There’s a big difference between being effective and efficient. Peter Drucker once said “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”
David Allen said it this way: “There are only 2 things you need to do – what you’re doing right now and everything else.” His point was that whatever you’re doing right now is what you’ve determined (maybe involuntarily) is of utmost importance. Of all the things you could be doing at any given moment, you are saying with your time that “this is the most important thing to me right now”.
The problem is that sometimes we’re wrong.
Look at Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38–42. Martha was effiecient, and I’m sure she had that kitchen humming! She was doing the best she could, she was operating at peak performance, she was probably at max capacity – but she was focused on the wrong things. On the other hand, Mary recognized presence of Jesus and took the opportunity to sit at His feet and be taught – she made a decision that all the other “stuff” could wait because this was more important.
It’s easy for us to look back and say “Geez Martha, how thick are you?!? Jesus is at your house!!!”, but the truth is we do the exact same thing whether we realize it or not.
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
You wake up in the morning exhausted because you didn’t sleep well. You roll out of bed and lethargically climb into the shower, where you tend to linger because you know as soon as you get out you’ve got to go to a job where you probably already are behind in the emails you have to send and the calls you have to make. No matter how hard or long you work you can never seem to get ahead, and when you leave for the night your mind is still thinking about how much you have still have to do. Your “tasks” hang over you like a thick cloud and when you get home you to your family to discover that your wife’s car battery died (someone left the light on again), little Jimmy hurt himself jumping out of the tree in the backyard and the lawn needs to be mowed. You don’t have the energy to deal with it, and everything is a bigger deal than it should be. You feel stuck. You feel overwhelmed. You feel like screaming, just like Martha did, “Can’t somebody help me?!?”
The problem is not with inefficiency – it’s with ineffectiveness. You’re focusing on the wrong things.
On your deathbed, you’re not going to say “I wish I would’ve spent more time at the office.”
Maybe you can’t change your work responsibilities, and you certainly can’t stop your kids from doing things to injure themselves (as a father of 4 boys, I speak from experience). But you can choose what you focus on. You can choose to put “first things first”.
You can choose to organize your thoughts and leave your work at work. Dr. Edwin Louis Cole once said “the man without an organized system of thought will always be slave to the man who has one”. You don’t have to be a slave to disorganization. You don’t have to just “roll with punches”.
Here are 7 things you can do TODAY to improve your tomorrow:
- Go to bed early – if you go to bed early, you can get up early. Getting up early is the best way I know of to attack your day before it attacks you. Getting up early “suckerpunches” the day and says “I’m going to make sure today is awesome!”
- Be intentional – recognize that every moment is a gift. Time is the one resource you can never get back. Be intentional with how you spend your time and what you give your life to.
- Be fully engaged – wherever you are, be all there. If you’re at home playing with your kids, play with your kids, don’t check your email. Leave your phone in another room if you have to.
- Leave work at work – when you leave the office for the day, leave all the work-related tasks you have to do there also. Worrying about your non-empty inbox at home won’t help you empty it any faster and robs you of what’s really important.
- Have a vision – know where you’re going! Have goals and write them down! Habakkuk 2:2 says to write down the vision so that you can run with it – you’ll never run without a vision, and you’ll never achieve a goal until you write it down.
- Review – periodically stop and take inventory of all your projects and tasks. Is what you’re giving your time and energy to worth the investment? Is it in line with your goals and life vision? If not, consider cutting it loose.
- Say no – being productive is just as much about what you don’t do as it is about what you do do. You have limited resources, and you need to make sure that what you are doing is worth it! Don’t just do things right, do the right things!
Simply speeding up doesn’t help if you’re not going in the right direction in the first place. Make sure that what you’re doing really counts.