New Podcast Coming Soon

This week, I’m heading to Detroit for three days to record Season 1 of a brand new podcast for church leaders.

But I need your help.

We want to answer real questions from real pastors.  So will you call, leave a voicemail and ask a question.

Just call (248) 955-3236.

Keep it short (30-45 seconds) but ask anything you like on the one of the topics below.  You might start with something like this: “Hey this is John from Cross City Church and I have a question about following up with guests….” Here are the topics we’re going to cover in the ten episodes.

  1. Building an annual church calendar and what stuff should you do every year.
  2. Leading yourself or your team or your church.
  3. Following up with guests
  4. Is your church too busy with programs and special events?
  5. The difference between mission and vision and how to communicate both.
  6. How to Give Great Feedback to anyone on your team
  7. How to Advertise Your Church in the Digital Age
  8. Creating a hiring process that leads to great hires
  9. Celebrating Limits and Managing Expectations
  10. Leading a Growing Church without Losing Your Soul

So if you have a question about any of those comments, give us a call and leave a message.

This is One of the Most Powerful Planning Tools in Your Church

One of the most powerful tools you can use to lead your church is really one of the most simple.

It’s a calendar.

And one of the most important calendars you can create is an annual calendar.  This isn’t what happens in your church this year, it’s what happens in your church every year.  It’s a big picture look at your programs and events – a snapshot of your ministry rhythm.  What happens in your church every January?  What goes on during the summer months?  Those are the kind of things you should put on an annual calendar?

An annual calendar is really important for at least three reasons.

  • When you repeat events from year to year, you build on their success.
  • When you build your calendar with a rhythm in mind, you create healthy traditions.
  • When you see how everything fits with everything else, there’s less competition.

Tomorrow, I’m going to share five things you should put on your annual calendar and make them a part of your regular rhythm.

Six Mistakes Churches Make with Branding

I used to joke that I wanted to be a branding consultant because nobody knew what either of the words meant and I could charge whatever I want.

But I love the church and I love good branding.

I didn’t go to school for it.  I’ve never worked  at an agency.  And I don’t really know how to use Adobe Creative Suite.  But I notice things and buy things and understand how they are connected.

Here are seven mistakes I see churches make when it comes to design.

Mistake #1: Designing for designers.

I’m glad the character in the logo is looking to the East because the sun rises in the east and symbolizes new beginnings.  And it’s pretty awesome you chose that to take people back the first time they had Strawberry Cream Pie.  That kind of stuff sounds really impressive.  But you’re not trying to win a design contest, you’re trying to grow a healthy church that helps people follow Jesus.  If you have a logo that is only understood by professional designers, you don’t have a good logo.  Most people don’t even recognize, much less care about, the things designers think are cool.

Mistake #2: Limiting your impression of brand to your logo.

Your logo is important – it really is.  But your brand is much bigger than your logo.  It goes beyond graphics and gets to the heart of what people think when they think about you.  You can spend a lot of money on logos and graphics, but it takes a lot more to build a brand.  A quality logo doesn’t translate to a quality experience.

Mistake #3: Not building a brand to reflect your community.

You need more than a logo that looks good.  It’s got to reflect your community and say something to the people you’re trying to reach. Just because it looks good in Brooklyn, NY doesn’t mean it works in Evansville, Indiana.  That’s why a graphic designer who doesn’t understand your community cannot create the most effective design work.

Mistake #4: Not pushing your brand through every area of your church.

You don’t need separate children’s ministry and student ministry graphics.  And you definitely don’t need separate websites for all your ministries.  Your brand should be pushed out to every department and every ministry in your church.  You’re one church, not a united federation of programs and ministries.

Mistake #5: Not delivering on your brand promise.

If you promote yourself as a friendly church with all of your branding and messaging, you better back that up with your programs and events.  A lot of churches look one way online but they are totally different in reality.  For example, I’ve seen a lot of churches with youthful, contemporary logos that don’t reach any young families.  Make sure your brand reflects reality, not just your desire.

Mistake #6: Letting an unqualified person build your brand.

