLACK!”  Within about a month all of our church related conversations were moved.  Occasionally, people still revert to texting.  They still get the familiar “SLACK!” comment and I receive a notification in Slack with a tongue in cheek apology.

  • Effectively Adapt to Changes:

    As we used the app we saw a need for multiple conversations and for some to be hidden. Not everyone needed to know what was going on in each thread.  Some of them needed to be locked down.  We developed new channels and discovered the way to make certain channels private.  This change made private and sensitive communication possible for us.

 

Conclusion

This is just one example of a way that we have utilized the GRACE system to solve problems in our ministry.  I use the same system to create annual goals, address confusing situations, and stay focused on what’s next while working towards our vision.  Whether you are trying to wrap up a degree early, deal with a staff issue, or just address become more productive the GRACE system can work for you.

Before Attacking Problems: Pray – 3 Reasons Among Many

Pray First

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I wrote earlier this week on my Productive GRACE system.

  1. Get serious about the vision
  2. Required resources
  3. Author a plan
  4. Consistently execute the plan
  5. Effectively adapt to changes

This is the way that I attack problems in everyday life.  The system is scalable and works for long term goals and short term goals alike.  I’m following it up with a few posts that dive in more specifically.  However, there is a pre-step.  The pre-step is prayer.  Pray First!  Prayer is a great gift that believers in Jesus don’t fall on enough.  It almost seems silly to write a list of reasons why we should pray about problems, but I think sometimes we all need reminders and at the very least I need the reminder (and this is my blog).

3 Reasons to Pray First

 

1) We are commanded to pray

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4.6)

When we are anxious, which is what I am when a problem arises, we are told to pray.  I’ve often heard this verse summarized in this way, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything”.  Pray about the thing that is on your mind and heart.  A loving father wants to hear from his children and specifically about those things that are making their hearts worry.  Pray.

2) Prayer brings peace

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Talking to my loving Father who also is the Sovereign God of all creation brings peace.  This peace goes beyond our mental capacities to understand, but it is truly there.  The next time you are anxious about some problem or goal, pray about it.

3) Prayer puts things in perspective

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

When we pray about our anxious moments we are reminded that there is something greater than our worries or goals.  There is God’s Kingdom.  Those goals and worries shouldn’t be our first priority.  God’s Kingdom coming is the thing that matters most.  We need to capture perspective.

 

Next we’ll deal with what to do when there are problems.  However, before we talk about attacking problems why don’t you spend some significant time praying about those problems.  Let me point you to Philippians 4:4-7 and Matthew 6:25-34 for some further reading and study.

Productive Grace: 5 Steps To Attack Any Problem

Productive Grace

The grace that saves us also sanctifies us.  That grace also makes us productive.  Remember 1 Corinthians 15:10:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

Over the next several blog posts, I’m going to share my scalable system to frame up and attack any problem.  It is just as applicable to long range, multi-year goals as it is to attacking daily scheduling issues.

 

The Origin of My System

I became a Christian when I was 16, a week before my 17th birthday. I started a bible study at my high school. Through that I felt called into ministry.  I told my parents, they told me they disagreed. The next year, my senior year, we started the bible study again and saw 30 people cross the line of faith and connect to a church. I talked to my parents again about going to pursue a bible degree and they relented.  They said I had to go to Bob Jones University. I didn’t know anything about the school, but was just excited to go.

When I showed up on campus for freshman orientation I was given a student handbook, no big deal. Every place has rules. Then I got the dorm handbook.  I thought sure there are extra rules it’s a Christian school. Then I got a society handbook, then we got a sports handbook then we got a chapel rules sheet then another rule book for student government.

Then I learned that I was accountable for all the rules before classes started. That’s when demerits would start. I asked what demerits were. They explained the what happened.

  • 75 Demerits = Socialed.  Essentially, no contact with the opposite sex on campus.
  • 100 Demerits = Campused.  Students at this level weren’t allowed off campus except for church or approved ministry.
  • 150 Demerits = Expelled.  If you got to 150 demerits in a semester you were out.

 

Time to Get Serious

That’s when I got serious. I needed to get out, but needed the degree.  I figured my shelf life there may be 4 years but more likely I’d blow up by then. So one Friday night I sold out to the idea: I must graduate in 3 years. I sat down with the course books, an outdated idea today, and started looking and working.  I went through multiple iterations, but by bed time (yes that was a real thing) I’d worked it out.

