Friday, July 20, 2018

Alignment -> Synergy

Last week, I mentioned that I was making a distinction between alignment and focus. The idea of alignment and ministry first really captured me in the book Simple Church. The authors define alignment as "maximizing the energy of everyone." (The authors also distinguished between alignment and focus in that book.) As it relates to personal productivity, I am not concerned with the energy of everyone. Although others impact me and my efforts impact others, the alignment I seek revolves around what I need to accomplish and when.

Most who will read this blog will find themselves in a similar position to myself - busy. One of the keys to personal effectiveness is keeping oneself organized. Without a good system of organization, we lose track of our time, our responsibilities, and what we need to accomplish our work. I will cover aspects of each of these areas in the coming weeks, but for now, let me simply say that I have been experimenting over the past few years with a few approaches, and I believe a part of why I am more effective (i.e. productive) now is because I have narrowed down the best option FOR ME. Again, I will say more about this in my next few posts.

As for alignment, however, one of the ways I have managed myself over the past couple of years has been based upon how busy I was on a particular day of the week. If my Monday did not look particularly busy, and I realized I had a new task to complete, I would add it to Monday. Logically, this approach seems to make sense, particularly if, for instance, Tuesday and Wednesday were "filled" with tasks and/or meetings. And, for the most part, this approach was ok - at least until I hit a bit of a wall last Fall. But as I have been reading and contemplating over these past couple of months, one idea came to mind - my approach to completing my dissertation.
With all of the options we have in our lives,
we need to find a way to focus to find what approach
makes most sense for each of us as an individual.

When I first began working on my dissertation, I got distracted from my topic by researching the tangent of discipleship. Of course, discipleship is a broad term, but my dissertation was to focus on how a church's understanding of herself could impact the desire and ability to make disciples. But I lost focus because I was doing my research as I had time - a little each day - in addition to serving as a pastor, etc. But it wasn't until I created a physical space for me to work (my "dissertation station") that I began to excel. When I entered that area, I was not only focused on researching and writing my dissertation, I aligned myself mentally to the task as well.

This leads to the importance of alignment as I am using the term in this series of posts. Adding new tasks to a day without much work to do sounds logical, but for me it isn't the best approach if I have to mentally shift gears from one area of responsibility to another. Again, I serve as a full-time pastor, an adjunct professor, and have started a mission organization to teach pastors in under-privileged areas of the world. All three of these work-related areas are linked by the concept of teaching others, but the individual responsibilities within each vary greatly. For instance, pastoring has many responsibilities other than teaching and leading a small organization requires financial oversight, curriculum development, and developing a donor base, etc. Thus, to focus on a task was not enough. I needed to align my tasks by responsibility and then focus on the tasks at hand.

This has been a major breakthrough for me. While my specific approach is different than when I sat at the "dissertation station," aligning tasks by area of responsibility allows me to maintain a stream of thought, which creates a bit of synergy. So, instead of adding a task to a day which was less busy, I now seek to add the task in alignment with other tasks for that particular area of my life. In doing so, to alter the phrase of Rainer and Geiger I shared above, I am able to "maximize the energy of one." My "to-do list" may seem far more crowded on some days, but the synergy gained is allowing me to accomplish more as I focus on the aligned tasks at hand. (Certainly, this is not possible with every task nor on every day. Certain issues comes up and interruptions happen, but to follow this concept in principle is helping me a great deal.)

So, having generally discussed the benefits of alignment, next week, I will begin to share more specifically how I now approach each week. Again, my purpose in writing this series is in hopes that even one person might benefit. I have found a system that is beneficial to me. It is helping me to better fulfill my purpose as a child of God. You may need to tweak my system or come up with your own all together, but I pray the words I type here might be an encouragement for you to better fulfill your purpose as well.