There are times when you need some quick graphics and fast projects.  But when it comes to creating assets for your brand, please, please, please hire someone that knows what they are doing.  This is not the job for the youth pastor who has Photoshop or your cousin who is starting a PR company.

Here’s an example of a church that really understands the power of building a great brand.  It’s not just a logo, but an entire message.  And it’s pushed throughout every part of the organization.

Three Kinds of Meetings (And Why You Shouldn’t Mix Them)

One of the most important things to clarify about meetings is their actual purpose.  Regularly scheduled meetings without a clear purpose or objective tend to waste everyone’s time.

Here are three types of meetings and a key questions you should ask.

1. The Information Meeting

The purpose of this meeting is to communicate important information.  Of course, you’ll want to be prepared with notes, handouts, slides and anything else you need to get your point across.

Here’s the key question:  Do you really need to meet?

There might be a more effective way to communicate information.  Why not shoot a simple video and send it to everyone?  Why not write the information in an email or memo?  If you’re distributing one way information, there might be a more effective and efficient way to do it.

2. The Brainstorming Meeting

These meetings are think-thanks with lots of open ended questions and whiteboard dreaming.  You’re not communicating information and you’re not developing full solutions.  You’re just thinking.  These meetings are incredibly valuable for improvement and excellence.

Here’s the key question:  Do you have the right participants?

You need more WOW people than HOW people in these kind of meetings.  If you have too many people that jump right to execution, you’ll kill the spirit of the room.

3. The Decision Making Meeting

The purpose of this meeting is clear…decision making.  Start this meeting with a statement like this:  “The purpose of today’s meeting is to make a decision about X.”

Here’s the key question:  Is everyone prepared?

People participating in a decision making meeting need to have all the information in advance, including costs, projections, alternatives, and examples.  As a leader, work hard to prepare everyone so you’re not doing research in this type of meeting.  Sure, discussion and debate should be lively, but a group of prepared people need to make a decision.

Why You Shouldn’t Mix Meetings

Now I know you’re tempted to combine these elements into one meeting – maybe one that’s regularly scheduled.  But I want to encourage you to keep these meetings separate.   Here’s why.

  1. You need to involve the right people in the right meetings.  Decision makers aren’t always the best brainstormers.  And your all staff meeting might not be the best place to brainstorm new options.  By keeping the meeting focused, you can invite the right people.
  2. Switching focus will give people mental whiplash.  You might be able to switch gears fast, but not everyone can do that.  It’s really hard to hit two targets, so aim squarely at one.
  3. Meetings with multiple purposes are too long.  The best time to brainstorm something isn’t after processing a bunch of information.  Focused meetings are often shorter meetings which means they are better meetings.
  4. You need the right environment for your meeting.  If you’re presenting information, you need a room set up for this purpose.  If you’re brainstorming, you need a creative and comfortable environment.  If you’re making a decision, you might want to do it standing up.  This is really important.

Meetings are great, but focused meetings are better.

 

The Dangerous Dark Side of Being a Visionary Leader

If you’re a visionary leader, this post is for you.  If you work for a visionary leader, forward it to them.

Though a lot of people think of me as a systems guy, I actually tip more to the visionary side of things when it comes to leadership.  I like to set direction, cast vision, and get out of the way. Though I value checklists and systems, I don’t love them the way others do.

Whether i was leading a summer camp business, student ministry, or brand new church, I preferred to take care of the big picture and leave the details in the hands of other competent people.

But there’s a dangerous dark side to leadership, one that has crept in to my life on many occasions.  So from personal experience, here’s a behind the scenes look at the dark side of visionary leadership.

