Jack Bauer or Bust

While watching 24 on Monday night, my friend @gregglovins told me, “The only person that makes you look unproductive in a day is Jack Bauer.” I felt both endeared to him and slightly concerned as–knowing our beloved multitasking TV hero like I do–no one was meant to live at such a high intensity level all the time. Only for 6 days. Or 6 seasons, depending on how you look at it.

Even my mom just told me I’m “like Jack Bauer and Bruce Willis combined.” Does that mean I can get blown up in every confrontation I encounter and still walk away looking like a stud while saying no more than 15 sentences during the entire deal? Well, regardless of the comparisons, I’m notably flattered, but I’ve gotten my fare share of laughs out of them.

Sure, I’ve had plenty of people tell me I’m unhealthy. No, not with implying I’m actually Jack Bauer; with doing all that I do. And to a certain extent, I hear them, and I’m grateful for their interest. In its most benign form, it’s concern. And I recognize that. Noted. But I also take issue with it because–while they may not mean it outright–they are actually implying that I ignore my wife, am not submitted to Godly leadership, and don’t listen to close friends. None of which are true.

The fact is, my level of operation is not new. Ask my parents what I was like as a kid and they’ll say, “He had a new project every day.” Legos. Tree-forts. Duct taped cardboard box bases. Recording projects. The point is, it’s in my blood. I’ve been living like this for over twenty years. I’m a true creative. A producer in the most real sense. It’s how I’m wired.

One long-time pastor I admire recently told me, “I’m not going to pray you stop any one thing you’re doing, because if I did, I’d be asking God to change who you are. Rather, I’m going to pray for wisdom on how to manage your time.” I was so grateful for this statement. It did nothing to demean me or my desire to live life to its fullest, all the while empowering me to seek the Lord for more insight.

You may not be married, raising kids, writing books, mixing a new CD, pastoring teens, overseeing a discipleship school, traveling, editing video, and writing business plans, but your work is no less valuable, and equally demanding of quality time. The question is, how do you organize it? How do you manage?

Here are a few of my tools:

1.) Omnifocus. Created by the Omni Group, OmniFocus is one of numerous projects designed to streamline tasks, to do lists, and projects. It’s one piece of software I can not live without. Granted, it’s on the more expensive side (the desktop version being over $100, and its iPhone counterpart at $20), and needs a good understanding of Getting Things Done, but for the serious producer, it’s a must.

2.) iCal (Mac). It goes without saying that my iPhone is more than just a fun toy or status symbol. It’s how I live. No, no, don’t go fundamentalist on me. (Please people). Without having my iCal at my finger tips–synced with my iMac, iPhone, and my personal assistant’s and my wife’s PowerBooks and iMacs–there is no human way I could keep up with the sheer amount of appointments I have to cope with.

3.) Address Book (Mac). And likewise, every single person that calls me or emails me gets logged into my Address Book. Granted, people I expect to have one phone call or email exchange with don’t get logged. But if there’s a chance of repeat communication, they’re in. The reason for this is that people are my business. Their names, locations, business interests, family members, and histories are essential to maintaining a strong network (something I’ll discuss in another post).

What’s going on in your life? And how do you manage your to-do lists, appointments, and projects? ch:

  • Leah Stockholm

    Wow Christopher! I really admire what you do, and I know the lord is pleased. I am just recently starting to get into the busy zone. Between planning and working with youth,school, work, life and so on my days are never ending but the lord is faithful and he keeps me steadfast in my calling. Your tips are very helpful, because I struggle with organizing and managing my time. I am learning to take notes and use my calender a lot more effectively. Scheduling time to do everything is not always easy but it can be doable. Thank you for everything you do πŸ™‚

    ~Leah

    • Leah: you’re very welcome. You know, I’ve come to realize that managing our time is actually just as much of a professional skill as is writing computer code or working on engines. It needs to be perfected over time. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time. Keep going, and understand it takes years to learn how to negotiate. Thanks for commenting.

  • I’ve missed two appointments in the past month because I misplaced my datebook. This horrified me because I’ve always been so good about getting places on time. It was a wakeup call, to say in the least! I’ve never been one to use iCal, but I think I’m going to give it a shot. I need a way to keep all of my dates better organized. I’ll give you a quick run down of why:

    1) I have a tendency to work on too many projects at once without setting goals/deadlines. This results in many projects ending up only half finished. I’m getting better at it now, but still need to find a way to keep everything organized. When I set a date that says I need to have something finished by a certain time, I’m more apt to complete the project.

