Michel Bell developed the P-Squares Decision Process (P-Squares) as a systematic approach to examining options and a necessary precursor to decision-making. Michel's premise was this: people fret about doing tasks and end up doing a poor job because worrying detracts from giving their best. Mostly, the P-Squares reminds us that we have a fixed available time (24-hours daily) in which we should do our best and accept and learn from the outcome. Essentially, identify the controllables in each situation and focus there.
P-Squares is a critical time management, more specifically, personal effectiveness tool stressing specific parameters, priorities, principles, and the process necessary to evaluate aspects of decisions before committing.
The P-Squares Decision Process' prime purpose is to facilitate effective execution of decisions. Specifically, P-Squares helps you focus on the important instead of the urgent to reduce daily stress and to let Jesus shine as you implement decisions. Further, P-Squares enables you to apply biblical principles to do each project at home, work or elsewhere, and so you will approach each with a positive attitude.
Before starting a project or a job, decide to use biblical principles, and God's priorities, to achieve its goals with available resources. You will gain confidence to carry it out. P-Squares helps you see the need to count the cost and consider the full implications of each project before commencing. Thus you will rarely over-commit to tasks. As well, you will mitigate or eliminate likely negative effects when you undertake each new activity with this attitude.
Develop the attitude to apply P-Squares before committing to decisions. Until you become comfortable with the process, note on a piece of paper, answers to relevant questions for each P-Squares' quadrant.
Here is a glimpse of Parameters, the first P-Squares' quadrant. Before you commit to decisions, reflect on these four critical factors below, and three other P-Squares' quadrants, Priorities, Principles, and the Process:
- Success (Philippians 3:7-10): The first step is knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior and choosing to depend on Him to guide you through preparation and doing the task.
- Work (Colossians 3:23-24): Do your best and accept and learn from the results; there is no need to fret—you can't do better than your best.
- Time (Ecclesiastics 3:1-8): Each of us has 24 hours daily—don't complain about insufficient time, accept available time.
- Today (Psalm 119:60): Accept today as it is, not as you would like it to be—Don't procrastinate; seek assistance if you need help, but understand that procrastination won't help your task.
Before you agree to the task, accept these parameters. Accordingly, once you are prepared to do your best, you will know in advance that you will be successful. When I teach my courses, I explain these parameters to my students and tell them I know the course will be successful, because I am committed to teaching each student to the best of my ability. At the end of the semester when I get students' assessments of the course, I study them diligently, and as needed adjust for the next course. I can't do better than my best in preparation and execution. That's why I do not worry about the outcome, but concentrate on doing my best, confident God will guide you.
This approach shows success as input-driven, not as an output. And so, you start a job knowing you will succeed because you will lean on God and do your best. Then, after each assignment, you review the results critically to see how you could have improved. Finally, you will take this learning to the next job and repeat the cycle. I repeat, this is an excellent effectiveness enhancing and stress relieving tool.
Having completed the parameters review, still, before accepting the task, evaluate your priorities.
If we don't work with priorities, we will complain about insufficient time, which is never a factor. People will tell you to live a balanced life. However, for the Christian, we must learn to unbalance
our lives: Jesus is our number one priority. Thus, unbalance your life by placing Jesus clearly as your number one and your spouse, number two.
As you evaluate this decision, the crucial question is this: How will taking on this task, making this decision affect my unbalanced life? Will it take me away from spending time with the Lord, my spouse, and so on?
Michel developed these four principles that must be paramount as you carry out the assignment. These principles, the third P-Squares quadrant, emphasize values to guide you in your daily tasks. Reflect and assess this aspect briefly before accepting a project or task, but most importantly, apply them each day to existing tasks.
If you choose to do the task, you must abide by them:
- Gas Principle
- Neighbor Principle
- Destination Principle
- Journey Principle
The GAS Principle
(God owns everything, Accept what you have, Seek His Kindom, and accept His plan) represents three key truths from the Bible acknowledging God's ownership and your stewardship of all resources. Since God owns everything (Psalm 24:1-2), you are His steward and must act accordingly daily. Besides, you need to accept available resources of time, talents and money that will be available to do the task and work with them to the best of your ability (Hebrews 13:5). Most of all, throughout the activity, you must seek Jesus and do His plan (Matthew 6:33, Proverbs 19:21).
