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

black and white photo of clocks

Photo by Andrey Grushnikov on Pexels.com

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.

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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.

WHAT MATERIALS DO I NEED?
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)

MAKING YOUR LIST OF GOALS, PROJECTS, AND TASKS
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.

SETTING UP YOUR KANBAN BOARD
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.

USING YOUR KANBAN BOARD
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?

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

Prayers for a New Year

huge clock

Please let me know the artist of this piece that I may give him/her credit.

Prayer at Year’s End by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Eternal God,
in the evening of this year
I release the year to you.
Not a day, not a breath, have I been without you,
and I thank you.
All that I have done is done;
what I have not done I have not done.
All of my sins and errors you have forgiven,
and I release them.
All of my triumphs are your doing,
and I release them.
The year is gathered into your harvest,
to winnow and to save.
My life is gathered into your grace.
By your spirit in me may I learn from my mistakes,
grow from my wounds,
and deepen in gratitude for my gifts.
And now I turn to a new year,
grateful for your presence and your grace,
seeking only to live in harmony with your delight,
and open to your blessing and your leading.
Whether my journey onward be long or short,
it shall be in you, and I rejoice.
Amen.

O Mystery, remind me of my end, and how measured my days;
keep me mindful how fleeting my life is. —Psalm 39:4

Letting Go by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Before I step into the new year
I let go of the old one.
What I have done I have done.
What I have not done I have not done.
So be it. I release my regret.
I stand with myself.

For all the gifts I have received,
known and unknown, I am grateful.
However I have suffered I accept.
I learn what I can and move on.
Whatever others have done that hurt me,
I forgive. I learn and move on.
For however I have failed or fallen short,
I forgive myself. I learn and move on.

I release my fears.
I release my self-doubt, blame and self-silencing.
My hopes and dreams I place in God’s hands,
trusting what is blessed will remain with me.

I am alive, and life is good.
I open myself to the future,
enfolded in this present.
Holy Mystery, I am yours.
I am here, now.

Gratitude for a New Year by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
For the blessings of today
which remind us of the blessings of the past
which point forward to the blessings still to come
we give you thanks

Prayer for a New Year, based on Psalm 90 by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
ONE:
Eternal and Immortal One,
You have been our refuge from age to age.
Before the mountains were born,
Before the earth and the world came to birth,
From eternity to eternity,
You are God.

ALL:
To you, a thousand years are like a yesterday
Like a watch of the night

ONE:
You return us to dust
You sweep us away like a dream
We are like grass
In the morning we thrive,
We blossom
But come evening,
We are withered and dry

ALL:
Teach us to number our days
That we may gain your wise heart

Fill us with your faithful love
That we may sing your joyful story

Show us your wondrous deeds
That we may see your transforming power
That generations to come may see it as well

Let your favor, O God be upon us,
That the work of our hands
May bear forth your blessing
And bring your glory. Amen.

penitence by larry poncho brown

Penitence by Larry Poncho Brown

Prayer of Confession for a New Year
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

As the new year is born,
We remember and regret…

Forgive us, Holy One,
When we keep You at a distance
When we defy your bidding
When we make it harder
for people to know you

Forgive us, Holy One,
When we deny our weakness
When we wallow in our weakness
When we take advantage
of the weakness of others

Forgive us, Holy One,
When we refuse Your counsel
When we waste your gifts
When we withhold Your compassion from others

Silent Confession

As the new year is born
We labor to look forward
Our hearts fill with hope
For you are making all things new
even us… Amen

A New Year’s Blessing by Steve Garnaas Holmes
My hope and prayer and confidence
is that in this new year
God will be lovingly present for you,
and you will more and more deeply trust
God’s delight in you.
Christ will lead you every step of the new year.
The Spirit’s gifts will unfold in you in new ways.
I rejoice that in this new year
beauty will surround you; grace will enfold you;
love will embrace and uphold you;
joy will bless you, and hope sustain you.
May you receive healing and wisdom;
may your creativity flower and your courage grow;
and in your hands may justice and mercy flourish.
I rejoice that these gifts await you in the new year,
and pray that you receive them with delight.
I give thanks for the gift of sharing together
the journey of this new year.
God bless us all.

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Click Here for a collection of quotes entitled Counting Our Days

Thank you to Steve Garnaas Holmes for his generosity in allowing me to share his work on my blog. Please, consider subscribing to his blog, www.unfoldinglight.net.

Gratitude for a New Year © 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Prayer for a New Year, based on Psalm 90 © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Prayer of Confession for the New Year © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use these prayers in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish them in any form

Prayer- Most Blessed, Most Beautiful Christ

christus-hand-lds-adapted

1 Corinthians 3:21-23 NRSV
So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Most blessed, most beautiful Christ,
in you, we receive all things

The receiving takes growth, so you give us guiding-
saints and sages and scripture
Thank you for the guiding

The receiving takes others, so you give us the world-
nature and neighbors and nations
Thank you for the world

The receiving takes change, so you give us seasons-
life and death and new life
Thank you for the seasons

The receiving takes time, so you give us time-
present and future and forever
Thank you for the time

Most blessed, most beautiful Christ
You give us yourself
And in you, O Christ
We belong
To you and to God and to all
Thank you for the giving

For a worship setting, consider the following version. One voice prays the portion in regular print while the congregation prays the portion in bold print.

Most blessed, most beautiful Christ,
in you, we receive all things

The receiving takes growth, so you give us guiding-
saints and sages and scripture
Thank you for the guiding
in you, we receive all things

The receiving takes others, so you give us the world-
nature and neighbors and nations
Thank you for the world
in you, we receive all things

The receiving takes change, so you give us seasons-
life and death and new life
Thank you for the seasons
in you, we receive all things

The receiving takes time, so you give us time-
present and future and forever
Thank you for the time
in you, we receive all things

Most blessed, most beautiful Christ
You give us yourself
And in you, O Christ
We belong
To you and to God and to all
Thank you for the giving
in you, we receive all things

The congregation now offers their own prayers of thanksgiving, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer

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Most Blessed, Most Beautiful Christ © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. (by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Christ Have Mercy, a prayer of confession based on Matthew 9.9-13

christe eleison

Mercy is not merely feeling sympathy. Mercy is extended by one who has the power to condemn or punish but chooses not to. We choose not to criticize, not to say, “I told you so,” not to exact our “pound of flesh” — not to avenge. As Jesus shows us in his interaction with the woman caught in adultery, mercy does not look back at what the person has done but forward to what the person can do in the future. – Mary Lou Redding. The Power of a Focused Heart: 8 Life Lessons from the Beatitudes

Christ have mercy on me,
a sinner.

I have failed to love as You Love
I have treated others as objects and obstacles
– less than human
– less than made in the image of God

I have elevated goals, persons, and things to the throne of my heart
I have procrastinated
I have wasted your precious gifts of time and talent and money

I am proud in unhealthy ways
I am apathetic
I have raised myself too high
Hid myself too low

Trusting in you and your promises
I call on your Mighty Name for mercy
I ask your forgiveness, Gracious Savior
I surrender to your healing, Great Physician
I claim your resurrection power, Risen One

You are already here
Calling me from the old to the new
Speaking my name
Welcoming me to table
Hallelujah! I will follow…

Based on Matthew 9:9-13, The Call of Matthew
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

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Christ Have Mercy, a prayer of confession © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.