  1.  Visionary leaders can easily overpower a room.  Whether it’s a regularly scheduled team meeting or an impromptu get-together, visionary leaders can take over and impose their strong will on everyone.  The doers and thinkers don’t speak up, because they don’t feel it’s their place.  They sit in silence, afraid to share their opinions.   On many occasions, I’ve taken a conversation off topic because it’s where I wanted to go, but mildly chastise people back to the topic when they raise supplemental issues.   Because visionary leaders are so passionate about their vision, we can unwillingly override the vision of others.
  2. Visionary leaders try to creation visionary solutions to every problem.  Les McKeown says not all problems have a visionary solution.  For example, systems problems can’t be solved by throwing more vision on the problem.  Systems problems need systems solutions, and those are probably going to come from systems people.  As a visionary leader, I’m tempted to bring everything back to our purpose and mission, and keep us in the warm fuzzies.  But there are times when we need to dive into processes and systems and create some documents.  If I minimize this or attempt to check out every time, it will deflate others on the team.
  3. Visionary leaders tend to dump tasks on everyone. As a visionary leader, it’s easy for me to create a solution to a problem.  But just because something is decided, doesn’t mean it’s done.  Just because we’ve set the direction, doesn’t mean we’ve won.  I often don’t consider the true cost of a decision.  Not just the financial cost, but the time, energy, and intangible cost of follow through.  As a leader, I’ve got to slow down and consider the real ramifications of committing to a project.  After I’m gone, someone (or a group of people) will have significant work to do.  I’ll be on to the next visionary problem, but they will be implementing the last thing.
  4. Visionary leaders are overconfident. Psychologists talk about confirmation bias – the tendency to overvalue information that goes along with their beliefs.  When I’m emotionally connected to an issue, I’ll always find data, examples and reasons to charge forward.  Instead of looking at things from all angles, I search out facts that validate what I really want to do.  So this comes across in strong statements like “I absolutely know” or “This will work” or “If we do this, we will easily hit our goal.”
  5.  Visionary leaders tend to leave people behind. Perhaps the biggest struggle I have as a visionary is leaving people behind.  Because the vision always propels me forward, I suppose it’s a natural byproduct.  Perhaps you’ve heard the scaffolding analogy:  Some people are like scaffolding – incredibly useful in building something but not necessary after it’s done..  People say “it’s lonely at the top” to justify ram-rodding people and alienating relationships in the name of growth.  Maybe growth at the cost of relationships is necessary, but sometimes, it might not be worth it.   Well, it’s just as likely that I can’t lead as it is that they can’t keep up.

I love being a visionary leader, but I have to constantly guard against the dark side.  It tempts me far more than I let on.

 

7 Steps to Get Started with Evernote

I’ve been using Evernote for several years now and it’s a critical part of how I stay organized and get stuff done. Evernote is my digital filing cabinet, and I use it to keep track of everything. Stuff like:

  • Ideas for blog posts, articles or resources
  • Inspiration emails, graphics or templates
  • Bills, contracts, and important papers
  • Stuff my kids make at school that I don’t want to keep but I don’t want to throw away
  • Recipes for the Big Green Egg

Maybe you’ve heard about Evernote and you’re interested in using it. Maybe you’ve got an account but you don’t really see the value. Well, let me share with you seven simple steps to start using Evernote.

  1. Sign up for a free account.  Just head to Evernote.com or download the app from your mobile device.
  1. Speaking of the app, make sure you download the app.  Even if you use from your computer, you can access everything on your mobile device.
  1. Get your unique email address.  One of the easiest ways to get something intoEvernote is to forward it to your unique Evernote email address.  Sometimes, I get a great promotional email I want to use in my business.  I just forward it to Evernote and will later move it into a Swipe File
  1. Create a folder called !inbox and set it as default folder.  Whenever you create a new note, you’ll create it here.  So I use a folder called !Inbox (the ! keeps it at the top) to serve as my collection point.
  1. Create four or five common folders to hold stuff.  Just like an old school filing cabinet, you can save notes in different folders.  So create one for work, personal, taxes, or key projects.  You don’t need folders for everything, because the search feature is powerful, but a few key ones will definitely help.
  2. Learn the keyboard shortcut or install the web clipper extension.  You can send pictures or text to Evernote with just a couple clicks of the keyboard.  Learn these shortcuts.
  1. Start sending things to Evernote.  Email, cut and paste or start typing. I also got a Doxie scanner and it scans papers directly into Evernote.  The more you use Evernote, the more powerful it becomes.

Bonus: Download Brett Kelly’s ebook.  Hands down, it’s the best way to learn how to use Evernote.  And once you make this powerful tool a part of your workflow, you’ll wonder how you ever kept track of anything before.

 

The Core Values for a New Company

Our Core Values

I’m starting a new company.

