Friday, August 29, 2008

Working Smarter Not Harder

One of my mission president's favorite things he liked to tell us was to work smarter not harder. He told us that we wasted a lot of time on nonessential things. That we needed to get the members to give us referrals since tracting wasn't as efficient and effective in terms of convert baptisms.

He continually told us to use our time more wisely that we needed to keep tract of converts more effectively by using our convert checklist. They had developed the early forerunner to the convert form that is now used throughout the world. In a few of my areas we actually had notebooks with tracting records and notes about the person living there. I read a few where they told how unresponsive the person contacted was. I usually disregarded them since I had a different personality from the other elders who made the initial assessment. In fact those were the very people I thought we should follow-up on. Most of my companions disagreed but I felt in these cases since they had such a strong opinion that we shouldn't return that they would want to engage us in conversation.

My mission president discouraged us from working too long with those who weren't progressing since we were there to find the "elect." It took me a while to get over my backward thinking as exhibited above. I learned from Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith that not only are we sent to gather in the elect but we are sent out to warn the nations. Since my mission president was opposed to contending it was better to keep moving along. We found a lot of receptive people by just following the spirit.

I think if a person has progressed in the past that sometimes it is good to come back to them from time to time to see how they are doing. One of my favorite things to do was to get referrals from them. President Ballard taught us that many times they would refer you to a friend just to get rid of you. So I scrupulously employed this method of referral. I would ask you were interested in the gospel do you have any friends you think might be interested. I improved on the method by asking them to write on a slip a paper the name of the friend. I would then show the slip of paper to the friend and say "Hi, Jeff Jones sent us to see you. I would say you do know Jeff Jones?" They would usually respond Yeah. I would say could we come in and speak to you briefly. Most let us in. A few times we got results.

When I was a ward mission and missionaries would say they didn't have enough referrals. I would say come with me elder. I would take them to a less active family I might be home teaching. I would say Sister Smith do you know any friends or relatives that might be interested in hearing from the missionaries. She would give the name of three or four people. I would say could you write a small note saying I am sending the missionaries to talk to you. Usually she would write a couple lines saying that exact thing. The missionaries would later tell me these were some of their best contacts. I learned it all from M. Russell Ballard on how to work smarter not harder.

Other than this aspect I never could figure out just what he meant. We worked sixty-five hours a week. Some of the things he had us do were to go to grocery stores and offer to take out people's groceries. We had a yellow button with a black question mark we wore. If people saw it and asked us what it meant we would say, What do you know about the Mormon Church and would you like to know more? We only got limited success from the button.

We did enjoy hearing about how Elder Franklin D. Richards would go all over and ask people the questions. I wish we had served in areas with more buses since a bus or subway is a great place for those to work. You need a large mass of people. We were also encouraged to give a few hours a week in service.

When I was a library director I would encourage the missionaries to come shelve books. I would tell them you can't actively proselyte but I will let you wear your name tag. A lot of times later when they were contacting a person would say I remember you from the library and let them in. Sometimes little things can return good results. Sometimes we are too impatient to realize we need to try a lot of different approaches.

I think M. Russell Ballard needs to do a talk called working smarter not harder so he can more fully expand what he means. I never fully understood what he meant when I served under him. Most business types are always referring to time management when they use this term. I think he knew from his experience what he meant but I was a little inexperienced at the time to fully understand.

When a person says you should work smarter not harder they usually mean we not waste time. We should keep phone calls or emails short and to the point. That we maximize our time such as staying on task. Missionaries should keep their dinner appointments to the one hour allotted. They should go out on time and go home on time. Their white handbooks outline their activities for the day. Just doing the work doesn't always produce results. Missionaries in order to think smarter need to think outside the box. They should try a few creative approaches. I guess that is why you need the spirit in missionary work. The spirit is the wild card in working smarter.

The biggest thing I came away from Elder Ballard saying this to me was to stay focused on missionary work. When you are young you tend to have attention deficit problems it is hard to sustain your effort because missionary work is hard repetitive work. You are like a mail person whether rain or snow or sleet nor ice you are out there on the streets teaching the gospel.

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