Wednesday, May 27, 2009


One of the greatest takeaways I've gotten from The 4-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss, is the idea of batching.  Batching asks the question, "What activities can I allot to a specific day, week, month, quarter, or year so that I don't squander time repeating them more often than is absolutely necessary? (108).

Before beginning this book, Mandy and I had decided to do this with our grocery shopping.  We had read this book, and decided that we would attempt to go to the grocery store three times during the month of May.  The goal was to free up time and to not spend as much money.  These two goals go hand in hand.  By planning our meals and shopping, we have avoided the ever-so-often last minute trip to Schnucks to pick up croutons.  And we all know what happens when we run to the store to pick up croutons (especially when it's right before dinner).  We end up picking up several other items as well.  This cuts into the monthly budget.  I'm happy to report that we have done really well, and our goal is to cut it to two trips this month.

As I wrote in my first post on this book, my next step was to go from checking emails every time one arrived in my Outlook mailbox to only opening Outlook to read and respond to emails five times per day.  Ferriss suggests only doing this twice a day, and I may get there soon, but as I said, baby steps are needed here.

Yesterday I was waiting on a tow truck to pick up our Saturn (it's been in the parking lot at Union Ave. Baptist Church since Sunday night).  I had some time so I read more from the book. A lightbulb came on as I read his section on batching.  On a notecard I listed all of my monthly, weekly and daily tasks, and put the numbers of hours I spend on each.  This includes admin tasks, meetings and study time for church, property management and real estate work, as well as household chores such as laundry, cooking and paying bills. 

This part wasn't new to me.  I've done it before and it's been helpful.  What I had never done, however, was this:  I opened up Outlook (though I didn't check email yet because it wasn't time), and proceeded to put all of these tasks in my calendar.  I always put meetings, events, and deadlines in my calendar, but I haven't always put tasks such as these on it:
  • Prep for sermon
  • Upload sermon to website
  • Pay bills
  • Update rental spreadsheet 
I never forget to do tasks such as these, so I figure there's no need to write them down.  However, by having them in my calendar, I see how my day fills up.  I see the things that have to get done.  There's plenty of flexibility to move things around, but on Sunday night I know that I can get a quick overview of my upcoming week in about a minute.

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but as one who has complete control over my schedule (not always a good thing for some), this helps me gauge my productivity.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Laws of Pareto & Parkinson

Here's part 2 of my review on Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek.  Pareto's Law, named for an economist named Vilfredo Pareto and often referred to as the "80/20" Principle, states that 80% of the wealth is possessed by 20% of the population.  You've also no doubt heard this principle when dealing with volunteers (it's used in the church world quite often).  Here we say that 80% of the work is performed by 20% of the volunteers.  

Ferriss applies this principle to our outputs and inputs.  In other words, he says that 80% of our results (outputs) come from 20% of our effort and time (inputs).  If this is the case, then we need to figure out how to not only guard that 20%, but to purge as much of the wasted time so that we can do more that truly produces results, as well as do more of the things that bring joy and fulfillment to our lives.  This speaks into the myth that business = productivity. 
The second law he mentions is Parkinson's Law.  This law speaks to the need to shorten deadlines so that focus and quality are the result.  If you have two days to finish a project because you are going on vacation, you finish the project in two days, even when the project normally takes a week to accomplish.  If we have 8 hours to fill, we will fill it, but it doesn't guarantee that we will accomplish anything.  He refers to this as the "9-5 Illusion."    

In bringing these two laws together, Ferriss states:
If you haven't identified the mission-critical tasks and set aggressive start and end times for their completion, the unimportant becomes the important. Even if you know what's critical, without deadlines that create focus, the minor tasks forced upon you (or invented, in the case of the entrepreneur) will swell to consume time until another bit of minutiae jumps in to replace it, leaving you at the end of the day with nothing accomplished.

Monday, May 18, 2009

No More Firefox?

For the past few months I've been having lots of issues with Firefox.  I decided this weekend to download Google Chrome, and liked it so much that I uninstalled Firefox.  It has a few issues, but nothing too frustrating, and it seems to be a lot faster than either Firefox or IE.  I may give Firefox another chance at some point, but for now, I'll stick with Google.

Book of Acts Study

I'm right in the middle of teaching a six week course on the book of Acts at Union Avene Baptist Church.  I love the story of the early church, and feel in some ways as if I've been preparing for this course for the past ten years. Right after I finish up with the course at UABC, we begin the same study at Neighborhood Church.  We're also beginning Community Groups this summer.  On Sunday nights I'll be teaching through the story, and on Wednesday nights we'll discuss what we're learning.  

