Roger Oliver (in the yellow shirt) is a friend, a leader and a trainer of leaders I met when John Hilliard and I first went to Puebla Biblical Seminary to teach on leadership. I won't go into all the background that would give you the context to know Roger a bit more, but he is a highly intentional follower of Jesus, he loves the church and mission, and he is passionate about raising up a new generation of leaders for Latin America. One of his many roles is the current president of Puebla Biblical Seminary.
Plus, Roger reads and thinks a lot. Here are some insights he has gained into his own Life, Priority and Time management. I think you'll appreciate both the model and how Roger illustrates it with his own situation.
And as a bonus, I added a video of Puebla Biblical Seminary at the end that will give you a flavor of the place where Roger works and the people he empowers.
Thanks Roger for blogging for us some of your insights and experiences. And Feliz Navidad to you and the family and community at Puebla. -bkr-
David Allan teaches a great exercise in Getting Things Done to help focus your efforts. Using the metaphor of altitude when flying, it helps us see what it is we are doing. The idea is to review what you are doing to see if it is coherent with what you say are your projects, responsibilities, long and short term goals as well as your lifetime calling.
- 50,000 ft, your calling or mission in life
- 40,000 ft, where you want to be in 3 to 5 years
- 30,000 ft, what you hope to accomplish in the next 1 to 3 years
- 20,000 ft, areas of focus and responsibility
- 10,000 ft, projects on the burner
- Landing, what you have in front of you to do day-to-day
You start at the bottom because if you don’t get your day-to-day under control you will tend to be too distracted to think about the higher levels. I use the Getting Things Done (GTD) system to get a handle on all of my tasks and projects. The key idea is to get everything out of your head into a system that you trust. That way you can focus on one thing at a time, the key to relaxed productivity.
In the GTD system tasks are very discrete steps called next actions like call Fred and ask for an insurance quote. Anything that requires more than one step is a project. It is really hard to do a project in one step so it is really hard to get started on a project that you have mistakenly called a task or next action. They key to success with a project is to define the outcome and one next action you can take to move the project forward.
It is a whole-life system. Everything goes into the system from buying eggs and milk on the way home to reviewing the masters program at the seminary. The key to trusting the system is the weekly review. You have to review the system regularly to remind yourself what is on your plate and what you need to do to move things forward.
The hardest level for me is 20,000 ft. I have identified the following areas of focus with a list of attendant responsibilities for each, not in order of priority necessarily.
- The seminary
- My personal (non-professional) life (family, me and God, friends, personal development)
- The mission (CAM International)
- The church (Familia de Paz, the new church plant)
For each of these areas of responsibility I have identified key responsibilities. I use an outlining program to write down what I think belongs at each level. For example, I defined my responsibilities in the seminary as follows:
- Spiritual life of the seminary family
- Fund raising
- Student Recruiting
- Board development
- Personnel Mgt/staff development
- Financial management
- Administration oversight
- Academic programs oversight
- Planning/organizational development
- Serve the churches
- Conferences and preaching
- Short Term Mission support
- Write for ObreroFiel and other publications
I have a task in Outlook to review the 20,000 foot level every 3 months. I take a look at my landing level (next actions) and 10,000 feet (projects) and try to evaluate whether or not the next actions and projects are contributing to my 20,000 foot areas of focus and responsibilities. Often they are not. It is OK as long as it was a conscious decision based on what God has placed in front of me to do. I also check to see if my activities are in balance. Am I spending too much time at the seminary and not enough with my family?
I try to set aside a day or so every year to review all the levels, landing to 50,000 feet. Are my activities coherent with what I say are my areas of focus and responsibility? Are they moving me towards my 30,000 foot 1 to 3 year goals? Are the moving me towards where I think I should be in 3 to 5 years? Are my activities, areas of focus and responsibility, 30,000 foot goals and 40,000 foot dreams in alignment with what I believe God has called me to do with my life? If they are not, time to review and make changes.
Recently I thought through my 20,000 foot level areas of focus and responsibilities and discovered some disconnects. There is too much there to do. They are each too discrete and separate. There is not enough of me to keep up with all of that. Something has to change. I am not God.
Looking at these levels helps me to soberly consider my life and to do so regularly not just when a crisis forces me to. It is a very enlightening exercise very similar to an instrument check. I pick up warning signs that I am headed for a crash in time to change course and make appropriate adjustments.
Of course I am very, very human and often do not pay attention to the warning lights. God has a wonderful way of letting me trip over my shoelaces when I do. When you land flat on your back there is nowhere to look but up.
GTD has been a great help in redeeming the time because the days are evil. I recommend it. I’ll end with a humbling quote from David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done.
“You can’t manage time. Time just is. Time management is really managing what we do during time. But it’s easier to say that time is what needs to be managed rather than ourselves. It’s easier to make time the enemy and parade our worthiness (I have so many big, important things to get done) rather than say, ‘I don’t keep my agreements.’”
Puebla Biblical Seminary