5 Productivity Hacks For Busy Pastors
By: Holly Tate May 11, 2016
Pastors are some of the busiest people I know. As a a pastor, you're often juggling preaching, staff development, service planning, family life, counseling, emails, texts, phone calls...so many people are vying for your time that it's overwhelming to keep up.
Here are 5 productivity hacks that can help you take control of your calendar and serve your congregation well.
1. Get a virtual assistant.
Before you skim past this point because you think you can't afford to hire an assistant, keep reading…
Many pastors don’t have the budget or a full week of work for an assistant. There's good news! Thanks to technology and really smart people, anyone can now have an on-demand assistant.
I just “hired” my assistant a couple months ago, and we've become fast friends. Her name is Amy Ingram, and she schedules my phone calls and appointments for me. I let her know my preferences like which parts of the day I prefer to have meetings and my favorite meeting locations, and she takes care of the rest. The best part? She works for free!
You see, Amy is a robot. A company called x.ai realized that busy people are held back by the email ping-pong of meeting scheduling, so they created an algorithm that could help solve this problem.
You can get in line to try Amy or her male counterpart Andrew at x.ai.
She's literally saved me hours already, and she's much better at remembering time zones than I am (Arizona gets me every time!).
Many pastors are in need of an assistant that helps them with much more than scheduling appointments. You might need an assistant to help you organize your sermon planning, book travel arrangements, communicate with congregants, manage your email.
If that's you, check out eaHelp.com. Our Ministry Partners Bryan Miles and Tricia Sciortino have built an amazing team of virtual assistants that can add hours back to your day. You can hire a virtual assistant for just a few hours a week or full-time if you'd like. Many of our clients have assistants through eaHelp, and I've been impressed with every single one I've interacted with.
One of the biggest time wasters I see busy pastors do is schedule too many hour-long meetings. Calendly (along with Amy above) is a great tool to help keep your meetings short and sweet.
You set up your own URL and set up your time preferences so that people who you send your link to can see your availability and book a time that works best for them. It removes the ping-ponging of email scheduling and is convenient for both parties. When someone books an appointment with you through Calendly, it’s automatically added to your Google calendar.
Meeting tip: For your one-on-one weekly progress meetings with team members, see if you can keep them to 15 minutes. You'll be amazed at how much more productive your meetings will be and how much time in your day you'll get back.
Wunderlist is a collaborative list tool. Our team uses it for everything from brainstorming to task management and even keeping track of our favorite restaurants near our office.
Wunderlist has made meetings much more effective for me, because our team is able to add topics, challenges, or tasks to the list which then creates the agenda for our next meeting. We now come to the meeting with ideas since the agenda has been updated in real-time throughout the week.
Wunderlist also helps cut down on your inbox. Have a project come through your email inbox? Add it to your Wunderlist, set a reminder and due date inside the task, and delete the email from your inbox. Anything that can help minimize email clutter is a winner in my book.
Have you ever left an email in your inbox for days reminding you to follow up with someone if you don't hear back?
Or have you ever forgotten to send an email reminder to your small group about this week’s Bible study?
Never fear, Boomerang is here.
Boomerang is a gmail add-on that allows you to schedule emails that you write now to be sent at a later scheduled time and to deliver an email back to your inbox at a designated time.
I use Boomerang to redeliver emails to me when I haven't heard back from the person or to remind me of a project deadline a few months from now. It's helped me get closer to a zero inbox and focus on the most important things.
5. Calendar Blocking
Since pastors spend a lot of time in meetings, it can be hard to set aside time for sermon planning, personal leadership development, and time alone with God.
Try calendar blocking. It takes discipline, but it pays off.
Here are a few ways busy pastors can use calendar blocking:
- Schedule your reoccurring meetings together in sections so that you can be present and not shifting between projects, email, and meetings
- Schedule the first two hours of your day to work on your hardest challenge right now and then move on to something else. Instead of procrastinating, get the hard work out of the way in the morning and then shift your mental energy to a new project.
- Schedule 1-2 hours, 3 days a week for sermon prep. Many pastors carve out one whole day a week for sermon planning, but that's putting a lot of pressure on yourself to deliver on that day. You might find it works better to schedule small spurts of sermon planning throughout the week instead.
The point of calendar blocking is taking control of your calendar instead of allowing meetings and other people to control it. Focus on channeling your mental and emotional energy to focused times throughout the week instead of being distracted by the urgency email can often bring.
What tips do you have for pastor productivity?