My son Angus filmed and edited this quick video on how to make a stand-up desk for under $50.
Does your desk glorify God? Can you glorify God in your administration? These are the questions I addressed with my Leadership class students recently when we discussed the problem of paper (or data). Some pastors seem to think that the power of the Gospel stops at their office door! But there is no area of life we can say to God, “No entry!” In this interview with Christianity Today, Matt Perman of whatsbestnext.com argues that administration is part of the good works we do to glorify God.
The Beauty of Organization
We are used to thinking about mountains or lakes or Apple Macs when we think about beauty – but not about administration. But I believe orderly administration is beautiful because:
- It portrays the image of God (Gen.1:27)
- It obeys the mandate of God (Gen.1:28)
- It gives pleasure to God (Gen.1:31),
- It reflects the nature of God (1 Cor. 14:33, 40).
Sin, by way of contrast, is anomos, lawlessness, disorder and chaos.The Benefits of Organization
Efficient organization is not only beautiful, it is also beneficial.
- Available time increases as we spend less time looking for things. Matt Perman quotes To do, doing done, “Clutter sucks creativity and energy from your brain.”
- Our peace increases because we are not always worrying if we missed something. We enjoy our work a lot more.
- The effectiveness of our witness increases because if we fail to answer correspondence or keep appointments we lose credibility and people’s confidence.
You might say that the cultural mandate “Rule and be fruitful” begins with our offices. Here’s a great series on How to set up your desk by Matt Perman.The Barriers to Organization
As we would expect in this fallen world, anything beautiful or beneficial is not going to come easily. There are a number of obstacles to organization, not least of which are our own sinful hearts.
- Our sinful hearts: Some people enjoy portraying themselves as Kings of their chaos. The monotonous drudgery of organizing puts some off, while others claim that a clean space would spoil their creativity! We do get attached to our things and resist getting rid of them. “It may be trash, but it’s my trash.”
- The sins of others: Maybe we are married to chaotic people and we cannot get them to cooperate. Perhaps we have been given an impossible workload that prevents us ever doing anything well.
- Changes: Sometimes we feel that we just get settled into a good routine when the next change comes along and all the balls we’ve been juggling fall to the floor again. Whenever we change computers, or have to get used to new software, our organizing is going to take a backward step. And any change in study or living location is obviously going to engulf our studies as well.
- Storage: Sometimes our problem is simply that we do not have enough storage space, or it is not close enough for us to use it. Others, however, set up such a complex storage system that it just puts them off using it. We also need simple storage solutions for electronic information.
Yes, even our administration needs to be redeemed. Tomorrow we’ll look at a Blueprint for Organization, and the Balance of Organization.
UPDATE: “Tomorrow” has been postponed until Monday
Although there were meetings before the Fall, sin’s arrival has certainly multiplied them, complicated them, and often emptied them of purpose. Here are seven quick ways to lessen the effects of the Fall on your daily meetings.1. Schedule for brevity. State start AND finish times on meeting invites. And gradually shorten the time between both! 2. Stand. Almost all Google meetings are stand-up meetings. 3. Invite no more than seven people. Research shows this is the optimum number for an effective meeting. 4. Have a visible ticking clock. This is another Google trick. But they project a 4-foot-tall timer on the wall that counts down the meeting. Not sure that will work at PRTS. Or the next time I sit down with my wife! 5. The best time for a meeting is Tuesday at 3pm. OK, that’s a joke. But seemingly Tuesday is the most productive day of the week and also the day most people are likely to show up. 6. Decide rather than dither. Managers (some pastors too?) spend more than 50% of their time in meetings, but Bain & Company research shows that two-thirds of meetings end before participants can make important decisions. Not surprisingly, 85% of executives are dissatisfied with the efficiency and effectiveness of their companies’ meetings. 7. Celebrate bad meetings. Dan Burrier says “there are no five words that worry me more than, ‘we had a great meeting.’” He argues that “bad meetings” usually produce more results! Obviously some of these are a bit tongue-in-cheek. More seriously, Ron Ashkenaz gives some pretty obvious basic meeting rules:
Be clear about what you want to accomplish; invite the right people; send out pre-reading in advance; have an agenda and follow it with discipline; send out notes with key decisions and action steps.
