Be More Effective by Simplifying

I've recently been thinking through two different topics - ultralight backpacking and simplifying what we do in our church callings. This morning I realized that the two are actually very related.

In ultralight backpacking the idea is that the less your pack weighs, the more enjoyable your trip will be. You'll be able to hike further and enjoy the trip much more than someone with a heavier weight pack.

This may seem redundant, but in order to be a successful ultralight backpacker, you first need to figure out how to have an ultralight pack. This involves a few critical steps:

  1. Determine what functionality you need to have on your trip. Not "stuff" but what you need to accomplish. Be realistic. 
  2. Look at the "stuff" you have. Figure out how they "stuff" maps to the functions. 
  3. Weigh each item. Get into the details.
  4. Determine how to accomplish your functionality with the least amount of "stuff". 
  5. Start a process of improving your "stuff" so that you can slowly have less weight but still accomplish all of your functionality.

For example, one functionality might be "heat water for meals." To fill this need this you would look at the stove options you have. You need something to heat water, but it really doesn't need to do more than that. If you don't have a good option handy, you could consider making a small fire if you'll be in an area with a fire pit. If not, you might want to look at options for purchasing or making a backpacking stove. With a little bit of effort  you can find a $10 backpacking stove at Walmart. With a little more effort you could learn how to build your own cat can stove for roughly $1. Both are effective for the functionality but the cat can stove weighs less and is cheaper to boot. So, to simplify and have less weight you would want to spend the time and effort to learn how to make the cat can stove. Once you have it you can use it as often as you go backpacking. It will be efficient and effective, and weigh significantly less than many other options.

You can follow this same process with all the other functionalities you identify - "hold water for boiling", "keep food hot while rehydrating," "pack out garbage and leftovers," "sleep comfortably," "stay warm while sleeping," etc. 

The nice thing about this process is that it has a snowball effect. Smaller, lightweight items don't take as much space to pack, so you can have a smaller pack. Smaller pack with less weight usually means you don't need as big and heavy of shoes. Making one item smaller and more lightweight significantly impacts the overall weight of your backpack because of the snowball effect. I

What is important here is that the PROCESS of identifying functionality and then finding simpler, lightweight ways to meet that functionality is what drives your pack weight down and ultimately makes backpacking more fun. This process is what enables ultralight backpacking and the benefits that come from ultralight backpacking.

The process of simplifying what we do as leaders is the same conceptual process. We want to accomplish our goals and duties as leaders, but do so in a manner that requires less effort and produces more results. The process above maps to a process to simplify what we do.
  1. Determine duties and functionalities we need to have. Not activities and things we do, but what functionality do we need to have. Be realistic. Look at manuals to make sure you are learning your duty.
  2. Look at the "stuff" you do to accomplish your functionality. Map the "stuff" you do to functionality you need.
  3. Weigh each activity. How well does it actually accomplish the desired functionality? Are there functions that are missing? Do you have a balance of focused activities, or are they heavy on one aspect?
  4. Determine how to accomplish all of the desired functionality with the least amount of "stuff" you do.
  5. Start a process of improving the "stuff" you do so that you can slowly have more focused activities that accomplish the desired goals with less effort involved.
For example, one of the duties of a Young Men's leader is to help the quorum presidents plan their activities. The Scoutmaster also needs to help the patrol leadership plan their activities. When I was a Scoutmaster and Young Men's leader I would help the young men come up with their annual plan. When I was new, we would sit down and brainstorm out ideas for what we wanted to do. We would have to think of all the different activities we would need to plan, come up with the big themes for each month, and work around schedules to figure out what we wanted to do. It would take us hours. I would plan a nice lunch together and get snacks and everything. 

Later, after I took training on how to conduct an annual planning session and I spent some time talking to other folks and investigating resources I could use, I discovered there are much quicker ways to make planning happen. We would use a template that listed out the different types of meetings. All we had to do was to pick a day of the month to hold the meeting. We would take a list of a few dozen fun themes/activities that already had the meetings and activities planned out and picked from those. The young men would pick their top 4 or 5 and then pool the list together, pick the top ones, and put them in the template. All together it would take 20-30 minutes. Since it was so short, we could accomplish it as part of another meeting and reduce a meeting. 

Again, these reductions have a snowball effect. We have one meeting less, but now we can also make all of our other meetings more effective. The plans for the future meetings are mostly in place and just need a little refinement to apply them to our Troop and quorum. Future planning is greatly reduced, allowing the young men's quorum presidency to focus more on the young men and their spiritual development and less on the details of the activities. Effectively applying ultralight backpacking processes to our leadership roles will amplify our effectiveness and multiply our reach.


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