The 4-Hour Workweek

This weekend I started reading The 4-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss.  I remember looking at this book when I came out, but was decided not to pick it up after reading some negative reviews on Amazon.  However, a few weeks ago I read a great review of it, and decided to check it out at the library.  I'm glad I did.  Though I can understand where the negative reviews come from, it has already been extremely helpful to me.  Over the next few weeks I'm going to try to make some small changes in the way I work that I believe will make big differences.

Here are a few thoughts from the first few chapters that have been meaningful to me:

He shares in the Introduction how he hates being asked the "cocktail" questions, "So, what do you do?"  He says that it "reflects an epidemic I was long part of:  job descriptions as self-descriptions (6)."  He goes on to say, "How can I possibly explain that what I do with my time and what I do for money are compltely different things?"  As I said in a previous post, I've just started a real estate investing business, and although I really like this work, it's not what defines me.  And even though I am doing this so that it will allow me to do the work that God has called me to (pastoring a church), that's not entirely what defines me either.

Doing less meaningful work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness.  This is hard for most to accept, because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.  Few people choose to (or are able to) measure the results of their actions and thus measure their contribution in time.  More time equals more self-worth and more reinforcement from those above and around them (32-33).

Boy, do I struggle with this!  I think it has something to do with the fact that most of my work life has been entrepreneurial in nature, and most of it has been without punching a clock. Though this is great for me, it's often been difficult to know when I've done enough.  There are two reasons for this:  (1) I love my work, and (2) the work is never complete.  I despise laziness, so I work hard.  However, is my work always productive?  That's the big question.  

In chapter 5 he talks about the difference between being effective and being efficient.  He states, "Effectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals.  Efficiency is performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible.  Being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default mode of the universe" (67).  He goes on to give the example of the person who checks email 30 times per day.  I have a habit of keeping Outlook open, and, if I receive an email, I often "tackle" it immediately.  So my first plan of action is to open up Outlook and respond to email only five times per day during this week.  He recommends doing this only twice a day.  I'll hopefully get there, but we've got to start with baby steps!  I'm also thinking the same way with tasks such as paying bills.  

Ferriss next gives two truisms that I felt were worth giving thought to:
  1. Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.
  2. Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important.
I'll try to write more tomorrow on Pareto's Law and Parkinson's Law. 

Introducing Portfolio Investment Group

Last week my friend Joe and I started a real estate investing business.  We're calling it Portfolio Investment Group (LLC).  Joe has been buying, rehabbing, and selling properties for the last four or five years, and I've learned a lot from him.  We purchased our first property together six months ago, and are closing on a second one in a few weeks.  Our plan is to rent some of them, and to sell some of them, with the proceeds going to buying more.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Coldplay Album for Free

Coldplay is giving away their new live album for free!  Download it here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lost - Finally Some Answers?

Last night's season finale of Lost finally gave us more answers than it did questions...though it did give us more questions! We finally discovered the identity of Jacob (answer), but also learned that he has a nemesis (question). Here's my theory: one of the primary themes of this show is the issue of free will. Do humans have it, or are we nothing more than "pawns" in a chess game? In this case, the chess game is being played between Jacob (white shirt), representing good/light, and the mystery man (black shirt), representing evil/darkness (though I think we'll see that neither is completely good or bad. It's less a God/Satan thing and more a Greek mythology thing.

At the beginning of the show, they're both watching a boat coming to the island. This boat, most likely the Black Rock we've heard about, was called there by Jacob. The man in black obviously does not like Jacob's "experiments", which leads me to believe that the "losties" were not the first ones "summoned" to the island. This little game has been going on for a long time.

I don't think these two guys are all-powerful. I think they have limitations, and I predict that those limitations will be exposed once the losties realize that they've been a part of a game this whole time.

Can't wait for next season!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Weekly Links

Tim Chester's summary of the one-another passages in the New Testament

I started teaching a six-week series on the book of Acts at Union Ave. Baptist Church two weeks ago, and these posts by Perry Noble and Tim Chester have been helpful.

In another post from Perry Noble (who I've just started reading), he makes the statement: "I believe that God is getting ready to do something unlike He has ever done before." I think I'm starting to believe this as well. Jesus, I believe; help my unbelief.

Here's a great story from Scot McKnight's blog on the power of the Scriptures.

Jonathan Dodson on Simplified Missional Living - practical yet powerful.

One of the phrases that stuck out to me in Newsweek's article "The End of Christian America" was "religion is 'losing influence' in American society." Read the article for the context of this quote, but I for one am excited by the possibilities.

TED Conferences cost thousands of dollars to attend, but you can watch the videos online for free.

You'll be happy to know that Micah has been doing a little modeling.