I love the idea of working on getting 1% better every day rather than the daunting task of “being the best at (this)” or “being better at (that) right now.” You fill in the blanks. When we take inventory of ourselves as a ministry leader, parent or Christian and decide that we need to be better at something, we end up feeling overwhelmed and maybe a little condemned. When I think about my own journey with Christ, I know I have a lot yet to learn and a lot more to know. I very much feel like an unweaned infant “unskilled in the word of righteousness,” as written in Hebrews 5:13.
Thankfully, our goal isn’t to be perfect or even the best. We know there was only one person who achieved perfection (that’s Jesus!), and even He tells us that regardless of our many flaws, we are loved and have already been forgiven! Our goal isn't perfection, but we can always work on trying to be a little bit better today than we were yesterday. Just 1% improvement at a time. I can handle that! Here are some of my top tips for gaining 1% every day.
1% Better at Time Management -
Create a list of things you need to finish today or tomorrow and set the list aside. (Working memory slows down progress.)
While your brain is trying to finish one task, it’s less able to focus on another. The more you switch back and forth between tasks, the slower you work. When we store a to-do list in our brains, we are trying to use our working memory to recall this list throughout the day. This can tax our progress and slow us down. It’s the same for our brains! Examples of working memory include recalling the earlier part of a sentence to understand a later part, holding a number in mind while doing a math problem, remembering where you saw an object, and keeping multiple concepts in mind in order to combine them. Think of a CPU processing multiple tasks at once. The system gets bogged down. This happens to people, too. Information overload slows productivity!
Instead, make a list of everything you need to do, then pick one and set aside the rest. Don’t look at the list again until the one task is completed. As things “pop up,” add them to the list rather than distracting your working memory so that you can fully focus on the task at hand. Leave your list alone until you are ready to move on to the next task. This way, you see it with fresh eyes.
Complete one task before lunch.
At the start of your day, get a clear idea of the one task that needs to be done before lunch. This is a great time to consult your to-do list. I also like to implement a little bit of Dave Ramsey’s “snowball effect” here. I know we aren’t knocking out debt by lunchtime, but I like to organize my to-do list from “quickest job” to “time-consuming tasks.” If I can knock out a few smaller tasks first, I feel more energized to tackle the tougher jobs. Just keep in mind that some projects are time-sensitive, too, so I make a note of high-priority jobs and get those out of the way first to allow some buffer time between projects.
Whatever project you select, you need to give it 100% focus until it is completely finished. Don’t multitask or flip between tasks while working on it. Try to avoid distraction and the “whirlwind” of calls or emails that might pull you in another direction. If possible, don’t check emails or text messages while trying to focus on your one project. Instead, set aside specific times at which you will respond to incoming communication—and then don’t do anything else until those intervals are over!
1% Better Leaders Leaders are readers.
Read one chapter today.
I’ve heard many times that “leaders are readers,” but that daunting to-do list says, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” It’s true that I don’t have time, but I have a stack of about a dozen books I either want to read or have to read for class. At any given time, I’m reading three to four books simultaneously. But rather than trying to knock out an entire book in a few days, I aim for at least one chapter in one book a day and balance between the books I have to read and the ones I really want to read. If you read one chapter in one book a day, you’ll be 1% better today than you were yesterday (and probably 10% better than the person who didn’t). A really easy way of squeezing in some reading time is by listening to your books on audible apps, especially if you have a long commute to work. Another easy tip is listening during a workout or while doing a few chores. When I was really pressed for time, I’d even listen to a book in short bursts while getting ready each morning. Again, the goal isn’t for perfection but 1% more than the day before!
If you need some suggestions on what to read, check out Tim’s 2022 Summer Reading List.
Listen to one podcast a day. (But I have two you REALLY should listen to!)
Just like choosing audible books to multitask my time, I also really enjoy listening to a few podcasts when I have some free time. Podcasts are free audio programs that can be downloaded from the internet or streamed from your phone and listened to during commutes or evening walks. They’re portable, entertaining, educational and sometimes even inspirational—and they’re a perfect way to kill time while learning something new. Tim recently shared his three favorite wellness podcasts that you can read about in his blog “The Church Needs a Wellness Revolution”. Here are two of my favorites.
American Reformation - with Tim Ahlman and Erik Fish
This podcast explores the theology and practices of the early church and other eras of discipleship multiplication and applies those learnings to our post-Christian/secular American culture. We believe the American church needs reformation. To go forward we must go back.
Lead Time - with Tim Ahlman and Jack Kalleberg
“Lead Time” taps into biblical wisdom for practical solutions to today’s burning issues. Each podcast confronts real-time struggles facing the local church in a post-Christian culture/society.
I am going to get 1% better today.
These are just a few tips to move you toward being 1% better today, but there are many other ways to do that as well. Ask yourself one simple question: What am I doing now that’s working really well? How can I do more of it? Getting 1% better every day doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment or a massive goal. You can start small and add or remove things as you go along. Maybe there is something you need to remove from your life, like being on social media one hour less today or drinking one fewer coffee, soda or alcoholic beverage. Or maybe it’s to add exercise to your day and start with just ten minutes a day. Add 5 minutes each week until you are at a place you are comfortable with. When that too gets comfortable, add 5 more minutes! A small change won’t feel like it takes much initial effort, and once you build a habit, it gets easier to extend that time more and more. And if you manage to do it every day for the rest of your life, you’ll see drastic changes over time!