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task management

Great apps for Pastors

Great Tools and Apps for Pastors

Evernote is more than just a powerful note-taking application that allows you to organize notebooks or notebook stacks around topics that are important to you. If you want to dig deeper into this tool check out this Evernote blog. Evernote has a Web Clipper that is a great tool to take things off the web and put them straight into your Evernote. I use this constantly. I love the web clipper!!

iWork ’09 Pages is my go-to for creating all documents etc. I have a MacBook Pro and Pages came with it. I love this word processor for all of my writing. I love Pages just because. You can share a Word doc and Pages can convert it quickly and easily.

Logos is my go-to Bible study. There are studies, bibles of all kinds of translations, Greek and Hebrew word studies and so much more.

Team Management
Skype Video Conferencing is what I personally use and recommend if you work in an environment where your fellow staff members have the privilege of not all being in one place, this is a great tool to host meetings. You could also use this to host meetings between you and other ministry leaders or really anyone.

Dropbox is a powerful file sharing solution for your team. Dropbox is a cloud solution for personal and shared folders and files.

Productivity
Trello Task Manager – I use Trello for its simplicity, but there are many other apps out there for task management. Many people recommend Todoist or Asana.

Pomodora Challenge Timer takes the Pomodoro technique and gives you a challenge based app that will help you get more done. Don’t know what the Pomodoro technique is? Read this. For the quick explanation, you’ll focus on one thing for 25 minutes without doing ANYTHING else. I just installed this app and am excited to see what it does for my productivity.

IFTTT is a very powerful automation tool. If This Then That has a lot of pre-made recipes of actions or you can make your own. I haven’t tapped into the depth that many people have, but I use this primarily for automation of my Twitter account. I have identified a number of bloggers who always produce great content. So I automated a recipe that says if they post something it is added to my buffer account that schedules a tweet. More on Buffer below. I also have a recipe that whenever someone uses the #sermonprep on Twitter, they are added to a Twitter list called Preachers. You can subscribe to that list to connect with other preachers.

Social Media
HootSuite is a powerful social media management tool. I use this to manage all of the social media accounts for my church, all of the individual minsitries and my own social media. If you have multiple social media accounts to keep track of, give Hootsuite a try.

Buffer is my favorite social media management tool. Buffer will maximize your scheduling of posts in light of when your followers are most active. A new upgrade they just did now allows their Chrome browser extension to identify pictures within blog posts when you go to share them so you can add the picture to your Tweet which increases engagement.

Personal Growth
Kindle App is available on every device you have and allows you to read great books wherever you are. There’s a great way also to utilize your highlights and add them to Evernote for later use. See this article on how to do so.

Podcast Republic is my podcasting app of choice. I have a Samsung Galaxy S5 so, in other words, I don’t have an iPhone. If you are an iPhone user, you should have the Podcast app on your device already. Podcast Republic gives you access to the entire iTunes library and allows you to subscribe to podcasts, see the show notes, and much more.

Feedly is the way I keep up with all the blogs I follow. It is an RSS reader where you can upload as many blog feeds as your heart desires. You can read and share blog posts without ever having to leave feedly. I also use IFTTT recipe’s with this.

YouVersion is my Bible reading app of choice along with millions of others. It offers a great number of reading plans. You can connect with friends on the app and see what they are reading as well.

Tools Are Only Tools
What you do with them is what counts.

What tools do you use that weren’t included in my list above? I’d love to hear from you and update this post with your add-ons. Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

Changes to Maximize Your Productivity

Serving as an XP at my church and serving as one of our Central Region Open Bible coaches, coaching for Kidology as well, provides me a unique look into several working environments. One common thread that is desired by all in the working environments that I get to look into is Productivity. Everyone wants to squeeze more out fo the time they have!!

I want to offer some quick recommendations.

Use the Eisenhower matrix to rank tasks.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a master of organization and prioritization. During World War II he was the supreme commander of allied forces, overseeing the European theater of operations. From 1953 to 1961 he served as the 34th president of the United States.

During his long career, Eisenhower developed a prioritization framework that is used by many. The Eisenhower Matrix uses a four-box matrix to help anyone prioritize his or her day. On the X axis are the columns “urgent” and “not urgent” and on the Y-axis are the rows “not important” and “important.”

Anything that is urgent and important should be done. If the project is not urgent but important it should be planned for a later date. If work is urgent but not important it should be delegated to someone else. And if it is neither important nor urgent, it should be eliminated.

Start your day with the hardest tasks, complete the easiest tasks at the end of the day.

