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Avoid These False Productivity Goals

Avoid These False Productivity Goals
  • Name
    Carey Nieuwhof
It’s a universal tension you feel and almost every leader experiences: the drive to get more done. Maybe you feel the pressure because you’re starting or restarting something, and you know that if you only do more of the same, the end is near. So you push hard and drive for more. And before you know it, you’re out of hours to get it all done. Or maybe whatever you lead is growing. You’re just trying to keep up and are drowning under the onslaught of requests and demands that keep coming your way. You just can’t keep up. I’ve led in both scenarios. The drive to get more done almost always comes with a cost: you and the ones you love. The question I want to keep asking is: Does it have to be that way, in my life and in your life? I believe the answer is no. While there’s no easy answer, there are better answers. You just need to know how to find them. I know I’ve settled for false productivity goals before I realized that there are better ways to organize my time. To help you, I’m giving away a free calendar template (it works on iCal and GoogleCal among others) and video training that can help you organize your time for 2018 (well, actually, you can start applying it today). The free download and training are available for a very limited time. You can download the free calendar template and watch the free video training here. The download contains the calendar system that’s helped me stay on top of my time during seasons of explosive growth, and, well, in every season. You can 100 percent customize it to your situation to make it fit your life. When I follow the system I outline in the calendar, I thrive. When I don’t, well, it’s not as pretty. Along the way, here are three false productivity goals I’ve had to abandon on my leadership journey. See if you can relate. I hope all of it helps you. 1. Effectiveness, Not Efficiency I remember when our churches started to grow, I was all about efficiency. Efficiency, after all, would save the day. If I could get something that used to take an hour down to 30 minutes, I could double my capacity. Enter technology, and efficiency can go on a rocket ride. The problem with efficiency, though, is its limits. By nature, efficiency lives in the finite universe of time. No matter how smart or capable you may be, every leader only gets 24 hours each day. As a result, efficiency can only get you so far. By nature, it has diminishing returns. Think about it. If you had 16 tasks that take you an hour and, through efficiency, you cut each down to 30 minutes each, you already have a relatively full work day (eight hours). Your capacity to take on more is very limited. I’m all for efficiency when it matters, but to go one step further, some activities are by nature not inherently efficient. People aren’t efficient (bet you’ve noticed that). Neither is sermon preparation or writing. Neither is brainstorming or long-term planning. Parenting isn’t efficient. Neither is marriage or friendship. Sometimes you need the gifts of space and time. You need uninterrupted, unhurried time to explore whatever you need to explore, relationally or otherwise. In all matters where you can be efficient, do it. An accounting system that cuts the time in half is probably worth whatever it costs. Ditto with email, routine meetings and so much of what occupies daily life. But as efficient as you may become, you only have so many hours in a day. And part of what you do will never be fully efficient. So along the way, I stopped just thinking in terms of efficiency and started thinking in terms of effectiveness. Stop asking yourself how to be more efficient. Start asking yourself how to be more effective. Becoming more effective might mean you cut 17 efficient things out of your life. Sure, you may be efficient at a lot of things, but being efficient at things that don’t matter isn’t a win. It’s a loss. Becoming more effective might mean you cut out six meetings so you can have a full day to ponder and think about the future, or to work on your message, or to handle those difficult personnel problems that never go away. It might mean you hire someone to do your finance or find a volunteer to do expenses so you can focus on the highest value activities that move your mission forward. Don’t ask yourself how you can be more efficient. Ask yourself how you can be more effective. 2. Accomplishment, Not Activity Most of us have had the terrible feeling of having hustled hard for eight to 12 hours all day, but at the end of it we’re not exactly sure what we did. Sure, we played Wac-A-Mole with our inbox (for every one we answered, two more showed up), we got pulled into meetings, had lots of conversations, answered texts and barely had time to breathe. But looking back on it, we’re not really sure what we accomplished. Too much work today is defined by activity. Not nearly enough is defined by accomplishment. Activity may give you a paycheck (it’s amazing to me how many companies and even churches still pay people for showing up). But accomplishment is the only thing that both give you a sense of purpose and meaning in life and move the overall mission forward. It’s what will allow you to rest at the end of the day knowing you’ve made some kind of a difference and contribution. If you want to feel a great sense of purpose, write down what you want to accomplish every day. Don’t just write down tasks, set goals related to the mission. Then calendar your day to them. That’s exactly what the High Impact Leader free calendar download and training will help you do. Great leaders focus on accomplishment, not activity. 3. Progress, Not Productivity Productivity is another goal that’s trapped me over the years. Again, it’s good to be productive in the same way it’s good to be efficient. But you can have productive day after productive day and still miss the mission. I’ve learned to ask whether I’ve made progress even more often than whether or not I was productive. Progress forces you to ask bigger questions. Progress makes you look at whether you advanced the mission. It makes you ask whether you’ve made people better, or whether you’ve just gotten something out of them for yet another day. It focuses you on growing your skill set, on improving the team. Progress makes you work on it, not just in it. If you focus on progress enough, you won’t come to the end of a year and realize you just completed a year that looked exactly like the year before, which in turn looked surprisingly like the year before. Progress is all about the future. Productivity is about the present. Productive leaders make today better. Leaders focused on progress make tomorrow better. Imagine 2018…Better So how has 2017 been for you as a leader? Listen to Isaac’s story. He recently completed the High Impact Leader course: If you asked me earlier this year if I would want a repeat of 2017 I would have said, no way. After walking through the High Impact Leader though, I would and will repeat what I have been doing in the last few months. It has allowed me to be more strategic with my time, energy and priorities like never before. I have held a full schedule for the last few months and unlike ever before, my family did not feel the weight of it, my family was prioritized at the top of it. Thank you, Carey, for helping the end of 2017 be great and I’m very excited about what 2018 is going to hold! Pam from Red Rock Church in Colorado Springs calls the High Impact Leader “a gamechanger.” Dave from Invitation Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a married pastor of a new church plant who has two kids under the age of five, says: “Just wow. Thank you. The course helped me identify my priorities and work to bring clarity in all phases of my life. I feel SO, SO, SO much more freedom.” And that’s the goal. I hope that’s what will happen in your life. We’re currently offering some free, limited time bonuses for everyone who jumps in on this offering of the High Impact Leader course. To learn more or to enroll now, click here. In the meantime, what have you learned about getting and staying healthy in leadership? And why do you think over-working traps so many leaders? Scroll down and leave a comment! What’s helped you shift your thinking about productivity? This article originally appeared here.