The name, the model and the brand are all in the works but I know it’s going to help leaders.

I love working with churches to clarify things like mission, vision, values and strategy, but it’s so much harder when you’re doing it for yourself.  Isn’t that funny? It’s often much easier to help other people see clearly.

As I think through this new company’s core values, here are some things that have risen to the surface over the last several months.

  1. Team. Ed Catmull says if you give a great idea to a mediocre team they will screw it up.  But if you give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will nail it or improve it.  As I get started with this new thing, I’m really thinking WHO before WHAT. I’m excited about some partnerships that are developing and am committed to working through a team.  I want to create a place where people love to work. This is not about cool offices with ping pong tables. It’s more about trust, feedback and clarity.
  2. Church.  I’m not going to talk about pastors as a market or a niche, because the church is eternally important.  We love pastors and church leaders. It’s why I want to treat pastors with respect and help them where they need it most.
  3. Helping people is a good business plan. I want my business to be about other people, and will fight to keep it focused on this mission. If we love other people and have great products to help them, we won’t have to hype it. Help really does beat hype.
  4. The 20-mile march. This metaphor is borrowed from Jim Collins, but it speaks to the long-term view. Leadership companies and people with newfound platforms are springing up all over the place, but I want to build something that lasts.
  5. Try things. We’re not going to be afraid to experiment, because everything doesn’t have to work. Besides, a good education always costs something.
  6. Constant improvement. Thomas Fuller said, “If better were within better would come out.” I want to focus on having quality, helpful and practical stuff to help leaders. If we do that and if we focus on getting better, then I believe we’ll also get bigger. Evaluation is a big deal.
  7. Treat people the way you want to be treated. This is probably my #1 core value, and it’s also the toughest. It really is so simple and powerful. It infiltrates everything – from how we sell to how we communicate.

I’m sure these will change and the wording will get better. But I’m working hard to define these values because they will define everything else.  What do you think?

Steve Jobs, Electricity and Ketchup

What do you think of when you hear the word innovation?

I think of Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone.  Or the invention of the printing press.  Or electricity…that was a big one.   These types of innovations are impressive.  They change culture.

But here here’s an example of innovation from Chickfila and Heinz.

heinz_ketchup_dip

 

They took something simple – something used thousands of times a day – and made it better.  It wasn’t a world-changing discovery but it’s an innovative change that made life slightly better for people who eat more chicken.

It’s not on the cover of Wired magazine and it’s not attracting venture capital from one of the world’s biggest hedge funds.  It’s way to common for that.  This is innovation in the everyday.

Innovation is more ordinary than people realize.  It happens the small scale, not just in Silicon Valley. In fact, you can innovate right where you are.

  • If you’re married, how about planning an innovative date for your spouse.  Take the normal dinner and movie and add some ingenuity and creativity.
  • If you’ve got kids, how about innovating a family night.  Turn off Netflix and plan a family Olympics, complete with water games.
  • If you’re a volunteer at church, set aside some time and think about how you can serve bigger, better or more personally.
  • If your faith has grown a little stale, how can you bring fresh energy and ideas to something that’s so important?

Sure, you might invent the teleporter or pioneer driver-less cars, but you’ve got plenty of opportunities to innovate right where you are.

Three Things You Can Learn from Centerpoint Church

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Centerpoint Church in Chillicothe, Ohio (not far from Columbus).  I attended their Sunday morning services and spent a couple of days with the lead team and some of the key leaders in the church.  I love this part of my job, because I get to see what God is doing in churches all over the country and get to dive into some great leadership stuff.

I truly enjoyed meeting the team and being a part of the weekend at Centerpoint.  They are doing so many things well that could help other churches.  Here are three things I loved and three things that you could learn from this young church.

#1 – Their vision is everywhere.

I snapped the picture below while I was in their office debriefing on Monday morning.

IMG_4341

I love how clear their vision is and that they hang it right on the wall.

And that just wasn’t something I saw on the wall, I heard it in the halls on Sunday.  Their vision was everywhere.  I saw the phrase “Crazy Love” all over the place.  Volunteers had it on t-shirts and they mentioned it in the service.  I asked lots of people, “What is Centerpoint known for in the community” and people immediately answered “crazy love.”   The vision of Centerpoint isn’t just on a website or printed in a handout, it has worked its way into the fabric of the church.