I started in the fall of 1999 and in June of 2002 I graduated with a BA in Bible na double minor in Counseling and Computer Science without any debt. How?  I learned the importance of envisioning a goal and attacking it.  Since then I’ve developed a way to attack any problem.

 

The Productive GRACE system for problem solving and planning

The grace that saves us also sanctifies us.  That grace also makes us productive.  Remember 1 Corinthians 15:10:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

1) Get serious about the vision

  • Ask: What is the preferred reality?
  • Write out what it looks like.

2) Required resources 

  • Ask: What resources do I need to accomplish this vision.
  • Assemble the named resources.

3) Author a plan

  • Ask: What does this look like specifically.
  • Write down a specific plan.

4) Consistently execute the plan

  • Ask: What do I need to DO right now to make this plan move forward?
  • Keep asking this question repetitively.

5) Effectively adapt to changes

  • Ask: What are the changes that are taking place that could change my plan?
  • Things happen.  Change is going to be necessary along the way.

 

Over the next few posts I’m going to break down each of these pieces to look long range and also short term.  Check it out frequently.

Goals Need to be RELEVANT

Tips to help make your goals relevant

Relevant

You may want to watch every new movie on Netflix, but unless you are a internet TV blogger it isn’t relevant to your personal growth.  Your goals need to be relevant to who you want to be over a lifetime.

You need to have goals that are relevant to your station in life and your own growth. When you write a goal it needs to be relevant to some greater purpose that you have. It has to have meaning behind it.  The goal needs to hold meaning for you.  When a goal is relevant then you have motivation to keep pushing towards it when the excitement has worn off.  I love this quote by Viktor Frankl

“Those who have a ‘why’ can bear with almost any ‘how’.

Tips to help you clarify

  • Where do you want to be in 10 years? 5 years? 3 years?  Does the goal help you get there?
  • Why is this goal important to you?   Should it be?
  • What are the benefits of this goal for your long term growth and development.

 

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

Goals Need to be TIME BOUND

Tips to make your goals time bound

time

Goals have to have a definite starting point and ending point.  I work really well with a deadline.  I want to know when something needs to be completed.  Time matters when it comes to writing goals.  Most of the goals I’ve talked about are annual.  They could all have an end date of 12/31 or if you are following the way I do my goals then 1/31.  Time bound is essential for working through the progressive necessity of goals.  You may want to lose 30 pounds by the end of the year, but you aren’t going to come to December 30th and see how you’re doing on your weight loss goal.  Set monthly and weekly time bound sub goals that help you attain your goal progressively.

 

Tips to help you clarify

  • Is your goal an annual goal?  Should it be a 2 year goal or longer?
  • What are some milestones associated with your goal?
  • How can you break it up into quarterly, monthly or weekly chunks?

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR

Goals Need to be TAILORED

Tips to tailor your goals

 

tailor

After you’ve written the goals and evaluated them for yourself and shared them. Now you should tailor them or tweak them.  Take the input from your personal evaluation and the input from others and rewrite your final draft of your goals.  Write them clearly for the year.  Then write out the subgoals that will get you to those major goals.  Make sure those subgoals also carry the markers of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

Tips to help you tailor your goals.

  • Write the goals down and put them in a very visible spot.  You need to be reminded of what you’re working towards.
  • Put the goals and subgoal deadlines on your personal calendar.  I need deadlines.  This help me see tangibly how much time I have left before a goal is due.
  • Get organized.  I use a two primary tools to help me write out my goals and track them.
    • Evernote – This is my brain.  I send clips and snippets of everything that relates to my goals here.  Motivations, ideas, websites all go here.  Everything is easily uploaded and easily systematized.  They have a wonderful free version.  I upgraded though and am so happy I did.
    • Omnifocus – This is my primary project management and task tracker.  Every goal and subgoal goes into Omnifocus.  I set annual goals as folders and subgoals as projects within the folder then I write tasks that correspond to those subgoals.  This software is a tad pricey, but I’ve found it to be superior to the other task and personal project management apps available.

Click on one of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals elements below to jump to a more specific description of that area.  Click here to get an overview of the S.M.A.R.T.E.S.T. Goals system.

SPECIFIC
MEASURABLE
ACHIEVABLE
RELEVANT
TIME BOUND
EVALUATE
SHARE
TAILOR