Everyone has heard the quote “work smarter, not harder.” I’d use the phrase all the time when I was in full-time ministry and in my teenage years, mostly to justify why I didn’t want to do physical labor and instead be lazy. The problem with this is many times our version of smarter only takes into account the outcome and we are actually working harder to be smarter, but still working way too hard. Here are a couple examples.
- You want to be most efficient about getting tasks done for your blogging schedule. So you begin to plan out your website because it seems smart to get things lined up. You start to write after a little bit, but notice it is not easy to write a 700 word article. You do some research on the topic (2 hours) that suggest you use a to-do app or mind-mapping app. You try the second suggestion, installing a couple different ones to your phone and playing with it by outlining an article series (3 more hours), but it is too complicated. Then you try to-do lists as others do (another hour) and after a while finally write a 700 word article with a couple of lead ideas for follow up ones. It gets minimal traffic and after a couple more times, you quit.
- Having everyone on the same page for a church technology team is important, right? This allows for no wasted effort when each person is working on their tasks, they can air their grievances, and understand what is going on at the different parts of the Sunday morning service. But after the fifth weekly meeting that each last up to 90 minutes, it starts to become clear that people are getting frustrated. A volunteer shows up late to the meeting so you start late, someone forgets to email the agenda ahead of time and so you forget to talk about a couple of things, or someone is sick and you have to play catch up at the next meeting.
The point of this is that we need to think about the whole investment of working smarter.
- For the blogging scenario, do you even know if blogging will help with your ministry or get you the influence you desire? You’re treating it like a full-time job but for all you know, the whole idea will be a flop. You spent six hours of NOT blogging to write a blog article that itself took an hour to write. Versus taking two hours of writing a blog article that may not have been fully formed out, but you could publish the article and then spend another five hours that you had used to be “efficient” to write three more fully scheduled blog articles. Now you have learned about yourself in the process, given yourself some margin for success, and identified if it is worth it. If you press on and want to go full-time with it, then streamline the process, but don’t incur the overhead time sink if it wasn’t necessary. (This goes for getting a sweet blog design before launch, a great marketing strategy before you write your first article, and trying to make it profitable before blogging for a year)
- I love to put meetings in the form of costs. If those volunteers or staff were getting paid (or giving an appropriate dollar figure to the time they donate in volunteering), how much money was just spent on that one meeting. Five people that show up for a 90-minute meeting with a wage of $20/hour means you spent $150. How much of that meeting could have been done via a single email thread or Slack channel and saved money, time, and frustration?
I bring this up because these things are motivation leeches. I am inspired to blog, but I spend my time doing other things. Sure, it will be important for the long game, but right now I just need to develop the craft. And who decides to volunteer so that they can go to meetings? Pass.
So How Do You Work Smarter, Not Harder?
eat the whole elephant.
You may have heard the saying, “Eat the elephant one bite at a time” when dealing with a large task, goal, or project. It’s hard to have motivation for taking on a big task, even if it looks easy at the beginning. Our eyes (or creative mind) tend to be bigger than what we can handle, so go slow with easy action steps. (More about this later)
to add-on something until it hurts to do otherwise.
To go with the previous point of taking it slow, I have the mindset of waiting until it is painful of not having something before adding it. This may be controversial within the technology scene where having the latest and greatest software, gadgets, and know-how’s is trendy. But trendy does not equal profitable or productive. I’m certainly not advocating for waiting until you are ineffective but have a bit of patience and restraint. Can you do videography without the Canon T7i? Yep. When you know you can’t get to the next level of awesome without it, that’s when you go purchase it, but not until before then.
the goal of the project
If your wanting to start up a new project or renew your passion for what you are already doing, identify why it’s important for you to do it or how it will help. I’d actually encourage you to clarify and specify the goal to everyone on the team. That reason is key because when we look at the whole project that is way too overwhelming, the elephant as we’ve shared, we forget about the reason of this. Remembering why you decided to be part of the church communications team in and of itself is motivating. Knowing where you will take it gives you a target to keep pushing on when things get tough. We make this a whole topic later.
What can you do to stop working so hard to be so smart and instead just get some work done?