Effective Planning Strategies: Batching Work and Work Sprints (Pomodoro)

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Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back. – Harvey Mackay 

“Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.”

Psalm 90:12 reminds us to value our time and tend it well because it is a gift of God. Using it well honors the gift.

This is the second of a series of posts on effective planning strategies. These simple strategies work again and again for me and I hope they help you as well.

Today, let’s explore two related strategies- Batching Work and Work Sprints.

Batching Work
Switching from one project/task to another takes more effort than we realize. It takes time to gather supplies and resources for the next project, plus additional time to remember where you are in the project.

Batching work minimizes switching between projects/tasks, saving time and energy. We naturally do this for things like exercise and hygiene so it’s easy to expand this to other parts of our day.

Rather than answering emails throughout the day, you batch that work into one time period. This is equally helpful for returning phone calls, meal preparation, tending to social media, shopping, spiritual practices, reading, etc.

I used to plan two worship services weekly. I’d drag out all my planning resources and reorient myself to the themes. Now I plan four-six weeks in one batch. It’s so much easier and quicker.

Batching work is also helpful for larger projects requiring deep thinking. Setting aside a few hours on a single project creates energy and momentum for brainstorming, decision making, and laying out the steps for implementation.

Work Sprints (Pomodoro Technique)
Batching becomes even more powerful when paired with work sprints. In a work sprint, you set a timer for 25 minutes of uninterrupted work on a single project/task. At the end of the 25 minutes, you take a 5-minute break, then decide if you’re moving on to a different task or staying with the current task.

Work Sprints are also known as the Pomodoro Technique, created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1990s while he was a university student. His timer was a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato, pomodoro in Italian. Be sure to check out the video below, his website, and his book for a deeper explanation of the strategy.

Why I Value Work Sprints

  • It helps me recognize how long I’m spending on one project/task. This keeps my perfectionism in check.
  • It keeps my monkey brain from jumping from project to project and my rabbit brain from chasing distractions.
  • It helps me start a project I’m procrastinating doing because its hard, scary, or new. “It’s only 25 minutes. I can handle this.”
  • It’s fun to race the clock.

Let me know how these strategies work for you. I’d also love to hear what other strategies help you honor God’s gift of time and work. Leave a comment below.

Effective Planning Strategies: Batching Work and Work Sprints
© 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Effective Planning Strategies: Kanban Boards

Kanban 2019 Nov

Kanban at the beginning of the 4th quarter

My time is my time, and I must live my time with as much fullness and significance as I am capable of, because my little segment of time is all the time that I have. – Howard Thurman

This is the first of a series of posts on effective planning strategies. These simple strategies work again and again for me and I hope they help you as well.

Time is a gift of God. Using our time well honors the gift.

A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true. ― Greg Reid

Today, let’s explore Kanban Boards. A Kanban Board is a visual representation of the progress of projects you’re using to achieve your goals.

I use a super-simplified, 90 day Kanban. This means I make a new one four times a year. It feels like a fresh start with each season.

I learned this planning strategy from author Sarra Cannon. For a deeper dive into this strategy, check out her YouTube tutorials here and here.

1. Small post-it notes and a standard poster board from an “everything’s a dollar” type store, or feel free to spend more

2. A pen

3. Paper to make your list of goals, projects, and tasks (see below)

Set 1-3 goals for the next 90 days
On a piece of paper, name each goal. Be specific. Make it measurable if you can. If your goal is very large, you can set a goal within the larger goal.

Make clear goal choices. There will be time for other goals in the next 90 days. This is the season for this. It’s empowering to have boundaries and a plan for healthy work choices.

Ask yourself: Why is this goal important? What do I dream will happen if I achieve this goal? How will my life look different? How will the lives of others look different?

Examples: Payoff $1,500 in debt this quarter. Deepen my prayer life this quarter. Better understand the Holy Spirit by the end of this quarter. Increase the size of my small group by 10 people this quarter.

Choose projects to help you reach your goal
On the same paper, divide each goal into smaller pieces. Choose one or more projects needed to achieve each piece. Once you’ve chosen your projects, decide which ones need to come first, second, etc.

Divide your projects into tasks
On the same paper, list the tasks for each project. Tasks should be small enough to achieve in a week or less. Big goals are met little by little over time.

Assign each task a date if you can, spreading out the tasks over the entire 90 day period. If you know you won’t be working certain days during the 90 days due to holidays, vacation, or other obligations, don’t plan any tasks for that time. Honor your time off.

Color Code
Assign each goal a different sticky note color. (Example: Goal A is blue. Goal B is yellow.) Each task for goal A is then written on its own blue sticky note. Each task for goal B is then written on its own yellow sticky note. You will have many sticky notes.

Arranging Your Kanban Board
Arrange all the sticky notes on the poster board by color. Start with the tasks which will be done towards the end of the 90 days at the top of the board.

Work your way down the poster board, with the tasks you’ll do the soonest placed last. Leave at least a third of the poster board at the bottom with no sticky notes.

Choose a few tasks from each goal to accomplish each week. Move them from their starting place on the poster board to the center of the board. Focus on those tasks only. Other tasks are for other weeks.

When you complete a task, move it from the center of the board to the bottom of the board. This is surprisingly satisfying.

Be careful of continuing to move tasks to the center of the board. For some, any items in the center of the board makes it difficult to sabbath (day of rest.) For others, knowing their next tasks after their sabbath is helpful.

As you complete more and more tasks, you’ll see the sticky notes shifting from the top of the board to the bottom of the board. You can easily see your progress. You can see the movement even when you can’t feel it.⠀⁠

At the end of the 90 days, take a moment to review your board and make plans for the next 90 days.

Kanban 2019 October

Kanban at the end of the 3rd quarter

Psalm 90:12 reminds us to value our time and tend it well. “Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” I hope this helps you do just that. I’d love to hear what strategies help you honor God’s gift of time and work?

Effective Planning Strategies: Kanban Boards
© 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Three Key Steps for Spiritual Goal Setting

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2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NRSV
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

The journey of faith is a journey of transformation- one degree to another. Expect to be transformed, embrace it, seek it. The Holy Spirit provides grace and empowerment for change. We provide receptivity and intentionality.

Transformation thrives in the company of grace-full friends. Gather 2 or 3 trusted souls. Answer the following questions for yourself and listen as others share. Listen without judging, offering an opinion, or sharing advice (fixing). Pray for one another now and in the coming weeks as you encourage one another in the Spirit’s good work.

1. Embrace the Possibilities

  • What are you asking the Holy Spirit to do in your life? Name the spiritual goal.
  • Is this a God-sized vision or something safe you could do in your own strength?
  • How will this change bring glory to God and/or build up others?

2. Face the truth of the Problem

  • What keeps this from happening?
  • What is beyond your control?
  • What is your responsibility?
  • What mighty be push back from the evil one.

3. Take a step forward in the Process of New Life

  • What practical step must you take to do your part in the transforming work of God
  • Name it and set a deadline to complete it.

What questions would you add to this list?

Three Key Steps for Spiritual Goal Setting © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.