In his book The McKinsey Edge former McKinsey analyst, Hattori, discusses a time management strategy that he learned while working on demanding projects for Fortune 100 clients.
He suggests that most people are sharpest in the early morning hours. Therefore, Hattori learned to stack his days at the start of his day with the most mentally demanding tasks.
As the day progresses, Hattori organized tasks to becoming increasingly easy. It was only late at night that Hattori would check his email inbox to answer questions that required relatively little thought. I have gone to check my email only 2x a day where each one falls in one of my 4 routine times I have set up on my daily schedule (I have 4 routines every day, Morning routine, the start of the workday routine, workday shut down, and lastly evening routine. More on these in a later post).
In my view, I have given you the top 2 ways to start maximizing your productivity. My best advice is to get to work early and then tackle the most challenging items first.
More Productivity ideas coming soon on living on a calendar.

Stop with the busyness

What is it with being busy that so many people wear the title as a badge of honor? Out of all the 10 commandments why is it that staying busy, not taking the rest, is the one we brag over not living out. Never hear someone say,

  • I am “Stealing” so much stuff. No way you don’t hear that.
  • I sure love being “Envious” over things that others have. It makes me feel so good.
  • I enjoy not “Honoring my mom and dad”. It makes me feel so good to trash them publicly.

You get the idea. You could keep this up with all the commandments. But when it comes to busyness, keeping the Sabbath, taking some time to refresh, reflect on the greatness of God and all that He has gone through with you. This one sounds more like:

“I am so busy and have no time for…”

Here is a great article that was posted on Church Leaders website that Carey Nieuwhof wrote. It says everything that I would want to post as well and keeps with the theme of this blog as well. Enjoy the post and maybe pick up Carey’s High Impact Leaders Course while you are there. I picked it up not because it was new for me but to support someone who is out there with a bigger platform than myself saying what I am saying all the time. “Busyness not does equal productivity”.

How time management is handled all wrong

I am a task management junkie who continues to strive to be a task management ninja.

One of the many struggles over the years for me has been handling the idea of keeping a separate to-do list apart from my calendar. If the items I would put on a to-do list are to be accomplished, would they not have to be added on the calendar? Yes they would!

This is exactly why I have stopped the madness of trying to keep a separate to-do list. It does mean I don’t get to play with other apps on my phone or in my web browser, but, that has meant more productivity. The simple act of scheduling tasks on your calendar instead of on a to-do list will increase performance. With most calendars., there are places to add notes, reminders etc. to aid in getting said task done, use them.

As this process takes off for you, it may become overwhelming because the first instinct is to fill every time slot with something. Having every time slot filled would look like your being productive, right? Wrong. To a skilled eye looking at someone’s filled calendar, it says they don’t know what they are doing yet. I know, seeing empty places can make you feel like you should be doing more, but resist. It is important to leave buffers in your day.

What’s a buffer? A buffer is a block of time that you schedule to do nothing scheduled. Take a nap, search the web for fun, read a book, take a walk, review notes from a previous meeting, relax. These scheduled buffer times will help you not run from meeting to meeting.

The CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, wrote a blog post describing how he blocks time on his calendar. He wrote:

“If you were to see my calendar, you’d probably notice a host of time slots greyed out but with no sign of what’s going on. There is no problem with my Outlook or printer. The grey sections show ‘buffers,’ or time periods I’ve purposely kept clear of meetings.

In aggregate, I schedule between 90 minutes and two hours of these buffers every day (broken down into 30- to 90-minute blocks). It’s a system I developed over the last several years in response to a schedule that was becoming so jammed with back-to-back meetings that I had little time left to process what was going on around me or just think.

At first, these buffers felt like indulgences. I could have used the time to catch up on meetings I had pushed out or said “no” to. But over time I realized not only were these breaks important, they were absolutely necessary in order for me to do my job.”

Here are a few suggestions for this week as you become more of the Task management Ninja that we all desire to be.

  • Move more to your calendar than on your separate to-do list.
  • Find a couple of times a day to put in place buffers. Try to make the buffers at least 10-15 minutes a piece.

Pocket or Feedly or Evernote. Tools for productivity.

feedly pocket evernote

I have 3 tools that I just completely love using and they fit so well into my productivity system when it comes to absorbing information. Here they are:

1. Pocket. Pocket is my first app that use to snag content and save for later reading. If I’m reading a website or an article online and don’t have time to finish it, then I’ll throw it into Pocket. Save articles, videos, recipes, and web pages you find online or from your favorite apps.

Pocket also has a chrome extension.

2. Next would be my Feedly account. Feedly is blog catcher. I enjoy reading blogs of all kinds of topics. Doing this I have just one tool and that is Feedly. It catches all my subscribed to blogs and holds them until my blog reading day and then I will read and act on, delete, or file.

3. Evernote is where I will file them too. Evernote is my electronic file cabinet. I scan stuff to it, take pictures and send to it, forward emails and subscribe to newsletters while giving them my Evernote email address. Giving this email address out saves my real email from getting cluttered. I will mention one more tool here that I use to keep my email uncluttered and that is called unroll.me. You can record audio with Evernote, do geographic stuff and just a ton of other options as well.

Basically, there is not much that can come my way as far as information and not be able to be handled with one of these 3 tools. Hope they help you if you are not already using them.

