As a young Christian, I (and my church) were influenced by World Harvest Mission’s Sonship Course. I went through it once with our pastor, Bob Hopper, and once with Paul Miller, who had co-written it.
I had not quite been in America for a decade then, and was still quite resistant to the way the American church conflated Christianity and the American way of maximum productivity. Very early on in Sonship, there was discussion of discipleship and daytimers (diaries). About how the battle to have quiet time with God was won or lost depending on when one went to bed the previous night. On the importance of organization.
There was this wonderful precept, “We all overestimate what we can do in the short run, and underestimate what we can do in the long run with the grace and power of God.”
Organization was presented an aspect of discipleship.
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Roy and I were not organized. I, for instance, rarely bothered with calendars diaries or to do lists, preferring to keep things in my head. Which worked in the past, though now that life is very busy, I do need to write important things down!!
However, I have to say that the basic organizational strategy of ranking things according to their importance and urgency, and doing the most important (or urgent) first has begun to bring a sense of peace and harmony to our marriage.
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I have two mid-life reflections on this.
One is that is never too late to change. After a lifetime of being a messy, disorganized housekeeper and I am becoming tidier and more organized, week by week—as I set aside a weekly chunk of a few hours to put everything back in the right place, and get rid of everything I do not need, want or love.
The other is this: We need to be organised and disciplined in our use of time to be able to fulfil the destiny and calling God has for us. Without organisation, we are perhaps unlikely to make either our own dreams come true, or the plans God has for us.
Learning the basics of organisation and time-management is part of our calling to follow Jesus and be fruitful.
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It’s amazing HOW MUCH the stress and the sense of being out of control has been alleviated by this simple tactic.
Each day make four lists,
A) Urgent, to be done that day, or in the next few days
First go through the urgent, then the important, the good and, last of all, the trivial.
Funny, after a few days of doing this, there is not much left on the urgent list, so we no longer bounce from crisis to crisis.
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This famous story (from Evan Carmichael’s blog) illustrates the same point.
Ivy Ledbetter Lee was a consultant for many business moguls of that time: Westinghouse, Lindbergh, Chrysler, and Charles M. Schwab. During his consultancy work for Bethlehem Steel, founded and run by Charles M. Schwab, Lee told Schwab, “”I can increase your people’s efficiency – and your sales – if you will allow me to spend fifteen minutes with each of your executives.”
Schwab replied that what Bethlehem Steel employees needed was not to know more, but to work more… but asked Lee how much it would cost him. Lee said, “Nothing, unless it works. After three months, you can send me a check for whatever you feel it’s worth to you.”
Thus a deal was made: in the span of about a ¼ of an hour, Lee was supposed to be able to give Schwab and his employees a method that would increase company effectiveness by at least 20-50%.
Schwab called a meeting with his executives the next day. Once seated, Lee gave Schwab and the others a sheet of paper and told them to write down the six most important things they had to work on the next day. As they were writing them down, Lee instructed them to do number them in order of importance.
Lee instructed those in the room further: they were to, each morning, pull out yesterday’s list and, at the beginning of their workday, and start working on Item 1 first. Once that was completed, they were to scratch that item out – and proceed to number 2 on the list, and so on – in order. He added that all were to read the list occasionally throughout the day, looking at the item to which they were currently attending.
Lee told Schwab and his executives not to worry if they didn’t complete all tasks on their sheet for any certain day. It was only important that they work on the most important item first, then the next important, and so on – adding that, if this method didn’t improve efficiency, nothing would.
Lee finished up by telling Schwab and his employees to spend the last five minutes of every working day writing a new “must do” list for tomorrow’s tasks. They were to follow these steps every day for 90 days.
Lee called Schwab aside after he concluded the meeting and told him, “Try this method out for three months, then send me a check for whatever you think it was worth.”
Just a 15-minute meeting… and no more than 5 minutes a day for employees to write a list!
A mere two weeks later, Schwab sent Lee a check for $25,000 (worth more than $400,000 in today’s dollars). He clipped a note to the check. In the note, Schwab told Lee that this was the most profitable business lesson he had ever learned – and that is saying something, considering that Schwab had, in earlier years, worked under financier J.P. Morgan! Over time, following this simple method, Schwab and his executives turned Bethlehem Steel into the biggest independent steel producer in the world, surpassing both U.S. Steel and Carnegie Steel, both for whom Schwab had been president prior to founding Bethlehem Steel. One simple method… and Schwab amassed a personal fortune of $100 million.
The simple act of making prioritized lists is meant to increase productivity by 25%!!