Featured Guest Post At XPastor.org: 7 Suggestions For Better Meetings

XPastor.orgI’m pleased to announce that I had a new guest post go live this week over at XPastor.org.

Post Title: Meetings Are Lame: 7 Suggestions On Making Them Better

Summary: In this post, I discuss the impact of poorly organized and executed meetings on any organization. I give 7 suggestions for making them better, such as:

  • Consider holding only afternoon meetings.
  • Create an agenda for each meeting.
  • Appoint a leader in charge of the meeting.
  • Announce a distraction free zone.
  • Start and end on time.
  • Create an action items list.
  • Delegate tasks within the meeting.

Read this and more over on my guest post at XPastor.org.

Thank you to Dr. David Fletcher and his team for utilizing my post!






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The Lost Art Of Pruning: How Cutting Out Dead, Unnecessary Stuff Can Lead To A Better Life

Photo by Pictoscribe

Photo by Pictoscribe

Taking Care Of The Fruit Trees

When I was a kid growing up, my family had a bunch of fruit trees in our yard. We had a few different types including apple, cherry, and even a pear tree. I remember my dad having this old, green tank sprayer which he attached to the back of his riding lawn mower. Then, he would drag that sprayer around and spray the fruit trees a couple of times a year in order to control the various insects that liked these fruit trees.

He not only sprayed the trees, but he also took time to prune the trees back. He owned this really long, telescoping pruning rod with a little saw and limb slicer. I believe he normally did this at least once a year, probably in late fall after the growing season was over.

Why Pruning?

The goal of pruning is to produce strong, healthy, attractive plants. There are a number of reasons to prune your trees:

  • Pruning for safety. An example of this would be pruning back low hanging branches that may injure someone.
  • Pruning for health. An example of this would be pruning out all the dead, deformed, and diseased branches in a tree.
  • Pruning for aesthetics. Sometimes trees grow into strange, uneven shapes. You can use various pruning techniques to make trees more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

The pruning practices for tree growth can just as easily apply to our own lives as well.

Pruning Principles For Life Growth

As time moves forward each day, month, and year, we grow in our personal lives. Stuff gets added into our home schedules. Work responsibilities increase. We may even add more children to our families. Our kids add-on more extra-curricular activities. Our churches add more ministries and associated events.

For some reason, our society seems to think that more is better. So, more and more stuff gets loaded on our plates, or we just plain get handed more plates to spin.

We start looking like gnarly, unhealthy, odd-shaped trees!

The safety, health, and aesthetics of our lives are now in jeopardy. We are life accidents waiting to happen. These increasingly busier lives are completely unsustainable. Something has to and will give at some point.

We get sick so that we’re forced to rest. A project at work that normally would be a slam dunk falls apart, and our job is now in question. We receive a bad report from the doctor so that we’re forced to slow down and examine our lives. Our children begin rebelling because we never get to spend quality and quantity time with them because everyone has way too much going on.

So, then what happens? Everything comes to a complete standstill – our lives, families, work, and church engagement – as we deal with the crisis.

We stop. We fix the problem (or, so we believe, anyway). We resume all the activity all over again. Nothing really changes, though.

An emergency crisis takes place next year, and we begin the cycle all over again.

Something has to change. We need to take out our pruning shears and saws and cut out the dead and unnecessary stuff in our lives. For our own health, safety, and maybe even aesthetics, we sometimes need to cut back to the bare essentials to have a life that works. The end result is a life that has been properly maintained and prepared for stronger growth in the future.

Assuming you have some downtime this holiday season, I would encourage you to take some time to examine and prune your life for a better year in 2014. We have the potential to grow stronger, faster as a result of the trimming back.

Questions: Is your life out of control? Are you spinning way too many full plates right now? Have you taken the time to fully assess where you are? What needs to be pruned out of our life? What are the core essentials that need to stay in place?

5 Awesome Books That Have Radically Changed My Life And Made Me More Productive

Photo by Sam Fam

Photo by Sam Fam

A Great Book Can Change Your Life

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been inspired by numerous authors, books, and the entire writing process. Guess that’s one of the reasons I became a blogger. I like analyzing stuff and then getting my thoughts out of my head and onto the computer screen.

The best books by the best authors are able to inspire a different level of thinking and living. They are able to get you to re-examine previously held beliefs and then take massive change in a new direction.

The following list of five books are ones that contain five big concepts that I think about on a daily basis. They have re-shaped my life and literally molded me into a better person (in my opinion). If you’ve never read these books, then I would highly encourage you to check them out!

5 Books That Have Impacted Me

1. Financial Peace [affiliate link] by Dave Ramsey. This is one of the first books that really altered my life in a number of ways. I remember walking into a bookstore around 2004-2005 and running across this bluish-green book by some guy named Dave Ramsey. He completely changed my views on money and the manner in which it should be wisely handled. As a result of reading Financial Peace, I will never again view debt the same way as I did in the past. I will never again be able to return to the old patterns of mismanaged personal finances. Thanks, Dave, for your wisdom and experience in this vitally important area of our lives. My life will never be the same as a result.

2.The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People [affiliate link] by Stephen Covey. The big takeaway from this book that has stuck with me over the years is the concept of 4-quadrant living. The four quadrants include:

  • Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important Activities. These could include emergencies, putting out fires, and tight work deadlines.
  • Quadrant 2: Not Urgent but Important Activities. These could include exercise, planning, writing, meditation, recreation, and relationship building.
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent But Not Important Activities. These could include some calls, some emails, some meetings, and popular activities.
  • Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important Activities. These could include trivia, busy work, some calls, and some email.