Success or Failure doesn’t just appear, it’s a process.

My Calendar picture

Planning, determination, strategizing, disciplined, and a slew of other words like these may scare some people. Add in the word “Daily” and the fear factor goes up. But it is just that, “daily” you need to make decisions that will chip away obstacles and help you to reach what you are going after.

It is a firm belief of mine that the secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda. If you make a few key decisions and then manage them well in your daily agenda, you will succeed. You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. You see, success, doesn’t just suddenly occur one day in someone’s life, neither does failure. Each is a process. Every day of your life is preparation for the next. What you are becoming is the result of what you do daily. In other words… You are preparing for something. Look at how you invest your days and you can tell what you are preparing for, knowingly or un-knowingly.

My question for you would be:
1. What are you preparing for?
2. Grooming yourself for success or failure?

I have heard it said several times, “You can pay now, and play later, or you can play now and pay later. But either way, you are going to pay.” The idea was that you can play and take it easy and do what you want today, but if you do, your life will be harder later. However, if you work hard now, on the front end, then you will reap rewards in the future.

Let me Challenge you to think: Does your daily agenda show that you make a habit of paying before you play? If not, it is not too late to change your daily habits or agenda. To start allow me to suggest a couple daily decisions to make sure you do.
1. Spend time in the God’s Word
2. Spend time worshiping and talking to God
3. Spend time with your spouse. Your spouse and God will be the ones to have your back when all else seems to be against you.
4. Make everything an appointment on your calendar. If it doesn’t make it to your calendar, then you don’t do it.

There is a quick start. Now add to it.

The 4 hour work week book review

4 hour work week

I cringed at the title of this book, The 4 hour work week, but still went ahead and leafed through it. I actually found myself seeing how some pieces of this book could be applied to my life, and so I decided to go ahead and read it.

Step 1: D is for Definition

In this section Ferriss tells us to do an important task: define what you want. And I agree that most of us live through life not knowing what we want; just following the crowd like a herd of sheep. This section was the motivational, make you feel good section. This wasn’t the how, it was the why.

Step 2: E is for Elimination
Okay, so he basically says to eliminate all the junk in your life. For example: watch less TV, don’t check your e-mail so often, don’t look at your phone a bazillion times a day, don’t surf the web for hours a day, etc. It focuses on some very straightforward techniques for eliminating most of the regular mundane activities that fill our professional lives. Here are seven examples that I liked:
I. Make your to-do list for tomorrow before you finish today.
II. Stop all multitasking immediately.
III. Force yourself to end your day at 4 PM or end your week on Thursday.
IV. Go on a one-week media fast.
V. Check email only twice a day
VI. Never, ever have a meeting without a clear agenda.
VII. Don’t be afraid to hang up a “do not disturb” sign.

Step 3: A is for automation
This is where I began to disconnect with Tim’s method of creating a “4-hour workweek”. He spends a good deal of time talking about having a VA (Virtual Assistant). In my profession of pastoral ministry, this would be a hard sell, so I didn’t spend much time on this.

Step 4: L is for Liberation
Here Tim combines all the parts to show you how to move more of your life to remote type living. I actually believe this is valuable as I have been able to carry out a lot of this myself already.

Here are some last closing key insights I took away:
• “Don’t ever arrive at the office or in front of your computer without a clear list of priorities. You’ll just read unassociated e-mail and scramble your brain for the day.” (This alone has saved me about 35 hours since I finished the book 2 weeks ago.)
• “Being busy is a form of laziness and lazy thinking”
• How to end a meeting on time

My last thought with this book was it does a great job of teaching a person how to self-promote, but it comes at a high cost of teamwork. I hope that one day Tim Ferriss can take a break from perfecting his self to experience the pleasure of cultivating community. And those who pursue all the things in this book will be able to learn the value of as well.

Swipe your way to productivity today.

swipes logo

Time to get busy and get down to knocking out your to-do list. So you run around and collect all the sticky notes on your mirror, your desk, your computer screen and all the other misc. areas. Then you turn to the most recent incredible life changing tool – Evernote. You begin to search through Evernote, or as you call it, your brain online to find all of your to-do list in there as well.

Now you are just plain tired and mentally worn out not to mention you have spent 1 1/2 hours just getting prepped to become productive for the day. Have I got a great solution for you that I started using a few weeks back and it has kept me very fluid and able to stay on the go but keeping my to-do list getting done at the right time.

This tool is called…”Swipes“.

Here is how Swipes works with Evernote. Evernote, by its nature, is a workspace for the way we work today, collecting information from multiple devices and from just about anywhere in the world. Swipes, however, is the task management app that not only stores your tasks, but helps you prioritize them and break-down the important things into doable steps. The blend of Swipes with Evernote gives you the possibility to not only collect the things that matter to you, but act on them. This is a combination of pure productivity joy!!

Stop wasting time looking for ways to be productive and get Swipes and get conquering your to-do list.

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