The Neighbor Principle
asserts, love the Lord Jesus with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:25-36). Generally, this will lead to your desire to model Jesus in all your actions and to do to others as you would like them to do you. This is the only way to do the project.
This principle is a reminder to us to apply compassion, love, mercy, and justice as we implement our goals. Don’t perform sub-optimally; on the contrary, behave as a good steward but recognize the human inputs to your performance. Besides, it helps us understand our effectiveness in God’s terms: the senior pastor of a church growing at 30% per year may not be effective if his inner life is not under God’s control.
As we think about the project or activity, ask God to search us and reveal any hindrances that may prevent His light from shining through us. Pray as David did in Psalm 139:23, Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. In all activities, remember it’s through people we accomplish things; how we perform a task is as important as the results. Further, success is not output based, but input derived.
: Consider the full implications before accepting any assignment. Understand the extent of your commitments; you don't need to have solutions, merely appreciate the full ramifications of your decision. As well, whatever you do, obey Jesus' commands even if you will get negative results. (Luke 14:28)
The Journey Principle
has two parts: Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight;
Psalm 119:105, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
The journey principle supplements the destination principle. Having considered the full implications before committing to a task, we seek the Lord’s guidance to commit. However, understand He will not necessarily show you a clear path, but He will be with you throughout. Thus, the journey principle affirms, depend on Jesus to give you what you need, when you need it, to do His will for you.
It has two core two components as follows:
- When God reveals goals and plans, and with His guidance you prepare details to achieve them, trust Him along the way. Depend on Him to provide what you need, when you need it, but not before—his requires faith.
- You will not see the entire path clearly because He reveals His plans incrementally; thus, be patient. Read these two verses and imagine you were carrying the Ark of the Covenant, and you were first to get to the Jordan. Would you step in?
Joshua. 3:13 (NIV)
And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD — the Lord of all the earth — set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.
Joshua 4:18 (NIV):
And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.
For the soles of your feet to be resting somewhere, and you are standing, you have committed to a forward step and have transferred your weight: you made a decision—an irrevocable decision. This is the difficult aspect of the journey principle: implementing plans incrementally without a clear view of the big picture—one decision, one step, one day at a time along the path God chose for you.
Throughout my career, I found this principle most challenging. Constantly I would try to help God. However, every time He was there to remind me He did not need my help, by closing doors. Leave the big picture to Him and take care of today’s activities, is the message here.
Only after you have been through P-Squares and understood the implications of taking on the project should you decide to accept or reject the job. Meanwhile, seek God's direction as you reflect. Applying P-Squares consistently will result in the following:
- Before starting each project, you count the cost of achieving its objectives with available resources. Thus, you gain confidence on the journey, and raise the success probability.
- You develop and maintain a positive attitude as you perform each activity.
- You rarely overcommit to projects because you understand reasonably well, the full implications before starting.
- You reduce or eliminate likely adverse effects on relationships and existing projects when you undertake each new activity.
- You apply Bible principles in each project.
PEACE Effectiveness Process
LAN for a specific period to achieve specific goals
STIMATE and record costs and sacrifices needed to achieve the plan
CT on the plan and record actual results as you progress toward those goals
OMPARE actual steps and sacrifices with the estimate as you progress towards those goals
XECUTE behavior changes necessary to achieve those goals
The PEACE Effectiveness Process (PEACE) is the fourth and final quadrant of the P-Squares Decision Process: it is the tool to implement your projects, decisions, or activities to achieve specific goals. Before starting any project or activity, establish a goal, then apply PEACE. Many folks abandon their goals along the journey; they give up in frustration because they don’t invest time in PEACE.
PEACE applies to all persons and all aspects of life: Similar concepts pertain to students doing homework or working on special projects and executives implementing billion dollar contracts. The fundamental principle is to start with a goal (the destination) then move to a plan (steps to do the goal), count the cost of doing them, act, compare where you are, and execute changes as necessary. Most of all, be patient.
For more on the P-Squares, see Managing God's Time,