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5 Keys to Productivity with Dan Herron

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Dan Herron is the former pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church, a gospel-centered church community for Bloomington, Indiana, and Indiana University.

Dan Herron was turned to Jesus in 1997 while an undergrad at Illinois State University. In 2000, he graduated and married his wife, Erica, who he had been dating since high school. They moved to St. Louis where Dan taught high school history to at-risk youth, while Erica completed her Master’s degree in Physical Therapy.

After a move in 2011, Dan Herron helped to start Hope Presbyterian Church.

He says, “My identity has these themes of personal character threaded throughout grit, steadfast endurance in the face of great obstacles, awareness of my weaknesses and mistakes, and movement forward to an expansive and successful leadership vision.”
Currently, Dan Herron is focused on his work at VisionQuest Labs in Indianapolis, Indiana, a state-of-the-art health, fitness, and performance testing lab, and indoor cycling training center.

Dan Herron recently shared some insights into how he makes his days productive, sharing five keys to productivity.

How do you make your days productive?

There are a number of things that I’ve learned to do.

1. Sleep

This is key. I once read a Tom Clancy novel where one of the characters said, “Sleep is a weapon.” I believe he meant that sleep is vital in order to help a person think and function at the highest levels. There have been times when I push into the night in order to complete a project, but I generally try to get a solid seven hours of sleep a night.

2. Structure

I’ve learned to calendar everything, and I’ve fallen in love with lists. I consider scheduling and creating lists as a way to put ideas, concerns, and plans onto paper. Without this, I would constantly be running through it all in my head.

I direct myself to think long-term first so that I can see as complete of a picture as possible of my desired outcome. From anchoring myself into this larger vision, I can then work backward to see my present, short-term situation through the lens of the future. This helps me to identify necessary resources and allows me to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Plus, it gives me a perspective where I can view my present challenges reasonably so I will not be controlled by them. After considering short-term next steps, I can then work toward developing clarity on the intermediate path.

Having structure like this allows me to move forward with a plan, helps me to communicate this to others, and allows me to adapt and flex that plan when necessary.

3. Coursing and Scrumming

I approach tasks with a combination of “coursing” and “scrumming.” By “coursing” I’m referring to a brick layer’s practice of laying “courses” of brick as a wall is built. One course of brick will begin getting mortared in, and before that full course is laid, the mason will begin with another course. As that course gets laid, the masonry team will begin laying another course. This is all done in a staggered way so that the course below supports the course beneath, and multiple courses of brick get laid over time.

However, this pattern of work is not optimal for every task. Sometimes I’m required to focus my attention on accomplishing one key thing in a short period of time. Here is when I rely on “scrumming.” This comes from a book called “Scrum” by Jeff Sutherland. The idea is that instead of seeking to cascade or course various tributaries of work together over a longer period of time, an ideal way to approach work is to gather around in a focused effort for short bursts of time.

By identifying what certain tasks require, I’m able to move back and forth between these two approaches to work.

4. Surroundings

I have found that I am most productive when I am near natural light. I cannot focus, nor can I enjoy my work when I am closed in and shut off from the world around me. Seeing the sky, plants, buildings, and the occasional person helps me to feel good, full, and connected.

While we cannot solely rely on our feelings in order to function in this world, it is important that we understand that we are a psycho-somatic unity, and so tending to our affective domain through our everyday lives is a vital aspect of remaining healthy and productive with the time that we have.

Sunlight is an important aspect of my surroundings, but I also am most productive when I’m able to create a space where I can focus without interruption. I need long segments of quiet time in order to work well. When I say “quiet” I do not mean “silence” as I think there is a subtle difference between the two. To me, “silence” refers to the sort of absolute stillness one might experience when alone in a closed room with no windows. There is no sound, nothing ambient, no hint of sound from the breeze or the bugs. This is what I call “inside quiet” and it feels closed, lonely, and disconnected. This is different from “quiet.” When I think of this quality, I imagine I’m inside my home. The ceilings are high – 9’ or more and the space is wide open and large. I’m sitting on the couch in front of a tall bay of windows that are open. The sun is pouring in, but so is the breeze on a 75-degree day. The sounds of the wind through the tree branches, bugs in the rose bushes, and a distant church bell enter into this space. My dogs are asleep nearby and they make an occasional grunt. There is no one talking, and no sounds of cars or machinery. It is quiet, but it is not silent. This is the perfect space for work.

5. Contentment

When I say “contentment” I mean a quality of being that does not shift nor is buffeted about by the waves and storms of circumstance. This does not mean that the content person is like a guru who stays detached from others and separates himself from the pleasures and pains of life in order to not be affected by circumstances.

“Contentment” involves a non-anxious peace and gratitude for life that is intrinsically hopeful while in the midst of the pleasures and pains of life. This is not an escapist philosophy, but a worldview that allows one to be fully present in the reality of life, and all of the beauty and brokenness that comes with it.

Now, “hopeful” does not mean “utopian” or anything like “wish fulfillment.” Rather, the sort of “hopeful” I’m talking about refers to an assurance that extends beyond the strengths and weaknesses of the self, and anchors on to the strength and faithfulness of God. So, in this way, one could view “contentment” kind of like a buoy in the midst of the sea. It will not sink. It is affected by the rising and falling of the waters, yet it remains steadfast because it is anchored to the seafloor which is much larger than the buoy, and far more stable than the sea itself.

So the way that this helps me to be productive, is that I am reminded that the key to life is not me, my efforts, successes, or failures. All of these things do matter, but my ultimate identity and assurance are anchored to God. This gives me great freedom, courage, and joy to work, play, and rest whole-heartedly.

It’s this that has seemed to lead to healthy productivity for me.

 

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