This is a great example of having a clear vision, but looking for every possible way to talk about it, illustrate it, and keep it before the people.  Here are some ways other you can use your vision statement in the real world:

  • Put it in your email signature.
  • Print it on the front of your bulletin or handout
  • Create a pre-service slide
  • Get appropriate pictures enlarged and hang them around your facility.
  • Say it during your welcome or to set up the offering
  • Put it on your Facebook and Twitter header images
  • Put it on the homepage of your website.

#2 – They value constant improvement.

I wrote a fairly detailed report for Centerpoint, and as we walked through it it was clear to me this was a church that really valued feedback.  “Don’t hold anything back,” they repeatedly told me.

When I shared something, they didn’t get defensive or try to explain how I didn’t know the whole picture.  At a volunteer training meeting, they told all of the volunteers they would share my feedback with them as well.

Their leaders spend a lot of time improving and tweaking things to make them better.   Clearly, this is a group of people that values feedback and improvement.

Not only do they value improvement in the services and programming, they want to get better as leaders as well.  This is huge, because it’s leadership that keeps most churches from reaching their full potential.

You see, a lot of pastors want to blame the facilities or the service times or the changing community, but leadership is really the issue.  Centerpoint has a leadership team who wants to keep getting better.  They are not comfortable with coasting.

And they invested in bringing me all the way from Jacksonville, Florida to Columbus, Ohio to get an outside professional opinion and speak to their leaders.  That’s a sign of a church who will continue to grow because they are investing in their own development.

It’s too easy to keep doing what you’re doing without measuring the effectiveness or the results.  Before you know it, you’re busier than ever but the effectiveness is gone.  Here are some ways you can stay focused on improvement.

  • Do a review meeting on Monday and talk about the service.
  • Let a church member read your message and offer feedback before you deliver it.
  • Hire ten secret shoppers off Craigslist to visit your church and do a debrief meeting.
  • Survey your congregation and ask for their honest feedback on the things that matter most.
  • Get your staff or key leaders together and assign every ministry or event or item a letter grade.
  • Ask for people’s opinions and give them permission to be honest.
  • Do real performance reviews with your staff
  • Intentionally learn from people who are different from you.

#3 – They filter things through the lens of a first time first.

When I walked into Centerpoint on Sunday morning, I could tell they had put a lot of thought and effort into creating an environment that would be welcoming to guests.  From signs to greeters to kid’s check, they did a great job welcoming people and making them feel welcome (two different things!)

IMG_4317It’s really easy for churches to get comfortable with the way things are and forget to prepare for guests.  Centerpoint does this every Sunday, because they expect guests to be there.   They evaluate everything that’s said from the stage and everything printed in the handout through the eyes of a guest.

If you’ve been on staff for a while, you’ve probably forgotten what your church is like to a first time guest.  It’s why you don’t notice the smell of your own home….you’re used to it.

Here are some things you might pay attention to in order to stay focused on first time guests.

  • Is your signage clear? (A sign that says “three year old class” is better than a sign that says “kid zone”
  • Do guests know where the restrooms are located?
  • Do you do a welcome time int he service to explain what’s going to happen today?
  • Are you using insider language in your bulletin or handout?
  • Do you assume people know the Bible?
  • Is your children’s area secure and clean?
  • Do people clearly know where to go or what to do if they have questions?
  • Does everyone who speaks in the service introduce themselves?

Those are three things you can learn from Centerpoint Church – a great church reaching the lost and unchurched in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Five Things People Told Me But I Didn’t Hear

Jennie and I just returned from a fantastic vacation in London, topped by a 2-day leadership and marriage intensive with some new friends.  It was a great time to get away and refocus.

Part of the leadership intensive was talking about my wiring and looking back on my life story.  The result was insight into tendencies and behaviors, as well as how to leverage my calling toward a preferred future.

I say all of this to say I’m great at looking forward but not so great at looking back.  As a visionary, it’s easy for me to run through bad things and even good things to get somewhere else.  But I’m trying to get better at living in the sweet spot of looking back and allowing God to use who he created me to be.

