David Allen's Getting Things Done is a masterful work that turns disorganized and stressed-out people (like myself) into productive, hardworking, and efficient workers. His GTD System focuses on transforming the way individuals handle their incoming tasks and obligations so that things get done in an organized and concise manner, freeing the mind up to do the creative work that it was made to do.
Getting Things Done is composed of three main parts. Part one is titled: "The Art of Getting Things Done." In this section, David Allen does an excellent job illustrating every day (shoddy) work habits that many exercises and explains what an effective work habit ought to be.
In part two, titled: "Practicing Stress-Free PRoductivity," Allen takes his audience through a step-by-step guide to improving workflow. Allen starts by getting his audience to "take control" of their current workspace, setting it up to be organized and efficient, and then goes on to lead his audience through several exercises in which the reader evaluates their current work habits. Some examples of these exercises are: practicing making effective "next action" decisions and practicing the habit of a "weekly review."
In part three, titled "The Power of Key Principles," Allen builds off of the basis set in the previous two sections by providing his audience with principles to lie and die by. These principles are intended to keep our minds proactive, always focused on the next step. By doing this, we will ultimately free our minds up to think creatively.
All in all, David Allen's Getting THings DOne has made a tremendous impact on my life. Concepts like using capturing tools and focusing on next actions have improved my productivity significantly. I cannot recommend this work enough. If you are someone who struggles with getting things done, this book is a necessary read.
What tools are you using to make your workflow more efficient?
In David Allen's Getting Things Done, a clear argument is made: Your brain is great for creativity, but oftentimes it fails us when it comes to workflow efficiency.
One way that we can remedy this issue of efficiency is through using various physical, tangible tools. These tools ought to be things that free up our mental space in order to allow us to do what our brains do best: think creatively.
Often, we treat our brains like storage containers. In order to remedy this, we ought to get our various ideas, obligations, and next actions out onto something tangible. Some examples of good capturing tools are:
Other tools that we ought to have nearby are pieces of technology that can aid us in doing work that our brains aren't well suited for. Tools like this are:
These tools ought to be something that we keep nearby and on hand at all times. In terms of capture tools, having these things on hand will aid us in capturing those ideas that hit us when we aren't expecting them, and if these tools have the role of reminding us of our next action steps, we will be more likely to get these things done.
Also, it should be noted that these tools should be things that we enjoy using. If we enjoy using these tools, then getting work done won't feel like pulling teeth. In my own life, I have a leather journal that I take with me everywhere, and when I have work-related thoughts come into mind, I write them down and keep them on hand.
"Is Christ here with us in the world?"
This is the question that so many people are asking. Those who are in the church, who are left wanting, ask this question. When the secular world sees the scandals of unjust religious leaders, they ask this question. When people experience the death and decay of our broken and sinful world, they ask this question. "Is Christ here with us in the world?"
I feel that our answer should be yes. Through the church, I believe that people ought to experience the very presence of Christ. In David Fitch's Faithful Presence, Fitch proposes that the church ought to be on mission by living "incarnationally." For a church to exist "incarnationally," it is to be in the midst of a community, making the presence of Christ known in tangible ways. In a sense, the church is an extension of the incarnation.
If the church is an extension of the incarnation, what should the Church effect? What should the world experience when it comes in contact with the church?
If we look at the ministry of Jesus, we can say that the Church should cause individuals to experience:
Some sacramental traditions will be more apt to accept this view of the Church. Those who perceive the Eucharist as the real pressence of Christ will be more likely to accept this "incarnational" view, due to the fact that they are used to and comfortable with the concept of Christ being here with us today.
As the Church, let us do "incarnational mission," drawing the world into a real encounter with the presence of God. Let us show the world that the gospel is not a matter of mental ascent, but a participation with the Grace of God.
Are you a procrastinator? Do you put off the things you KNOW you need to do, things that often don't take up much time at all?
David Allen in his work Getting Things Done introduces an important concept that would benefit all of us in getting things done in our daily lives. This concept is the idea of the Two Minute Rule. The Two minute rule is the idea that if any task crops up that requires two minutes or less, you ought to do it right there and then.
And this concept makes a lot of sense, actually. At any moment in my life, I can likely spre two minutes to give towards most tasks. However, if I grow accustomed to leaving these small tasks off for later, they will accumulate into a monster load of work that I will dread getting done.
