Make Your Goals A Reality With This Planner

Note: this is a non-paid endorsement. I love this planner and I think you might like it too. That’s why I’m writing about it.


I’ve just discovered the Full Focus Planner and I love it. Designed by Michael Hyatt, the Full Focus Planner is a great tool to help you stay focused and productive while achieving your goals. Here’s why it works.

It’s Analog, Not Digital

According to Hyatt, research shows the value of so-called analog activities – essentially anything that does not involve a digital medium. Analog tasks like reading books, drawing, and handwriting are essential to help the brain concentrate while producing better memory and higher levels of focus. This rings true for me. I love sitting in a quiet place, figuring out my day, writing notes, lists, and ideas with ink and paper.

Granted, Hyatt suggests using a hybrid approach to planning, which involves the Full Focus Planner in addition to iCal or Google calendar and apps like Nozbe.

Goals Are Highly Prioritized

One of the key features of the planner is the priority it places on creating and setting goals for the day, week, weekend, quarter, and year. For the week and day, you decide on your “big 3,” these are the things that must be done this week or day. These tasks are often derived from the goals and objectives spelled out in your monthly and quarterly tasks.

It makes sense to me. For the longest time, I floated through my day without aim, just handling tasks before they became emergencies. Meanwhile, I was ignoring my own professional and personal goals. There’s nothing wrong with having goals but they only become reality when you create a plan to reach them. According to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “a goal without a plan is only a wish.” So True.

Training Videos Included

One of the things I have appreciated is the additional video tutorials that Hyatt makes available for purchasers of the planner. There are 12 videos in all and they cover everything from best practices to creating daily rituals for morning and night. So much of what is included in the tutorial seems obvious but organized so that what seems obvious is now effective. It’s more than a Moleskine journal or notebook–it’s a system.

It’s High Quality

This planner looks amazing. It’s just the right size, with a beautifully bound cover, thick ivory-colored pages, and two smart book-mark ribbons that complement the package. It’s thicker than a traditional Moleskine but much smaller than a Franklin Planner or some type of binder-based planner that can be purchased at Office Depot or Target.

If there is a drawback to the system it’s that it only covers 3 months. That being said, a planner system like this would have to be about the size of an encyclopedia in order to last a whole year. It’s a little pricey, $37 each, but well worth it.

For those of you that are reading, I recommend you check it out.

How To Be A Better Listener: 3 Simple Tips

Every ministry leader needs to be a good listener. Unfortunately, listening is a lost art. This is especially true in an era where opinion and individualism are valued over practically everything else. Everyone wants to be heard, but it seems that few want to listen.
 
The challenge for ministry leaders and pastors is that we should be the listeners for our followers and flock. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to be a better listener, and while I still struggle from time to time I have learned a few simple methods to help be a better listener.

Stop Talking

I remember when I was about 20 I was having a conversation with an older gentleman about music outside after church. After 10 minutes of my non-stop talking, he finally said, “Will you please shut up? It’s not much of a conversation if you don’t let me talk too!”
 
That was a wake-up call for me. Suddenly I understood, it’s frustrating for the other person if you don’t let them speak.

So, when you’re listening to someone, stop talking. Completely. And if you do decide to speak, ask follow up questions that allow the other person to elaborate on what they are saying. Even better, paraphrase what the other person is saying back to them. This lets them know that you are listening and understanding their point of view.
 
Perhaps the Apostle James said it best, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” (James 1:19)

Body Language

The posture of a listener is also important. If you’re seated while listening, lean forward. This tells the other person that you are interested. Eye contact is critical too. Look at the person that is speaking to you, not past them. Also, be wary of body language that signals boredom or loss of interest. Don’t fidget with your hands, don’t look at your watch, and please, please do not look at your phone.
Good listening is about putting the needs of other people first. It’s really about humility. Allowing another person to take center stage in a conversation is challenging. The Apostle Paul writes about the model of humility in Philippians 2:3-4, “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” He says this is how Jesus acted toward others and we should too. Imagine what a good listener Jesus must’ve been!