When Jennie and I move to Atlanta to start a church, a lot of people told us a lot of things.  I heard those things, but I didn’t truly listen to some of them.  Here are a few things people told me but I didn’t hear.  I share them in hopes that you’ll both listen and hear.

1.  Put your marriage and family first.  

Planting a church is going to be tough on you and Jennie, they told me.  I nodded my head in agreement, but I did very little to protect against it.  I figured this was something other people would struggle with, but I could move past it quickly. I didn’t listen.

I let the pace and the schedule overwhelm my soul.  I would work hard all day, meet with people, and use up all of my energy.  Then I would come home and need peace and quiet.  As an Introvert, being with people all day was draining, so Jennie got the short end of that stick.  “You have used up all your words,” she would say.

I also didn’t seek help.  We had what I would consider normal marriage issues, but I just tried to power through them.  I viewed professional counseling as a sign of weakness when, in fact, it’s a sign of strength.

2.  What you reach them with you have to keep them with.

This lesson is more about the church rather than my personal life, but it’s a powerful learning for me so I wanted to share.  Our brand new church grew pretty fast, and I adopted some strategies and tactics to help it grow.  Within a year, we had grown pretty large, especially considering the size of our town.  We did pretty bold, audacious things to encourage people to show up.

I didn’t realize that we would have to keep outdoing ourselves if this was our model.  It was hard to move people into next steps because I had unknowingly created a culture where discipleship, missional living, and gospel life wasn’t modeled.  We had great services and we could attract a big crowd, but it wasn’t enough.

In the end, hype doesn’t help.  Today, I tell people it’s not that hard to draw a crowd.  You don’t even have to be that intentional to get people to show up.  But it requires a great deal of intentionality and hard work to take people on a spiritual journey.

3.  It doesn’t get easier when it gets bigger.

People told me this, but I didn’t hear them.  I figured a bigger church would mean a bigger budget, but in reality, it also means more expenses.  I figured a bigger church would mean more people, but in reality, it’s more staff and more ministry.

I sometimes wonder why we equate bigger with better.  Maybe it’s just an American thing. But bigger is not always better.  Bigger is just bigger.  It’s why people that aren’t generous with $100 won’t be generous with $1,000.  It’s why people who are not faithful in the little things won’t be faithful with the bigger things.  More people just magnifies the problems.

For the last few years, I’ve lived in the business world and I’ve talked with a lot of business people whose lives are far worse because their business has grown.  Does God want a business to grow?  I wonder about that sometimes, because a bigger business might make you a worse person.

4.  You can’t do it alone.

As a pastor, I had something of a Lone Ranger syndrome.  I wanted to do things different.  I acted aloof and it was tough for people to get to know me.  Part of me felt like this made me interesting, but in reality, it just kept people at arms distance.

Working on my personality and leadership a little bit helped me realize how much I need partners and people around me.  It’s healthy for me.  My personality type and wiring tells me I excel when I have a small team of smart people around me.  Not working FOR me necessarily, but working WITH me.  The one man band mentality isn’t helpful.

In working with pastors, I see this all the time.  I see it in others because I so clearly see it in myself.  I see it in the pastor who won’t empower a high capacity leader because he will do things different or (gasp) better.  I see it in the leader who tries to mold everyone else in his image.  I see it in the leader who can’t let go.

But we are not superheroes.  We are not saviors.

5.  Don’t neglect your soul.

Over and over, people warned me about this but I didn’t truly hear them.  Heck, Jesus even warned people about this.  “What good is it if a main gains the whole world and loses his soul?” he asked.  I had a big church and a growing influence, but inside, my soul was dying.

Taking care of your soul is one of the most important things any leader – or any person – can do.  Forget this, and you’ll be passing out in the airplane seat trying to give oxygen to another passenger.

You can be a great leader and not be a great Christian.  That happened to me.  Don’t let it happen to you.

Some of the People We Admire Most Failed Miserably

Moses

Peter

Naomi

Noah

Paul

Abraham

David

Zachaeus

The Nation of Israel

The Disciples.

