Juggling Sheep
Welcome to Juggling Sheep, Jay Perry's blog about time management and personal productivity for pastors. Learn to balance work, life, family, and personal spirituality.

Share your best practices, tips and tricks, processes, sermon planning ideas, and resources. Feel free to email me: jaylperry[at]gmail[dot]com.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Getting Things Done - The Perfect GTD App

Darren J Paine has just started Getting Things Done. Hurray for Darren! But wait. He is starting to fall into the trap of the quest for the perfect GTD app (very similar to the search for the Holy Grail or Pellinore's hunt for the Questing Beast). He writes:
i am looking for a simple application that will help with the GTD process. there is about 247 “solutions” out there, some are online versions, others offline, most for windows, and some good ones for my apple mac world. trying to winnow out the wheat from the chaff with these app’s is tricky. some cost big bucks {big bucks for a broke photographer like me} others are free. some look like it will take weeks just to learn how to use the app, others look even harder!

The search for a perfect GTD app is a trap. I see a bunch of blog sites reviewing, using, and discontinuing use of GTD apps like it’s the whole point of GTD. I use my PalmPilot and some files. My wife uses paper. Use whatever you have. The beauty of GTD is that it’s a process (almost a way of thinking more than anything) that you can apply to whatever tools you have on hand.

In your search for the perfect app, you’ll be disappointed that it doesn’t do {fill in the blank}. And then you’ll try a different app. And you’ll get so bogged down with trying to find the right tools that you’ll never really use GTD (or it will take over your life and GTD will be the end instead of the means).

Abandon all hope of the perfect app…

A very nice blogger (let's call him Brett) responded to Darren's plea for the perfect app:

I’m going to send Darren his very own Hipster PDA (and I’ll even include a fancy Pilot G-2 mini, my pen of choice if my Fisher Bullet goes missing).

In case Darren doesn't know, a Hipster PDA is some index cards and a binder clip. Brett says if you can't use the system in analog, you probably can't use it digital either.

I agree.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Getting Things Done - Tickler File

GTD Tickler File (January 4)One of the best "tips n tricks" I got from David Allen's book Getting Things Done was the tickler file. Here's a picture of mine. The tickler file is a filing calendar consisting of 43 file folders - 12 monthly and 31 daily folders. The tickler file is such a phenomenal productivity tool, there's even a blog called 43folders.com that talks a lot about GTD implementation.

It takes me only a few seconds every day to check my tickler file and "tickle" my memory about what's on the agenda for the day. Maybe you have recurring things that need to be done every week (or month, or quarter). You can put a reminder in your tickler file and be absolutely certain you'll be reminded at exactly the right time. Then you can forget about it and stop worrying.

The strength of the tickler file is its ability to include existing physical items in your calendar. In the last 6 months, I've put all sorts of things in my tickler file - airline reservations, conference and travel information, birthday reminders, my weekly review checklist, blank thank-you notes, appointments, mail I need to respond to, date plans for my anniversary, articles to read, my daily worker's report, etc. At home, it's a great way to organize your bills.

Here's a link to David Allen's article about how to set up your own tickler file (you'll have to create a profile and they'll email the file to you for free). Here's a link to the 43Folders wiki article about the tickler file.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Getting Things Done - Office Supplies

Anybody else have a fetish for office supplies? (Sometimes I just go into the office supplies store to unwind. I look at pens and paper, software and routers, office furniture and PalmPilots. Do you know how many different Avery labels there are??) So when I learned I would need office supplies to process my inbox (see my previous post), I was really excited. Here's a list of the office supplies you'll need to start the Getting Things Done process.

Remember, you are dealing with paper. So you need proper paper-handling supplies. You can get all of these at the GTD Supplies section of the Juggling Sheep Bookstore.

First, you need an inbox. I have a couple of these. I keep the inbox on top and a tray underneath for my paper (you need paper for the daily brain-dump). That's why I like the ones open on one side, so I can just slide a piece of paper out.

Second, you need file folders. You can get hanging ones or standing ones (David Allen makes some kind of a case for standing ones). It turns out you actually have to file stuff for future reference.

Third, you need a desktop labeler. You will use this to label your file folders. Believe me, there's something about getting a labeler that will make you want to file. Maybe it's the new technology that you want to play with, or maybe it's the fact that your files look so professional... Oh, yeah. Buy some extra labeling tape, too. You'll probably need it.

The rest of the stuff you probably already have - a stapler, paper clips, assorted sizes of binder clips, and a tape dispenser. (We had to buy a filing cabinet at home).

There. Now you've got all your stuff. Ready to start processing the inbox?

Not quite. I guess you'll need some kind of calendar (doesn't matter what kind) and 43 file folders for a "tickler file" (I didn't make up the name). Maybe the next post will be about my tickler file (I want to help you procrastinate as long as possible before processing your inbox).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Getting Things Done - The Ubiquitous Capture

One of the secrets to the GTD system is the ubiquitous capture.