These tasks can be simple. They can be sending out a quick email, or shooting off a text message to a friend, or making a quick call to schedule an appointment. Whatever the task is, if its short and simple, it ought to get done right then and there.
In my own experience, I feel that getting things done with the "Two Minute Rule" makes me feel more productive and more in charge of my life. I forget to do the small things if I leave my tasks in a pending state. By doing it right then and there, I become more accountable, and more reliable for those who depend on me.
If this idea appeals to you, let me know! Drop a comment below and let me know what tasks you put off, but got done today with this method.
Some people just don't understand the meaning of the word "organization." I confess, I may be one of them.
One thing that one should note about a person who has an efficient and stress-free workflow is that they always know where to find their work. An efficient worker doesn't need to do more work to discern what their work actually is. This is because an efficient worker sorts their work into buckets.
When we receive new "work," that goes into our inbox. For some of us, our "inbox" might simply be our desk. For others, it could be a folder or a back pack. Our work should not stay in our inbox, however. Our inboxes are simply places where we discern what kind of work something is, and then it should be moved to a smaller "bucket."
In David Allen's Getting Things Done, he proposes seven kinds of buckets (p. 142). They are:
The reason for sorting our work into these buckets is two fold. First, if our work is sorted, then we will know instantly what to do with each piece of information instantly. If I receive a piece of reference material, if I move it into a "reference bucket", then I won't have to constantly ask myself "what is this" like I would if it were simply laying in my inbox.
The second reason for sorting your work is that this way, you will be less apt to lose material and information in the midst of processing everything else. If I have material for a project I'm working on, if I have a designated place to put it, I won't lose it, nor will I have to think constantly about where it is. I can trust that it is in its place.
Here is another confession: I don't have buckets set up for all of these items yet. Currently, I have buckets for Calendar items, Reference Material, and Project Support Material. My Calendar items simply go onto my calendar, and that's that. My reference material, such as tax information and important paper work, is kept in a filing cabinet in my house. My project support material is carried in a plastic folder in my backpack.
I would like to say that I have a "Next Actions list," since I often will simply add my agenda items into my reminders app (now I use Due, and it's so much better). Since I do not have a physical space, however, for these action items, my system is not as efficient as it could be.
Perhaps the first thing you learn in David Allen's Getting Things Done is that your brain is an awful place to store things. Your brain is a computer, not a hard-drive.
Because of this, we often find ourselves missing appointments, forgetting assignments, and spend our days in a haze of ambiguity regarding what our next tasks are. That's where Due comes in.
Due is an app for iOS that operates somewhat like the alarm function of the integrated "Clock" app, but is far more user friendly and obnoxious. You might ask yourself why someone would want an obnoxious reminder app. For those of us who are prone to ignore our reminder alarms, this app pesters you every minute or so, provoking you to actually get your work done.
The app allows you to easily control:
For people who are stubborn when it comes to reminders, I cannot recommend this app enough. It cost $4.99 in the app store, but is worth every penny.
"What is the Church?"
Before the pandemic, church pews were lined with people who cannot answer this question. At that time, in an era of comfort and complacency, answers like "it's good for you" and "my friends go there" were commonplace among evangelicals. Now, however, in the wake of online church streaming, social distancing, and church registration, many find themselves revisiting the initial question. They begin asking the question: "What's the point?" And many begin sleeping in on Sundays.
As we begin to see the light at the end of the pandemic-tunnel, it is incredibly vital that we arrive to a richer understanding of what the Church is. What we all can agree on is that the Church cannot afford to be seen simply as a place where once a week I sing songs and hear a sermon. If that is what Church is, then sleep in.
I do not assume to have the perfect answer regarding what the Church is. My view is influenced by a variety of sources, however, including Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Creeds, and works such as Andy Crouch's Culture Making. In sitting with these sources, I have arrived to the conclusion that the church is: An eschatological kingdom of people living in participation with the Holy Trinity.
Let me explain:
By "Eschatological," I am referring to the Church's role in the future fulfillment of creation. Orthodox Christianity affirms that one day Christ will return, and in his coming creation will be restored (Rev 21). The Church's role in this, then, is to make the reality of the future coming kingdom tangibly present today. The Church is to stand for and promote the laws of Christ's coming kingdom, summed up best in the call to love God and love your neighbor.