Then Ashkenaz moans:
Unfortunately these basic and widely understood guidelines for effective meetings are probably the least followed procedures in corporate history. If the government conducted “meeting audits” almost every company would fail. Most managers still complain about ineffective meetings, and then proceed to schedule multiple meetings and run them poorly. It’s an amazing phenomenon.
But Ashkenaz admits what even the most fervent meeting-haters will agree with in their weaker moments: meetings are necessary and can even be beneficial. They encourage social interaction, keep everyone in the loop, and help people to feel valued.
These psychological drivers of meetings are very powerful — and usually trump all of the logical and rational “meeting management” advice that is doled out in courses and articles. In other words, what seems like wasted or unproductive time for many managers is actually fulfilling important personal and organizational needs.
Although I probably fall too much on the anti-meeting side, I must say that when well-conducted, meetings fulfill spiritual needs as well. In my last congregation we sometimes had 10 elders and 12 deacons in the same meeting. And although we often had controversial issues to deal with (like building a new church!), these meetings were actually much more like spiritual fellowships than board meetings. Spiritual bonds were deepened and appreciation for each other grew as we saw the various insights and gifts God had blessed different men with. I usually arrived home with the sense that God had once again kept His promise that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is in the midst. Ultimately that’s what makes a meeting good.
Watch the first 90 secs of this video at Fastcompany to revolutionize and simplify the notes you take at meetings. Here’s a summary of the four types of information you will get at any meeting. But I recommend that you watch the video for two innovative ways of recording and presenting that information:
1. Facts you want to remember or new things you’ve learned.
2. Questions you want to ask after the meeting or follow-up in Q&A time.
3. Tasks assigned to you
4. Tasks assigned to others
There they sit. Undone. Gathering dust. Accusing. Seven jobs that have been on my to-do list now for about 10 weeks: two unpredictable phone calls, one tricky email, two challenging articles, one long report, one feared meeting. They have all been near the top a few times, before being safely relegated to the familiar territory of “tomorrow” once again.
I could get some of them off my list in about 30 minutes. I could get rid of all of them in about 10 hours. Yet there they still sit, heaping guilt and failure upon me. I dread doing them. I dread seeing them undone. The only happy one here is my old “friend,” procrastination. As I settle down to start, he gently settles on my shoulder with his winning arguments: “You’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow….You work best under pressure…Time pressure makes you more creative…It isn’t that important…Maybe you should check your email first.”
So, I’m thankful to Gretchen Rubin, of Happiness Project fame, for passing along Six tips for forcing yourself to tackle a dreaded task:
1. Do it first thing in the morning. One of my Twelve Commandments is “Do it now.” No delay is the best way.
2. If you find yourself putting off a task that you try to do several times a week, do it EVERY day. If you’re finding it hard to go for a walk four times a week, try going every day.
3. Have someone keep you company. Studies show that we enjoy practically every activity more when we’re with other people.
4. Make preparations, assemble the proper tools. Clean off your desk, get the phone number, find the file. I often find that when I’m dreading a task, it helps me to feel prepared.
5. Commit. We’ve all heard the advice to write down your goals. On the top of a piece of paper, write, “By the end of today, April 7, I will have _____.”
6. Remind yourself that finishing a dreaded task is tremendously energizing. Studies show that hitting a goal releases chemicals in the brain that give you pleasure. If you’re feeling blue, although the last thing you feel like doing is something you don’t feel like doing, push yourself. You’ll get a big lift from it.
Read the whole article here. No, don’t. Do the dreaded job first.
Picture: 2009 © Marek Uliasz. Image from BigStockPhoto.com