Monday, January 20, 2014

Week 3: Be Productive

Photo(13)Although I am always excited to see a new year and thankful goes without saying, I must confess I entered 2014 on the wings of some real frustration with my 2013 level of productivity. Oh sure, I can blame it on adjusting to the first year of marriage and there would be some merit to it, but transition aside, it seems to take a real effort to be productive these days.

Let’s be honest. Life as we know it in this great 21st century is filled with distractions – big and small. We spend our days on computers and our evenings glued to televisions. Either we’re tuned in to the latest pop culture TV series phenomenon or we’re plugged into mobile devices scanning the various social media channels – posting selfies and random thoughts about our lives. For some, our multitasking claim to fame has become the fact that we can and often do all of the above at one time.

Is your head spinning yet? Mine is. Well it was. I started this year by considering all the things I wanted to accomplish last year and examining all of the distractions – legit and not so much – that stood in the way of my forward progress. After my honest self-assessment, here are four subtle changes I decided to make in the name of becoming more productive:

  1. Tame the social media beast: Now this one is a little tricky. There aren’t many published authors out there who will tell you social media isn’t an intricate part of a writer’s publishing plan. Although I believe in its benefits, I had to remind myself that I am not to be “conformed to this world.” I am free to tame this beast by training myself to use it in the ways I’m led and not necessarily the ways I am told. In other words, I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. I found that I was wasting entirely too much time riding the social media merry go ‘round – seeing what everyone else is doing, yet not accomplishing a doggone thing myself. All things in moderation, right? So in an effort to “moderate” my own social media usage I removed the Facebook (FB) app from my smart phone. What a liberating move that was. In the first week I was amazed (and embarrassed) by the number of times in one day I reached for my phone to go onto FB. Way too many… Now, I am forced to go on from a computer or my iPad (which stays at home on most work days). This limits me to occasional evening but mostly weekend use. This also focuses me. I still share my blog posts on my FB page, allowing me to focus on meaningful conversations that may stem from the post and giving me a shot at creating the community of conversation I’ve been wanting all along. So I still get to keep up with folks (family, high school classmates, former teachers, former coworkers and friends) and form new relationships and community through my writing, while still being productive.
  2. Use a calendar/planner: I am the world’s worst at double booking. And I just feel bad having to go back and say “no” to someone I said “yes” to because I find I have something else booked at the same day and time. So I’m trying to get better at keeping and consulting a calendar. I’ve tried this before, but not consistently. Let’s pray I do better this year, because it really does assist in keeping you focused and productive.
  3. Make lists: To-do lists are my #1 productivity tools. Recently, I learned that I enjoy checking things off a list. That feeling of accomplishment really helps me. So I try to make a list at the start of each week. Anything I fail to complete that week rolls over to the next. Some are long-term items; others are short-term. Either way, it keeps me focused on the important things I want/need to do and it helps me get them done.
  4. Prioritize: This goes hand in hand with #3. Although I write the list in no particular order of priority, each week there are certain things I note as priority items. For example: completing the week’s bible study lessons and weekly blog post are two of my priorities. This helps me to make sure I get them done.

So there you have it. This is my humble effort to make 2014 a more productive year. However, in the midst of all my planning and efforts toward productivity I try to keep the biblical words of Proverbs 16 in mind. I call it my planning chapter.

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. – Proverbs 16:1 (NASB)

Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. – Proverbs 16:3 (NASB)

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)

What are your tips for being productive? What is your most valuable productivity tool? In what ways will you work to be productive in 2014?