Be Patient

This might be the hardest part of listening. Good listening takes time. The challenge for ministry leaders and pastors is that we feel like we don’t have a lot of time and so we aren’t always the best listeners.
 
Plenty of times I have sat with people who are sharing challenges and problems in their lives with me. Often, they don’t get to the point right away. In my head, I think, “get to the point so I can solve your problem quickly!” But helping them “solve” their problems is not why they’ve come to see me. Isn’t it God’s responsibility to solve problems anyway? They just want to be heard.
 
Eugene Peterson says, “Pastoral listening requires unhurried leisure, even if it’s for only five minutes. Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time. Only in that ambiance of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance.” (Read Eugene Peterson’s article at Christianity Today)
 
The brother of Jesus wrote, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Notice that he is not saying you’ll be forgiven (that comes from God), but healed. There is something very powerful that happens when we talk to each other about our problems, challenges, and sins.

Mevo: An Affordable Option for Streaming Worship

You’ve probably seen some of the mega-churches broadcasting their worship services and wished you could do the same. For years, I wondered if we would ever be able to afford the technology ourselves.

As a church of 200 or so, it didn’t seem possible until we stumbled onto Mevo, an out of the box option that makes it easy to broadcast just about anything.

Mevo Camera

How It Works

The Mevo camera is small–about the size of a baseball. It connects to your wifi signal and to your phone, which enables you to stream video to Facebook and Youtube (as well as other services).

If you want to take your production to the next level you can send the signal to LiveStream, Mevo’s software solution that allows you to create a professional production by integrating other cameras, graphics, and social media into the feed. The battery lasts about 1 hour and charges via USB. Additional add-ons are available that allow for 10 hours of battery life.

Automation Makes It Professional

The most amazing thing about Mevo is the automation that comes with the software. The camera is able to detect faces and make flawless transitions between people that are on stage. For example, if you have a 5 piece worship team on stage, the Mevo will figure out how many people are involved and cut back and forth between them, all the while including group shots throughout. It seems unbelievable but it looks really professional! See an example of this.

Mevo Is Affordable

The price is $399 at Amazon for the starter setup. Truthfully, this is all you need to go live. If you want to extend the battery life and add a few bells and whistles to your setup then you can grab the “Pro Bundle” which includes the power boost and a case.
Considering the cost of an average professional camera these days and anything less than $1,000 seems like a steal.

If you decide to stream your worship services live then check out Mevo. So far it’s been working great and we plan to unveil our streaming worship service in about a month. For the cost, I think it’s a no-brainer. Check on your internet connection, you’ll need at least 1.5Mpbs to broadcast in standard mode, and about twice that to broadcast in HD.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission from Amazon if you make a purchase using this link. This is at no extra cost to you.

When Communicating, Less Is More

When communicating, there’s an indisputable truth that exists in this world. It’s the notion that less is more. But for whatever reason, Americans are stuck on the idea that more is more.

This leads to all kinds of problems in life. Think about it, your doctor never said, “Well, Bill, I would be happier with your overall health if you added 30 pounds of needless weight.” In most situations, bigger is not better.

That’s one of the reasons that all ministry leaders should have William Strunk and E.B. White’s “Elements of Style” in their toolbox. Yes, it’s an old book, but it contains ageless truths about the lost art of communication. Listen to this,

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

In ministry, brevity is an important factor while communicating. Especially in an age where the attention span is dwindling at an alarming rate. While Strunk and White’s book generally applies to the craft of writing, you can also apply the concepts to speaking. So many times I have sat in a church service listening to a ministry leader verbally wander through an announcement, meditation, or sermon with no goal in sight. Here’s what the authors say about adding needless ideas to communication,

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.Click To Tweet

The book is loaded with helpful suggestions on what it means to make your communication concise and clear. It also contains lots of examples on proper usage of grammatical challenges in writing, for example, where to place apostrophes and commas.

Next year the book turns 100. Considering that it is listed as the #1 seller in all Amazon writing and publishing categories, one can see how the book has stood the test of time.

Grab it and drop it in your ministry toolbox today. It will help you to be a better communicator!