    2) I’m expecting to start a new full time job before long. (Did I tell you the Times offered me a position? It’s not yet official, but quite likely to happen.) πŸ™‚ With everything I already do, it’s crucial I have a game plan for my side businesses so they can continue to grow while I gain some great experience at this new position.

    3) My new Horse Family site launches May 1st. I’ll be rolling out weekly contests…planning ahead with a set schedule will be the best way I can make that work successfully and keep my community actively involved. I’ve already lined up contests through June…I’m really excited about that!

    4) I need to read more and get myself deeper into God’s word. I often find myself thinking “I’ve got to finish that other project!” and cut my reading time short because I feel so rushed. But if I have better time management with the things mentioned above, I’ll be confident that I can and WILL make time because I’ve strived for excellence in all areas of my life. Your message this past Wednesday night revealed to me that sometimes I am unable to withstand the enemy’s attacks on my life because I’m not spending enough time equipping myself with the armor of God, and those attacks knock me right off my feet.

    All of that said, I’m going to put dates into my iCal app tonight and give it a test run to see how well it works for me. The cool thing about iCal is that not only will it sync with both my MacBook and iPhone, I have a shiny new iPad coming at the end of the month that I could also use it with. πŸ™‚

    • Mandee: let me know how you like iCal. It’s very simple, and I know there are better calendar apps out there, but it’s so convenient and easy to use, I still love it. Once you get some cash, OmniFocus might be worth an investment for you, too. It lets you set project deadlines, reminders, and create paths of multiple to-do’s for projects.

      PS :: super jealous of your iPad.

  • You amaze me with how much you do. Tis true, you are no Jack Bauer, but I would prefer you to him!

  • I too have many irons in the fire. I’ve tries to do list and it help but at times it confines me (or convicts me). The 2 main things I use as a filter is “What do I ascribe higher value to?” and “What has Spirit life in it?” There are times I value editing over cleaning. Or family over a sports event. I also am quick to recognize when there just isn’t life in a activity. I may revisit it and see if it was just a timing issue or if I just need to lest it fall off my radar. And yes. My iPhone is on my hip helping all along the way.

  • Scott: thanks so much for chiming in. I love your “higher value” PH test. That’s a wonderful way of organizing priorities, and I think it’s a great tool for the tool belt.

    I also love the spirit of your “What has Spirit life in it?” filter, but may I ask, what do you do when a project needs to be done but is super difficult and does not have any life for you in it? Unless you never have those, I find the older I get, the more of those I have. And it’s usually God working on the condition of my heart. They’re the “things I don’t want to do, and are super hard to do, but I know I have to do” items.

    • @CH-
      Sorry for the delayed response. “I also love the spirit of your β€œWhat has Spirit life in it?” filter, but may I ask, what do you do when a project needs to be done but is super difficult and does not have any life for you in it?”- A few things. I believe we are created as spirit beings and can bring the Spirit into a thing. (Like mowing or a job..) Yahweh God can talk to us through all things. Like you mentioned we have to just dive in and get it done all the while allowing God to teach or minister to us in whatever way He needs to. I also know that we are continually led by the Spirit and those who are Spirit led are like the wind.. So not to sound flaky but we are created to be very organic and dynamic. Typically it may just mean I need to revisit a project at another time. I look at my schedule and tools like my iPhone to provide a framework for me to operate within and sometimes outside of. I am not loosey-goosey. Ask anyone who knows me. I am a scheduler. But I don’t let that dictate to me. I, by Holy Spirit, have to schedule my time my time.
      “…what do you do when a project needs to be done but is super difficult and does not have any life for you in it? Unless you never have those, I find the older I get, the more of those I have. And it’s usually God working on the condition of my heart.” – I do have several of those. I just have to dive in at the right time. And from what you said concerning it usually being God working on you I would say it definitely has Spirit life it it! Be blessed in all you do! Don’t slow down OR speed up. Just match Yahweh God’s pace and you’ll be fine. P.S.- Sorry for the previous and current horrible iPhone triple thumb spelling and grammar. πŸ™‚

  • Great post CH! I’ve admired your “creative” drive from a far over the many years, but you neglected to mention a key factor of your success…. a very supportive family! Without that where would you be? Remember that quote, “behind every successful man is a woman!”? πŸ™‚

    For me, I need to focus on finishing what I started, like Mandee said, and managing priorities.