By "Kingdom," I am referring to our unity under one head and shared law. As Christians, we affirm that Christ is our true King, and that we desire him to rule in this world. By loving God and loving our neighbor, we allow Christ to rule in our lives, and effectively in the world. The notion of God's eternal kingdom should also evoke an ecumenical sensitivity in all Christians, in which the closure of denominational and traditional divides should be sought, so that Christians, whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, can profess a shared and unified faith.
By "People," I mean anyone who comes to the table with a repentant heart. The Church should strive to be inclusive in every respect without being compromising on truth. This means, yes, love the sinner and hate the sin. This also means that the Church needs to nurture its communal side. Evangelicalism in particular, it's focus on an individual profession of faith and individual evangelism, often loses this side. Rather than focusing solely on me and my own faith, I should be committed to the faith of my community so that it as a whole may be sanctified. It also means living as if you are a part of the "communion of saints" mentioned in the creeds.
By "Living in participation with the Holy Trinity," I am talking about making God's presence tangible in a world that often feels so cold and broken. I am talking about the sacraments. In the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing the Sick, we have a means of grace through which the presence of God can be partaken in. Most evangelicals reject any notion of the sacraments, but regardless of whether or not they want to admit it, their practice often highlights a distant sacramental sensitivity. Evangelicals still have Communion. Evangelicals still baptize. Evangelicals still say that their congregants should confess their sins. Evangelicals still hold weddings and bless marriages. When someone is sick, evangelicals often show up with a warm meal. The sensitivity to making God's presence known is there in evangelicalism, and must be nurtured if the evangelical church is to survive.
In the definition that I offer, I believe that this invites Christians to view the Church as something larger than themselves and their specific parish. I pray that, if you find yourself asking this question, that my thoughts may help you in your ecclesial journey.
If your email inbox is anything like mine, it gets out of hand far too quickly. On an hourly basis I receive emails from colleagues at work, from my college, and countless miscellaneous corporations that I (moronically) clicked "subscribe" to their newsletter when making an online purchase. The torrent of emails seems to never end, and when faced with the task of actually going through it all to get it back down to empty, the sheer volume of unread messages causes me to simply defer the task indefinitely.
In David Allen's Getting Things Done, however, I have learned a few tips on how to deal with my emails in a far more effective way than just ignoring them. The two tricks I have are:
First, we need to use more effective labels. Personally, I use Gmail, and the Primary, Social, Updates and Spam labels are not enough to sufficiently organize my workflow. Perhaps these labels get materials into a relatively close ballpark, but we aren't going for "close." We're shooting for "correct."
David Allen in Getting Things Done uses a workflow diagram often to illustrate how "stuff" becomes "done." (For an up-to-date illustration of this diagram, click this button:
In this diagram, Allen has eight "folders" where inbox materials ought to end up. These "folders" are: Trash, Someday/maybe, Reference, Projects, Project Plans, Waiting, Calendar, and Next Actions. If an email is not actionable, nor is it something for the future or reference material, then it is trash. (Yes, you can delete all those Starbucks promotional emails.) If it is an email that might be handy in the future, stick it in the Someday/maybe folder. If the email is sheer reference material, hold onto that. Stick it in the reference folder. If the material IS actionable, then ask what the next action steps are. If the email requires more than one action step (ex. you receive a paper assignment due by the end of the week), stick that in your Projects folder. If anything has to do with plans for the projects, put it in your Project plans folder.
If the material IS actionable, and takes less than 2 minutes, JUST DO IT! Chanel your inner Shia LaBeouf and just get it done. (Make your dreams come true!) If it might take longer, then you can delegate the material, and put it in your waiting folder, or put it in either your calendar folder (which is material to do at a specific time) or your next actions folder (which is material to be done as soon as possible).
These labels will give you a far more efficient way to sort through your material. With a place for everything to go, you can get everything out of your email inbox, and into a place where it can be better dealt with. And it is important to note that organizing your material does not necessarily mean "doing" it right then and there. It just means putting it all somewhere in a way that allows you to actually make sense of what needs to be done.
The last tip is to take processing all of your emails one bite at a time (just like an elephant). Start at one end of your inbox (either your most recent or oldest end. Either is fine, really), and then just go through every email, one at a time, deciding where it ought to go. You will be surprised at how effective this is, and how empowered you will feel taking the mountain of emails down one bite at a time.
And my last bit of advice? Unsubscribe to everything that isn't necessary. You don't need the daily email from Costco. You'll be okay. Trust me, it's for your own good.