A Better Way To Communicate

Today’s Toolbox Tuesday brings me to one of my favorite ministry tools of all time: Slack. It’s a powerful too to help you communicate.

Slack shortens the communication chain within your organization, tying leaders and volunteers together with a beautiful interface on mobile or desktop platforms.Click To Tweet

The application allows you to create a private “intranet,” complete with discussion “channels.”

Example: Let’s say that I need to share some information about an upcoming Sunday programming change. I can share that information within the #sunday_programming channel. Once I do, only those who subscribe to that channel will be notified of the change. But, if I need to share something with everybody I can post in the #general channel, which allows everyone to see it.

communicate with Slack

Slack permits you to create as many channels as you like, and even to specify who has access. You may lock “private” channels so they are invitation only. This is good for conversations between staff members, your board of directors, or for sensitive topics.

You can share files, and upload videos or audio files. There are also tons of integrations with apps you may already be using like Google Drive, Diggbot, and Paypal.

The application is free as long as you don’t need some of the extra features like voice calling, screen sharing, or priority support.

We have been using the system for about 9 months and have about 25 people using the free version. It works like a charm.

The best way for you to understand how it works is to start using it. Download the Slack iOS app or the Google version or sign up at slack.com.

This is a no-brainer – check it out!

Need more toolbox suggestions? Check out my review of Calendly and Canva

If you want to read more about the founder and designer of Slack, I found this cool article.

Your Free Graphic Designer

Lots of big churches employ at least one person to produce quality, custom graphics for sermon series, events, flyers, and social media. But if you’re involved in ministry at a smaller level you may be frustrated by the mediocre graphics that often accompany your projects.

In the small church world, one is often forced to accept whatever volunteers are willing to produce (if you’re lucky) or concede to designing something yourself.

If this describes you then put Canva in your toolbox today. Canva makes even the least able designer capable of pro-level designs for just about anything. Using pre-designed examples (not necessarily just templates), Canva is a great solution and best of all it’s almost completely free.

Here are some of the types of graphics you can make with Canva

  • Social Media graphics for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
  • Slides for presentations or sermons
  • Certificates
  • Letterhead & business cards
  • Book covers
  • Album covers
  • Posters and brochures
  • Tons more, too many to list!

Here are some of the graphics that I’ve designed using the Canva.com platform. All are based on existing Canva templates. All I had to do was drag my photos into place and change the wording. Very minimal design was needed to produce these graphics and they were all free.

So give it a shot next time you need to create a graphic for something. I bet you’ll be amazed at the results.

Have Trouble Scheduling Appointments?

You can save at least an hour or more per week by scheduling your appointments through Calendly.com.

So, here’s a scenario that used to drive me crazy.

Someone emails or texts me saying, “Hey, can we get together this week to talk?”

I say: Sure, when?

They say: I can do Monday in the morning.

I say: Sorry, I have Mondays off, how about Tuesday?

They say: Lemme check [2 days later] No, Tuesday is a no go, Wed?

I say: OK, I usually have Wed except for this week, how about Thursday?

They say: Thursday morning is good.

Now, all we have to do is decide on a time! It’s endless.

At first, I dealt with this by hiring an assistant and that worked and still does. But it’s expensive. I still have an assistant, but I have started using Calendly.com, an application that allows people to schedule appointments on their own. It’s effortless and easy.

First, choose an appointment type (15min, 30min, 60min, etc.) and then apply each to a recurring schedule. Or, if you wish, create custom days and times.

Whenever someone wants to meet, they simply check your Calendly link (it also embeds into your website) for an opening. The app will show them the available days and time slots–then allow them to schedule it. You can specify any information that you need from them, such as meeting location, topic of discussion, etc.

Sample Screenshot

The amazing thing? The app interfaces with iCal or Google Calendar. So, when someone schedules an appointment Calendly spontaneously puts it into your calendar, notifies you by email, and sends them a reminder as well.

It’s brilliant!

So put this one in your toolbox, ministry leader. Save time and ease the hassle of scheduling appointments with Calendly.com.

(note, I’m not sponsored by them–I just love the application)

You can check out my Calendly here