How to maximize your team’s productivity in 5 simple steps

Photo by Jeff Sheldon

Efficiency and effectiveness are my love languages.

My favorite apps are those that help me get the right things done in the best way possible.

I read books and articles about time management and goal setting. For fun. On vacation.

While I’m a bit over the top in my quest to maximize my time as a leader, I’m glad I’m not alone. In fact, on the long list of what I love about the Fuller Youth Institute team, our shared commitment to maximize our time is toward the top. Our mission to equip young people with the faith they need is too important to waste time—ours or anyone else’s.

Your team likely also has a mission that’s too important for wasted time. Whether you lead your congregation in song, help send members of your church into missions and service, or welcome newcomers into the life of your community, what you do matters—and so does the time you spend doing it.

Your team has a mission that's too important for wasted time. (tweet that)

Over the years, I’ve experimented with all sorts of paths to maximize my time and work and found these five steps help me the most.

Step One: Write everything down. And I mean everything.

I live under the assumption that I will remember nothing. I won’t remember to sign my daughter’s permission slip and I won’t remember to submit an article by its deadline. So I have to write down (or type) everything.

Whether you go old school with a handwritten “to do” list, or keep one on your favorite app (personally I use a hybrid of both methods), save yourself stress, time, and brain cells by noting everything you need to do.

Step Two: If you do a job more than twice, create a system.

In my personal life and at FYI, anything I’m going to do more than once means I create a system. I never want to reinvent the wheel. I want to invent the wheel once, and keep tweaking it, but not have to start from scratch.

I have a system for thanking the wonderful partners and donors who support our mission.

I have a system for making sure I’m ready for every presentation I give.

I have a system that helps our FYI team, as well as the five Powells, set goals for the year.

I have a system for grocery shopping (it’s a master list we keep on our kitchen counter so I can just check off anything we need instead of writing multiple items by hand).

What projects in your life or work do you do every week, month, or year? How can you create a system (ideally one that’s automated so it triggers you instead of you having to initiate) to save yourself time and mental energy? Consider these questions with your team and explore tasks for which you might create systems—or systems that are in place but need to be updated—in order to reduce unnecessary work.

Step Three: Identify—and take—the next step.

I am passionate about closing the loop. Whether Dave and I are making plans for our next family vacation or our team is dreaming about our next big research project, I’m committed to identifying—and taking—the next step.

Too many great conversations involve dreams that never lead to action. Don’t let that happen to you and your team. In every discussion—on any topic—figure out who needs to do what, and by when, to move the ball down the field. Whether that means circulating notes with tasks and responsible team members highlighted, or adding tasks to an online management platform while you meet, never walk out of a meeting without next steps clearly defined.  

To help you out, our team created a quick checklist of the actions we take before, during, and after every meeting. Get it in your inbox right away!

Email is required.

Step Four: Designate certain days for certain activities.

Do you find your weeks following predictable patterns, approach each week like a blank slate, or let other people and agendas determine your workflow? I’ve figured out the best rhythm for my week and I try to schedule that into my calendar as much as possible. Mondays and Tuesdays are best for meetings with our team and others at Fuller. Thursdays and Fridays are best for traveling, big picture thinking, and writing. Wednesdays are a toss-up and can go in either direction.

Similarly, I know what daily work rhythm works best for my own productivity. I’ve learned that I like to knock out a bunch of smaller tasks in the morning so my mind is free to dream and innovate in the afternoons.

You may or may not have much control over your weekly calendar, but most of us have at least certain windows within which we can exercise influence over our schedules—perhaps with more intentionality than we are right now. When are your best days for meetings? For building into your leadership team? For creating new content? For dreaming about God’s future for your ministry? Figure it out and, to whatever extent you can, block your calendar accordingly.

Step Five: Mark your calendar to follow up.

Several times a day, I reach out to a new ministry partner, colleague at another seminary, or potential donor through email, text, or phone. For anything that’s super strategic or time sensitive, I make a note in my calendar to follow up.

If I’ve hit the ball over the net to them, I want to make sure it doesn’t dribble off the court. I want to follow up and make sure we play the right game together.

While efficiency and effectiveness aren’t the only values our team holds, they certainly help us do more with the resources we have available. These steps have worked for me and for our team, but I’d love to learn from you.

What do you do to help you or your team maximize productivity on a regular basis?