We all have inboxes in our lives. And I'm not talking about your email inbox.
No, I'm talking about the place where everything physically seems to end up. For some, this is a nice neat pile in some sort of "in-tray" to be processed in an organized and timely fashion. For others, this is a deep and desolate mire where young men go to die. Here is mine:
This is my dilapidated graveyard of an inbox. Loose papers strewn about, hidden beneath a horde of text books, used mugs, and candles. If I lose a paper, nine times out of ten it is hiding here.
As you can probably assume, my inbox is not effective. A good inbox should be a place where materials can be temporarily stored, so that they can then be processed, organized, and dealt with. Instead, I often treat mine as a men's freshman dormitory. I need not explain the analogy.
An inbox is not a long term storage unit. (Take note, all my friends with 3,000+ unread emails). A proper inbox is a place where materials can be organized, and next action steps can be identified. According to David Allen in Getting Things Done, when I look at all of the things in my inbox, I should ask myself first a valuable question: "Is this 'thing' actionable?" If not, it is either trash, reference material, or something for the future, and should be dealt with accordingly. If it is actionable, great! If yes, then the next question to ask is: "what is the next action?" If the "stuff" requires multiple action steps to be "completed," then it is a project, and should be sorted into a project planning pile. If not, then I should ask myself: "will this take less than 2 minutes to complete?" If yes, then I ought to do it it, right then and there. If not, then I can either delegate the task, or defer it to a later date. Deferring the task is NOT procrastination, however. It is choosing a date and time to deal with the task, and agreeing to make sure it gets done then and there.
My inbox system is no where near perfect. However, I am aiming to improve my system. With that in mind, a few weeks ago, I bought a folder to corral all of my loose papers and projects so that I can deal with them more efficiently. I am no productivity expert, but I am taking baby steps towards getting things done.
"I just don't know if this is God's will."
You've either heard this phrase or let it escape from your lips. Odds are, both are true. We've used this phrase as an excuse to leave churches, to quit our jobs, and, yes, even to break up. But here's the thing: Do you even know what God's will is?
Currently, I work in Young Adult Ministry. The people who participate in the ministry I oversee are all in college, freshly graduated, starting their careers, in the workforce, newly married, or discerning what they want to do. However, wherever they're coming from, they all are at the beginning of their path. And many of them tell me that they want to do "God's will," which is a fantastic thing, yet there is a problem. In evangelical circles, many of us have forgotten what God's will truly is and have instead built up an idol.
It is no secret that many evangelicals have made God out to be their cosmic candy dispenser. We come to God only when He has something to offer us: We pray when our favorite football team is down in the final quarter. We listen to preachers who wear Jordan's and rave about how "relatable" they are. We go to the churches with the most talented worship teams and the most robust children's programs. We stay after service for the free coffee. This self-serving tendency is dangerous enough, but it becomes fatal when it touches our comprehension of God's will.
If I have no understanding of what God's will is, then I get to make it up as I go. At least, this is how I lived my life. I would find myself saying things like: "I don't think it's God's will for us to be together," or "I think God's will for me is to preach to millions." By giving God's will a slippery, incomprehensible definition, I was ultimately seeking to please myself with a pious disguise. I was saying, "this is God's will," but I was doing the opposite.
Not understanding God's will may lead to an opportunity for abuse. Someone may be in a harmful church environment, but because they don't know if God's will is for them to leave, they won't. Others may tell them that it isn't God's will for them to go. I know many people who have suffered abuse because they couldn't discern whether God was calling them out of their suffering. This abuse truly is not God's will.
So what is God's will?
Last fall, I grabbed coffee with my theology professor, and I poured my heart out. I shared with him my anxieties, my doubts, my fears. Sitting outside of the campus coffee shop, I confessed my ecumenical confusions. I shared that I was afraid of stepping outside of God's will for my life.
In response, he gave me two pieces of wisdom that I will take to my grave. The first is that "there is freedom in the spirit." (I'll table that one for another time.) The second was: "God's will is the sermon on the mount."
If you want to know God's will, read Matthew 5-7. If you need a bulleted list, here it is.
God's will is for you to:
As we move forward, we should very much be a people concerned with God's will. However, we should recognize that God's will is ultimately about His kingdom and that it requires us to be servants. Let us pray that the Church would become a place where the sermon on the mount becomes tangible.