Pursue Excellence: Develop Useful Templates

When you drive to work in the morning, do you always go the same way? Do you go the way that you know is the quickest, or takes you past the best coffee shop, or has the least traffic? Or do you change up your route each day? I always take the same route. In fact, over time it becomes so automatic that I find myself turn toward work when I’m driving those roads on my day off.

Taking the same route is like using templates in the office. Templates are the well-worn tracks that help work become more automatic and less stressful. Templates can be used in many different situations and for varying purposes.

Templates create efficiency:

As a leader, you are probably quite busy. You don’t want to have to re-learn how to do something every time you do it. When you find a good way of doing something, keep track of that method or format, and use that to create a template to follow. When you create a new document or work on a new project, pull out this template and follow the plan you have learned to trust. This saves you from trying to figure out how to put it all together.

In the same way that a familiar route to work ensures you get there on time, templates become familiar paths to work through quickly and save time.

Templates ensure uniformity:

In addition to ensuring you follow the same method, templates help you produce similar-looking documents. For example, I use templates when I am writing job descriptions. In this way it easy to compare one document to another. It also ensures that I include all the pertinent information in the order I want in the job description.

There are times when various team members may independently prepare documents for a shared project. Without a template you may end up with very different looking pieces making it difficult to combine efforts or compare results. A template helps everyone follow the same format. In this way, you can easily compare information across various documents because you know exactly where to look to find the information you need.

Templates provide consistent processes:

I use a template in my sermon preparation. Using a templated provides me with a format and process to follow. My sermons don’t always look the same, but the research and preparation process often does. I know what steps I have benefited from in the past and want to make sure I don’t forget them. For example, I like to ask myself certain questions as I work on the application of the sermon, such as: How does this sermon speak to a twelve-year-old boy?

In addition to sermon preparation, I use templates when working with planning teams for church events. I this way I make sure that we talk about costs, budgets, available resources, plans for prayer, and various other essential steps in planning.

Templates are also effective for more administrative work. For example, when working on Terms of Reference, a template can make sure you have the important details listed. For instance, I want to make sure that if people are working on an agreement for working together, I want there to be no question as to who has the final say. A template reminds me to include a statement about that.

Useful templates:

Pursuing excellence requires a plan and a template can get you there. As you begin to use templates you will adjust and refine them to become the most helpful tool they can be. If a template makes you do more work than you want, if it is not actually useful, then redo it or find a better one. You could start by finding a template someone else has used and adapting it to make it your own.

Templates and creativity:

I have found that adapting and implementing templates to my work has been incredibly helpful. While I would always advise using a template when possible, there are times when using a simplified template – more of a checklist – is a better option. If your goal is creativity, rigid templates may be a hinderance. As a pastor, I have created hundreds of Sunday morning worship services. I love to create each service in a unique way, meaning the different parts in the service can be moved around to accomplish the best result for each service. I joined one church that had exactly the same order of service every Sunday for the last seven years! In this instance, using a service template may restrict some creativity. Instead, a template that focuses on the planning process, or even using a checklist, provides guidance while allowing room for more freedom. As I mentioned earlier, I use a template for sermon preparation, but I have developed it to aid my creativity. While the final sermon is different each week, I use a template to guide each step of the process, which includes adding creative elements. On the other hand, a template makes each order of service exactly the same, but a checklist could be an effective way to ensure all the items to include are included, while still allowing you to be creative. (More on checklists: The Incredible Value of Checklists)

You have probably already figured out that I place a high value on creativity. At the same time, I want to be efficient in my work. Templates save time, and if used in the right circumstances still allow for creativity in the efficiency.

Templates can be very useful if you find ones that fit your situation. Use them well and save time.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

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