All failed big time then started over.   In fact, many of the people you admire most failed in dramatic fashion.

They were restored.  They were given another chance.  And they went on to do great things.

Failure is not final.

If you’re not dead, God’s not done.

How Do You Know What To Do Next?

transition

I’m in a period of transition.

In March, I stepped down as CEO of The Rocket Company to focus on helping churches individually.  In June, my family and I moved home to Jacksonville, Florida.  And I’m working to start a new company – figuring out what it will be and how it will be different.

That’s a lot of change packed into a few months.  Naturally, I’ve thought a lot about transition.  And I bet some of you are thinking about making a change.

So how do you know when the time is right?  How do you know when it’s time to make a change?  Here are three suggestions.

1.  Consider your future.

When you find yourself dreaming more about something else than what you’re doing now, that’s a sign a change might be good for you.

Are you constantly asking yourself “what’s next” instead of focusing on “what’s now?”  Do you find yourself dreaming about a different kind of life in a new place?

One of the reasons we moved to Jacksonville is we asked ourself where we wanted to raise our kids over the next ten years.  Since I can work from anywhere, planting some roots near family and friends was attractive.

Tomorrow is not promised, but tomorrow is full of promise.  So when you think about your future, you should be excited about the opportunity.  Dreams should come to life.

2.  Think about your energy level.

If what you’re working on now brings you energy, that’s a good thing.  But if what you’re doing drains you, maybe a change is in order.

I don’t believe there are many jobs where you’re in your sweet spot and working in your passion 100% of the time.  But if you’re only there 20% of the time, that’s not good for your long term health.

Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, says, “working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”

You might not be passionate about every single thing you do, but overall, you need to love what you do.  If you don’t, start taking steps to change something.  This might not mean quitting your job in dramatic fashion, but it might mean using your free time to learn, grow or build something.

3.  What do your friends and family say?

When I was praying through all the changes, I talked to lots of friends, family members and coaches (I learned the power of this from working with Casey).  I highly recommend you get feedback from two groups of people.

First, you should listen to wise people who are disconnected from the situation.  People who aren’t in your shoes are often in a great position to provide great advice.  Since they aren’t emotionally connected, they can give unbiased feedback.  This is where coaches come in.

Be careful when seeking advice, though.  If you ask enough people or spin something just the right way, you’ll find someone to confirm a bad decision.

Secondly, you should listen to wise people who love you and have your best interest in mind.  We all need people in our lives who can’t benefit from knowing us.  We need friends who get nothing from being our friends.  Listen to those kind of people.

Chip and Dan Heath say one of the best questions to ask yourself when facing a big decision is “What would you tell your best friend to do, if he/she was in the same situation?”  That’s a powerful question, built on powerful psychology.  When people are slightly removed from the situation, their advice is far less biased.

 

Six Ways to Clear the Clutter

In my Get Organized Course (registration is currently closed but I’ll do another round later this year), I’m helping dozens of people organize their digital, personal and financial lives.

One of the big principles of organization is to get rid of the clutter.  Whether it’s your desk or your car or your mind, excessive stuff inhibits your ability to focus.  The old excuse of “I know where everything is” just doesn’t cut it.

If you want to be more productive and effective, you’ve got to clear out the clutter.  Here are six ways to get started.

1.  Set a 15 minute timer on your phone.  Work on your desk, the kitchen junk drawer or your closet for just 15 minutes.

org-bedroom-2-donate_300

2.  Make a donate box.  You can go all Martha Stewart and make something pretty and leave it out all the time.  It’s a great reminder to continually de-clutter.

3.  Buy this scanner and scan all papers that come into your house.  Then throw them away.

4.  Get rid of any clothes you haven’t worn in the last six months.  I promise you won’t miss that Cleveland Browns shirt you’ve had for the last 8 years.  It doesn’t fit anymore anyway.

5.  Use unroll.me to unsubscribe from mailing lists.  Just don’t opt out of mine….you’ll want to subscribe, instead.

6.  Implement the 2 for 1 rule with your kids toys.  Kids are clutter culprits.  So make a rule…If they want something new, they have to get rid of two things they already have.

Those are six quick tips.   Leave a comment and share one of your own.