When I did my initial capture, I had been a pastor in the same church for 6 years. We had rented office space at first. And now we were in our permanent location. I had boxes (and boxes) of notes, Bible study materials, magazines, articles, receipts, mail, tapes, CDs, software, VHS tapes, booklets, office supplies, and my dad's old files... all unsorted, unfiled, and disorganized. In boxes.

I read Getting Things Done, but was stuck at implementation. You really want me to put everything without a home into my inbox? That was the problem before. It would get in my inbox and stay there for... SIX YEARS! But with a little encouragement from my wife (and David Allen), I started. By the time I was finished putting everything in my inbox, there were two 4-foot-tall stacks of boxes beside my desk. This was my inbox. I had emptied out my desk drawers, my pockets, my backpack, and cleared my desk.

But there was one more thing to empty before I could start processing my inbox. I had to empty my brain. I got a ream of paper and wrote one thought on each piece of paper. In went all of my appointments (standing and new), my hopes and dreams, my procrastinated projects, my responsibilities, my ideas (sermon ideas, book ideas, church growth ideas), half-baked thoughts, goals, responsibilities... everything. In the book, David Allen has a bunch of questions that he asks about everything to prompt you to do a full brain-dump.

A full brain-dump is really important. If you still have stuff in your brain that you're obsessing about, you won't get the full benefit of the GTD system.

So now I had several large piles of boxes and hundreds of sheets of paper (representing my entire brain) "in" my inbox.

Now what? Process the inbox? You've got to be kidding!!!

Don't worry. We'll get to that later.

So I was overwhelmed by the size (and scope) of my inbox, but I was strangely at peace about getting everything out of my head. It was actually kind of a buzz. Was there really a way to manage all of that stuff?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lifehacks - Set a Timer to Thwart Procrastination

Set a timer to trick yourself out of perfectionist procrastination.

If I thought of how much work it would be to clean my whole kitchen, I would never even get started (perfectionists are the best procrastinators).

So I set the kitchen timer for 5 minutes and see how much I can get done (before I go back to playing sudoku or surfing the web). If I only get 5 minutes of cleaning done, fine. But sometimes, when the timer goes off, I'll want to finish up what I've started ("I'm so close to being done!"). And I end up cleaning 10 or 15 minutes. And my wife is astounded at how clean the kitchen is when she gets home from work (hurrah!).

Setting a timer is the best way I know of to trick yourself into defeating procrastination. Are you so overwhelmed with the thought of writing the whole sermon that you can't even make yourself start? Set a timer for 10 minutes and see how much you can get outlined. Chances are that once you start, you won't be able to stop.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Getting Things Done - Mind Like Water

What I really want to share with other pastors (and lay people) is the higher-level stuff - seeing God's vision for your life, understanding your unique calling, roles and goals, balance, priorities, meaning, and purpose. I tend to preach about these things quite a bit (you can take a look at my 20/20 Vision sermon series as an example). I feel like it is really important to know God's will and to live in it. I think it is the ultimate key to living any kind of satisfying life.

But I think a huge barrier to understanding and implementing the "higher-level" stuff is the clutter we carry around in our heads every day. I was once told that pastors basically get paid to carry the details and needs of the church around in their heads 24/7/365. That made sense to me. It made sense because it resonated with my experience.

David Allen, in his book Getting Things Done, talks about all of the little things we have to do every day as the "runway" things. They are the current reality of things on the ground. Most of us never see things from "10,000 feet," "20,000 feet," or "30,000 feet" because we have so much clutter on the runway that we can never really take off.

That clutter on the runway is the same clutter in your brain that you carry around 24/7/365. You reason, "if I don't think about it all the time, who will?"

The beauty of the Getting Things Done process is that it captures all of those things - duties, expectations, goals, appointments, plans, projects, tasks, hopes and dreams - into a leak-proof organizational system that you can trust completely.

If you know the organizational system will remind you of everything you need to know exactly when you need to know it, you can take it out of your brain and stop worrying about it all the time. Your stress level (and blood pressure) will go down. You'll quit being constantly overwhelmed by all of the "stuff" you have to deal with. And you'll be able to think about the more important, "higher-level" things.

David Allen refers to this sense of peace as a "mind like water." Just like water in a pond, your mind should be at peace most of the time. And it should only react when something is thrown into it. Water reacts exactly in proportion to the object thrown into it - with a big splash for a big rock, or a little ripple for a small pebble. And when the reaction is over, it goes back to a state of peace.

If we all had David Allen's "mind like water," I believe we would be better able to listen for God's voice, discern His leading, do better strategic planning, and ultimately become the pastors God wants us to be. So before I get into the "higher-level" stuff for pastors, I'm going to spend some time talking about managing all of the "runway" stuff.

I would really encourage you to buy the book Getting Things Done. I really believe that your life will never be the same.