So, the takeaway from Covey and 4-quadrant living that I contemplate on a daily basis is this: hang out in Quadrant 2 as much as you possibly can, especially during the peak performance hours of your day. I attempt to structure my day around these quadrants in order to maximize my overall performance.

3. The 80/20 Principle [affiliate link] by Richard Koch. The book was a reinterpretation of the Pareto principle, extending its use beyond economics and business, to cover issues such as “time revolution” and personal happiness (source: Wikipedia). The world is ruled by Pareto’s Law which states 80% of results are the result of 20% of inputs. Stated another way, 20% of my specific work activities have the capacity of producing 80% of my best work results. The key is knowing which 20% activities produce your best 80%! As a result of reading this book, I ponder every day whether or not I’m engaged in my top 20% activities. As a side note, this also corresponds to Quadrant 2 living in Covey’s book.

4. Good To Great [affiliate link] by Jim Collins – The key idea that I got from this must-read business book is “get the right people in the right seats on the right bus!” Now, with every group that I organize and lead, I attempt to get the right people in the right positions for the right task. If you want to take any organization from okay to awesome, then you must follow this principle.

5. The 4-Hour Body [affiliate link] by Tim Ferriss. I’m a big Tim Ferriss fan. I read his first book, The 4-Hour Workweek in 2007 (I debated whether or not to add this book to this list) and then I started following his blog. I purchased his next book, The 4-Hour Body, right around its release date, and found many of his experiments and teachings to be highly actionable. As a result of following a (mostly) slow carb-ish diet and exercise regimen, I was able to go from 170 lbs to 158 lbs. This took me down two pant sizes (from a 34 down to a 32). My belly flattened out and I have more lean muscle mass and less body fat. I added this book to the list because at age 42, I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life as a result of reading it. Plus, there’s a lot of other incredibly awesome experiments and actionable ideas that you should check out as well.

Questions: So, have you read any of these books? Did you glean the same key concepts that I did or something entirely different? Do you a list of books that have impacted your life in amazing ways? If so, feel free to leave your list in a comment below. I’d love to see what books have changed your life!

How To Use The 80/20 Rule Effectively In Everyday Living

Photo by stargardener

Photo by stargardener

What Is The 80/20 Rule?

The 80/20 Rule (also known as the Pareto Principle) can be defined as:

A rule of thumb that states that 80% of outcomes can be attributed to 20% of the causes for a given event. In business, the 80-20 rule is used to help managers identify problems and determine which operating factors are most important and should receive the most attention based on an efficient use of resources. Resources should be allocated to addressing the input factors have the most effect on a company’s final results. [Source: investopedia.com]

The rule states that 20% of inputs results in 80% of the outputs. Let’s state the principle in everyday scenarios in which you can relate.

  • 20% of your work activity produces 80% of your productive results that are valued by your employer.
  • 20% of your employees at work produce 80% of your company’s overall output, including financial gains.
  • 20% of your daily rituals produce 80% of your quality of life.
  • 20% of specific time you spend with your family results in 80% of your quality family relationships.

In his book The 80/20 Individual, author Richard Koch states it this way:

” … most of what exists in the universe – our actions, and all other forces, resources, and ideas – has little value and yields little result; on the other hand, a few things work fantastically well and have tremendous impact. There is no magic in the 80 and the 20, which are merely approximations. The point is that the world is not 50/50; effort and reward are not linearly related.” [Kindle version, p. 12]

Employing the 80/20 Rule For Maximum Effectiveness

So, if this Pareto Principle thing really is at work all around us, how can we effectively leverage the principle to improve our lives?

The short answer: Do more of the 20% activities that produce 80% of the desired results. Then, eliminate (or delegate) the 80% of activities that only produce a measly 20% of your desired results.

Let me try to put all these percentages into perspective with husband and wife relationships.

Think about your relationship with your spouse and all the things you do for them or with them on a regular basis. Out of all these activities with your spouse, which ones seem to make the biggest impact and get the best response? Cooking a great dinner five nights a week? Spending quality time on the sofa right after work? Saving money and not spending it on frivolous junk? Not letting the trash pile up around the house? Helping out with the kids at home? Going on a date night once a week?

If you know your spouse really well, then you will know what “rings their bell” in your marriage relationship. I guarantee based on the 80/20 Rule that only around 20% of your activity together brings about 80% of the happiness in your marriage. So, you need to figure out that specific 20% of activity and do more of it! And, the other 80% of stuff you do, do less of it. You’ll gain a better marriage and a happier spouse as a result.

Now, let’s talk work. Have you ever truly determined the 20% of your work activity that produces the 80% of the results that your employer is wanting out of you? You know, the results they are actually paying you for? The results that your boss determines whether to keep you around or not?

Whatever that 20% of work activity is, figure it out. Write it down. Schedule more time on it. Do more of those activities and increase your most valued results.

Learn It. Love It. Live It.

Once I finally comprehended the significance behind the 80/20 Rule, I have rigorously attempted to employ it in all that I do. I can’t go back to the old inefficient models of doing things. Wasting time on insignificant activities holds no interest for me.

I think too many times we have a tendency to believe that hard work will accomplish everything that we need it to. While hard work has its place in our lives, we can truly accomplish everything we need to in a more efficient, intelligent way by employing the 80/20 Rule. This is truly working smarter and not harder for your desired results.

How about you? Do you employ the 80/20 Rule in your life? In what areas do you utilize the rule? How are your results after employing the rule?