How Long Should a Sermon Be?

is-your-sermon-longer-than-the-lords

How long should a sermon be?

As short as necessary.

We appreciate it when others make their clear point and finish on time. So why do so many messages come across like lengthly wandering?  We know attention spans are getting shorter, so why do our messages keep getting longer?

Here are five thoughts.

1.  You are afraid of leaving something out.

You’re afraid of offending someone, or leaving out a viable argument, so you fill your messages with disclaimers and alternate perspectives.

In the process, youbury a simple idea in a sea of words.

If you have something to say, it’s not improved with more words and paragraphs.  You don’t have to provide disclaimers for six different groups of people.

2.  Your topic is too broad.

Many topics are way to big for one sermon.

But instead of narrowing your focus, you try to cram in everything.

More information does not make a better presentation.  In fact, the opposite is usually true.   Shorter is usually better.  A narrower focus will lead to a clearer outcome.

Your job is to take a topic and make it simple and actionable, not cover everything.

3.  You like hearing yourself talk.  

This one might sting a little.

A lot of presentations are too long because the person delivering it likes to talk.  After all, you’re paid to talk.   You don’t want brevity in a message to turn into scarcity of paycheck.

But the length of your message is not any real indication of how good it really is.  The length of your talk measured in minutes is not the same thing as how long your talk feels to your audience.

Just because you like to talk doesn’t mean everyone needs to listen.

4.  You are not prepared.  

Blaise Pascal once wrote in a letter, “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”  He knew brevity that leads to clarity takes work.

Too many sermons are longer than necessary because the preacher  is not prepared.  The stage is not the place to think out loud or form your thoughts.  Preparation should lead to more succinct messages, not longer ones.

The opportunity to speak comes with a responsibility to prepare.  This takes hard work, focus and time.  You can rely on passion and talent, but speaking from that place is a well that will run dry.

5.  You believe longer messages are more faithful to the Bible.

You’re afraid to water down the truth, so you decide to keep teaching long past the point of people listening.  In preaching, you have two goals – to be faithful to the text AND to impact the hearts of people.  Sermon prep should start with the Scripture.  And your message needs to be God’s truth rather than your opinion.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s length that makes you faithful to the text.  Shorter messages can also honor God’s Word.

So how long should a sermon be?  As short as necessary to honor God and inspire people to follow him.

The goal is not to fill the time, but to change lives.

Three Inboxes Everyone Needs

One of the best practices of getting organized and streamlining your work flow is creating a place for things that come into your world.  Creating a collection point for work you need to do is a great way to get started.

I actually have three different Inboxes.

1.  Email Inbox

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 7.19.15 AM

All of my email addresses come to one place, and I empty that Inbox daily.  It’s honestly not that hard if you use a few basic rules.

I try my best to use the OHIO principle – Only Handle it Once.   My Inbox is not a collection point – it’s a holding point and my goal is to get it out of there as soon as possible.

My other email rule is the two minute rule.  If it’s something I can do in two minutes or less, I do it right away.  90% of my email can be handled this way.

2.  Evernote Inbox

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 7.19.00 AMMy favorite online tool is a free program called Evernote.  It’s a digital filing cabinet and I use it to save everything.  From product feedback to blog ideas to research for projects – if it’s worth keeping it goes into Evernote.

I created a default folder called !Inbox.  Whenever I sent something to Evernote via the web or email it goes to the Inbox.  Once a week, I clean out that Inbox, assign tags and move items to the right folders.

If you want to learn more about Evernote, I highly recommend this eBook by Brett Kelly called Evernote Essentials.  It’s so good I bought a copy for everyone in my Get Organized Now course.

3.  Physical Inbox

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 7.19.32 AMI have a physical inbox in my home office for papers, bills and other stuff that comes into my house.  It’s a simple two level letter tray.

The top level is stuff to process – bills to pay, items to read, stuff I need to do.  Creating a place for this stuff keeps it from being all over my house.  The bottom level is processed stuff I want to save.  Once a month, I clean out the bottom tray, scanning most of it using my Doxie Scanner and sending it to Evernote.

Those are my three different Inboxes and uses them have really helped me streamline my work.