What I'm Learning from Strategic Coach

Strategic Coach is a company that has headquarters in Liberty Village, Toronto, and offices in Chicago and the United Kingdom. I first heard of this company through an entrepeneur, and then again when we began to plant a church in Liberty Village.


I’m not the kind of client that they’re looking for. Strategic Coach is designed for high-income entrepreneurs; I’m a church planter. That hasn’t stopped me from ransacking their store to see what resources they have that could benefit me. I’ve learned that they have lots to teach me. I have to filter some of it, but I’m still learning lots.

Here are the top three things I’ve been learning from Strategic Coach:

Learn and focus on what you do best. I’m good at some things, moderately good at some things, and lousy at others. Strategic Coach teaches that our best contribution comes from the essence of who you are and what you’re about, combining your talents, passion, and skills. It’s similar to what Howard Hendricks said:

There are many things in life you “can do” for God. And the more success you have, the more opportunities will come. (You will know more people, you will have more resources, etc.) But most opportunities are distractions in disguise. Therefore find the one thing you “must do” for God.

Strategic Coach offers a book called Unique Ability that I’ve found really helpful in wrestling with and applying this concept. It’s already paying off.

The right question is powerful. Strategic Coach teaches a question (they call it the R-Factor question) that you can use:

If we were meeting three years from today, what has to have happened during that period, both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy about your progress?

Simple, I know, but potentially profound. They also teach a follow-up question to do with dangers, opportunities, and strengths. I’ve found this question really helpful personally and in ministry. It has a way of clarifying one’s thinking and focusing on the future. Their short book, The Dan Sullivan Question, is perhaps not the best named book out there, but it does a good job of explaining how and why to use this question.

Use some days for your most important work, some days free from work, and some days to prepare. Strategic Coach teaches a pretty radical system when it comes to time. They teach that we should divide our time into three different kinds of days:

  • Free Days for rejuvenation (150 a year, including weekly days off, vacation, and other holidays)
  • Focus Days that are free from non-productive tasks so that you can do your most important work (135 days a year)
  • Buffer Days to do the preparation work necessary for you to take Free Days and Focus Days (80 days per year)

They teach that one’s productivity increases dramatically using this system.

150 Free Days sounds pretty radical to me, but taking 4 weeks vacation (28 days) plus stat holidays (12) and a weekly Sabbath (52 days less the 4 already counted under vacation) already brings you to 92. Add another weekend day and you’re almost there.

As I adapt this system, I’m learning the value of taking some days off completely, and taking other days to focus on my most important work. Their book, The Time Breakthrough, explains more about this system.

There’s tons more, but this is a start:

  • Learn what your best contribution is, and focus your efforts there.
  • Ask good questions that get to the heart of what you’re trying to do.
  • Spend some days on your most important work, and some days completely free from work, and some days preparing so that you can do this.

Check them out at StrategicCoach.com.

Two Tech Tools

I'm always on the lookout for tools that make life easier or more productive. Here are two. I found one recently, and the other one I've been using for a while now.



I can relate to what this New York Times writer says about email:

This month alone, I received more than 6,000 e-mails. That doesn’t include spam, notifications or daily deals, either. With all those messages, I have no desire to respond to even a fraction of them. I can just picture my tombstone: Here lies Nick Bilton, who responded to thousands of e-mails a month. May he rest in peace.

Email drives me crazy. Rules and filters help, but it's hard to keep up. I recently came across Sanebox, which does a lot of the work for you:

SaneBox filters your Inbox. We separate emails that you must deal with right away from ones that can wait at least a couple of hours. And we do it automatically with no fuss and bother. All you have to do is click twice and eventually pay us some money.

So far so good. It's like having somebody separate all the flyers and junk mail from the stuff that actually matters. They give you a free trial, so you may want to check it out. I don't get any affiliate fees; it's just because I think it's a helpful service.


IFTTT stands for "If This, Then That."


You can set a trigger (the "if this" part) based on almost anything on the internet: the weather, a Google Reader post, something on Twitter or Facebook. This will cause a certain action to be taken. If you don't know where to start, you can simply use recipes that other people have created. For instance:

  • When Facebook profile picture changes, update Twitter profile picture.
  • Thank people in Twitter when they mention you or RT
  • Text you the weather every morning
  • Send starred items in Google Reader to Evernote

The possibilities are almost endless. It's a great free service, and you can't lose giving this one a try.

Action Method Online

I've been looking for a good task manager lately. It's been surprisingly hard. You wouldn't think that it would be hard to find something that's beautiful, works well in a team context, and is simple and powerful, but I haven't found a lot out there. I've tried Mac apps, IOS apps, online apps, and even pen and paper, but I have never found the solution that I'm looking for — until now.

They've just unveiled a new version of Action Method Online, and I'm loving it. The Action Method is outlined in the book Making Ideas Happen, and also online. I started using this last month, and I love it.


Here's what I like:

  • It's visual. I love that it uses colors and gives you more than a list so that you can really visualize what you have to do.
  • It's intuitive. It doesn't take a lot to figure out how to use it. I was going in no time at all.
  • It works well in a team. I like that I can delegate tasks easily and keep track of what's going on.
  • It helps me focus. It allows you to choose five tasks and put them in a Focus Area. That's a great idea for setting the top things you want to accomplish that day.

I'm loving it. You may want to check it out too. This article will give you the rundown on how and why it works.

Tip: Check Out Shoeboxed

Yesterday I blogged about prayer and the sovereignty of God. Today I come crashing down to earth. This is about as mundane as it gets, but I think it may be helpful.

I hate expense reports. My wife has bailed me out by finding an online service that does most of the dirty work. I wish I had found it long ago.

This is going to come across like a sales pitch, which is why I'm not using their affiliate link. I get nothing for recommending them. I just want you to know about it in case you find helpful. It could save you a lot of time and hassle.

Here's how it works:

  • Mail Shoeboxed an envelope of receipts. Or, snap a copy of the receipt with your phone, or scan the receipts and submit them on your computer. You can forward them email receipts as they come in as well.
  • They OCR and then verify the details of your receipt and create an online, searchable archive. You can export them to Excel or to all kinds of other services like Evernote, Freshbooks, and more.
  • You can even set up rules so that it categorizes your expenses for you.


I had a big brown envelope sitting beside my desk. I finally got around to uploading them to Shoeboxed the other day. I'm pretty cynical, and I didn't expect much. I was surprised how well it worked. I'm finding that I can snap receipts as I go and have them filed and categorized without having to do a thing.

There is a charge, but it's minimal. I'm on the cheapest plan, and it's enough for me. They offer a free trial if you want to kick the tires.

It looks like a great service. It may help you spend time on things that matter a little more than expense reports.

Make It Harder to Access Porn

I remember someone asking Haddon Robinson about issues that pastors need to address. He thought for a minute before replying that pornography is a big issue in our churches. Many men - and women too - are struggling with this issue, and we ignore it to our peril.

There are lots of ways to address the porn issue. But one step that I'd encourage everyone to take is to make it harder to access on your computer, tablets, and phones.


Last year I installed OpenDNS on my home network. It was relatively easy, and I really like its parental controls:

OpenDNS is the only Internet parental controls solution that empowers parents to manage Web access across every device that accesses the Internet on your home network. This includes phones and computers that your kids' friends bring into the house, giving parents peace-of-mind that their kids are protected regardless of how they're accessing the Internet.

There are lots of good services out there, but I haven't found anything that works better than this one.

I've also installed X3Watch on my devices, including my iPhone.

We face unparalleled access to inappropriate material. I highly recommend OpenDNS and X3Watch as options to make your online access a little safer.