Ministry isn’t the only vocation where productivity, organization, and efficiency are important. Here are a few things I use to help me accomplish as much as I can, as efficiently as I can. I’m interested to hear what helps you!
I have to keep track of my mileage driven for ministry purposes so that I can write it off my taxes. I started using this app that runs in the background on my phone and keeps track of all my drives. You can set it to automatically know how to categorize certain drives, and the rest you sort through an easy method of swiping left or right as you look through your drives. There is a monthly fee for this app for the full version, but it easily pays for itself since I’m not having to watch my car mileage to measure my drives. It does all the thinking and remembering; I only have to categorize then print.
Evernote is an app to help you hang on to anything and everything. There is a great Evernote clipper extension you can add to your internet browser and when you’re reading an interesting blog post, you can simply click it and it will store in Evernote. Evernote also has a phenomenal scanner feature for documents. What’s especially awesome is that it has text recognition software that works on images, so if I take a picture of a document, I can search for and find what is written on the document. I do tons and tons of brainstorming in this app, and I never lose any of it. Having the accompanying app on your phone goes a long way, too.
This is both a website and an app. Often, the best thing you can do for your productivity is to slow yourself down and focus. This provides beautiful sounds and scenery, as well as guided meditations for various lengths of time. When you’re getting too stressed, it is a quick and easy way to get yourself under control. Just 5 minutes here might make an hour’s worth of difference in how you’re able to function, especially when you invite God into whatever it is you’re doing.
Recently I started using a slider case for my cellphone. I’ll never use any other kind. What is great is that I can keep both my driver’s license and my debit card in it. This means that when I go to the gym or need to hurry out, as long as I’ve got my phone, I have everything I need. My wallet has additional cards of other types, but I have most of what I need as long as I have my cell phone.
I cannot express how much I love my book stand. With good rubber feet and also grips to help hold the pages open, as well as a collapsible design, I couldn’t live without this. If you ever have to type something while looking at a sheet of paper laying flat on your workspace, it’s always a cause of either neck or wrist pain. Once you try one of these, you’ll never want to work without one. You can always see what you need to see without needing a third or fourth hand.
About two years ago, I began using the Bullet Journal method to help me organize my life. It is a little bit of a learning curve, but you ultimately settle into a version of this system that works for you. I love it because it is low-tech. I am trying to get myself untethered from my phone and this method has helped me get much more organized about what I have going on, what my priorities are, and what progress I’m making. All you need is a journal that is dotted rather than lined, and you can try it out. There are other fancy journals out there for productivity, but none are as affordable as this method, especially for the amount of flexibility and functionality it allows.
One little trick I learned from my friend Randy Harris is that if you are having trouble finding a quiet place to think, when you have on headphones, people won’t bother you…even if you don’t have any music playing! Especially when traveling, you can turn the noise reduction feature on whether or not you’re listening to any entertainment. It makes the world a much quieter place. For now, I have some cheapos that have worked great, though if I ever have an excuse, I would love to get a nice set of these Bose ones.
I like to do my creative thinking away from my computer. I don’t want notifications demanding my attention or an ability to dart off and check email. I have a separate desk space specifically for reading, thinking, and designing. For whatever reason, working on a slanted surface helps me take a fresh look at what I’m doing. I love it, and spend as much time working from here as I can.
For sermon and lesson creation, I use a method similar to the Pomodoro method to help me work intensely on specific tasks for designated periods of time. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by too many kinds of things you have to get done, divide them up and conquer! For example, I will try each Monday to spend 20 minutes each working on my next four sermons. When the timer goes off, I stop one task, set a timer, and begin the next one. This is a great method for tasks that don’t have to get done today but need to marinate over time. I don’t want to keep my cell phone in my concentration space, so instead of using the timer on my phone, any old-fashioned egg timer works great. The shiny one looks a little better in an office setting.
If you keep one of these around your office, everyone will try to take it from you. It’s so helpful to have a convenient way to move around stuff that’s just a little too much trouble to carry in one trip. I have one of these I call my “contemplative cart” where I bring all the needed supplies I have for a Wednesday night group that I lead. I bring along books they can check out, aesthetic items for the room, and all the handouts I might need. I move them back and forth each week from my office to the class space with ease. These are useful for a million different things, both at the office and at home.