    Managing priorities will produce the results that really matter.

    Regarding tools; I’m a PC (but a Mac wannabe), so I’ve taken advantage of a lot of free Google tools, such as, Google Calendar (sync with ical or share with others), Google Docs (collaborating), and Thunderbird email has to-do lists and you can set priorities to emails.

    Keep keeping on, brother!

    love your guts!

  • Thanks Nathan. You know I love your guts, too. You’re lifelong support is so encouraging.

    I know you’re a Mac-wanna-be, and that will come, but Google makes so many great apps, and you’re definitely on the right track. I know lots of Mac guys that actually use Google more than they use the proprietary Apple apps.

  • jamie rutigliano

    that you say and do ! Thank you,Gods favor and Blessings on you and yours ,love ya

  • jamie rutigliano

    Hmmmm.. looks like the first part of my sentance got lost in space ! lol…just wanted you to know that you are a true example to us …you have always had the purpose of your life from your youth and you have attacked it with integrity ..and His love in you ..this combo along with the desire to do it to the best of your ability with the best of technology out there makes you a person to be admired, for there is no mistaking that you live your life with the passion to answer His call !!! faithfully! you rock !

    • Wow Jamie…I’m deeply humbled by your words. Thank you endlessly. My best (lower case) for His Best (upper case)…that’s not a cost effective exchange, but I’m honored he’d take me up on it.

  • Billy.J

    Wow. No one person I will ever meet can truly compare and relate to how much you do. I know I can’t. There are times when I think my life is busy, but yours is crazy. And yet, its who you are. And I greatly appreciate the time you put aside to tutor me each week, and be my friend and brother in Christ. Your family is blessed to have you. Hope everything works out with your upcoming album, can’t wait to hear it. Thank you so much for you friendship, you always ave my prayer that you manage everything. Much love bro,

    Billy. J

  • (speaking to myself) “I’m busy because I’m lazy” – Eugene Peterson

    Wow, that hurts.

  • Hannah Hayner

    Great post! After knowing you for years now and seeing how busy you are, yet also how productive and successful you are, it’s really interesting to hear your thoughts on the whole thing. πŸ™‚ I happen to be a fan of Jack Bauer and of you, so the comparison works for me haha. Although, he kills people in the physical realm, and you kill demons and addictions, etc. in the spiritual realm and help bring life in the physical and spiritual realm! So, I think that makes me a fan of you more. πŸ™‚ Keep up the good work with all your projects, spending time with your wife and kids, and loving God with all your heart, soul, strength and might!

    • Thanks Hanny. I’m amazed I’m even on your fan list at all. πŸ˜‰

  • Ron Porter

    Hey, great post Christopher…and awesome responses too!! I’ll definitely have to check out iCal! I use a lot of the Google Apps, particularly Google Calendar, I also have a couple different goal setting/habit tracking apps on my iPhone to help me keep track of daily and weekly goals. Keep living life bro, sleep is highly overrated!! πŸ˜‰ can’t wait to see you next weekend in CT!!

  • John Brennnan

    Great post man. I kind of know a bit of what you mean because we are forced to do so much in this program, but really i would not want it any other way. it is hard but very good to be productive. i am doing my portfolio stuff now but I wanted to say hi Bro. Hey you might want to check this guy out in all of your FREE time. I just saw him live a week or so ago, and it was really incredible. Such an amazing performance. he Has such a nice control over his dynamics. Well i really like him so I thought you might to.

    Cya in a couple weeks man! we will do you office soon! i’ll keep you posted

    -John

    • Love that guy, John! WOW! Thanks for passing it on.

      Yes, I thrive on the pressure. It pushes me to be a better husband, father, creator, and son of the King.

      Can’t wait to have you back around for the summer. You’re missed and loved.

  • Hey CH, Good word my friend. I can understand in the development of all that happens how life can get frantically busy and it is about having the right people around you and the right tools to get the jobs and situations done. Working in a coffeehouse, developing a new ministry (which God is doing awesome works in), working on a church plant with my friend Shane and developing that youth ministry, being daddy, husband, it takes its toll if not done with management.

    Glad that the creative side is allowed to thrive. Creativity in the Lord and the dreams He has for us should be allowed to grow and blossom. Keep rooting yourself deep in the things that encourage you to accomplish all the dreams that He has for you in this life for the sake of what is to come in the next.

    With Love, Jay

    • Thanks Jay! Love running this race with you; appreciate the mutual encouragement. You rock bro!