As a pastor, you’re always busy. You take care of staff, programs, and events, deal with emergencies as they come up, and officiate at weddings or funerals. On top of that, you wake up every Monday morning and need to write a new sermon. Things pile on top of each other- and that’s just if you’re a full-time pastor. If you’re bivocational, it goes without saying that time is even tighter. So here are some tips you can start applying today to really see your productivity increase!
The Pomodoro technique is a great way to help yourself cut through the paralyzing overwhelm you might be feeling when you think about your to-do list.
The Pomodoro technique was created by Francesco Cirillo in 1989. He took a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato (aka a pomodoro in Italian) and set it for 25 minutes, and did 25 straight minutes of pure work. Then, he took a 5-minute break, followed by another 25 minutes of work, etc.
Each time you complete a pomodoro, you track your progress on paper, and you do it 8 times throughout the day. The idea is that for 25 minutes you work on one (just one!) thing, like your sermon. After 1 hour and 40 minutes of work (so, four pomodoros), you take a 15-25 minute break. Honestly, you can get more done in 4 hours of work using this technique, than you can during most full days.
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It’s difficult to prioritize what needs to be done when you’re just looking at a task list. If you make an appointment and schedule it out, it’s more likely to get done. You also don’t have to worry about when things will get done, because you’ve allotted time to do them. If you don’t do this, you’ll find yourself with a lot of things left to do at the end of the day because you were going to do them “sometime,” and that time never came.
Every single day, write down the top three things you need to do in order for it to be a successful day. If you get those top thee things done, then you’re good, and anything else you get done is just icing on the cake.
This is an obvious one, but it’s so powerful- and it’s key to the effectiveness of things like The Pomodoro Technique. When you’re trying to get something done, put your devices in airplane mode. Turn your email off, or decide you’re only going to check it at scheduled times throughout the day. Give yourself permission to turn the things off that distract you- you’ll notice a huge difference in what you’re able to get done.
Here’s why: eating carbs creates a fog in your brain. You will get tired, because your body has to burn a lot of calories to process what you’ve eaten. Waiting to eat the carbs until later in the day will show you a huge difference in how your brain functions during the workday.
If you find yourself getting stuck, go for a walk. This is a time-saving device because we can find ourselves just staring at the computer, waiting for inspiration to strike, and wasting time. But if you get outside for three minutes, get some vitamin D, and go for a little walk, you’ll often feel refreshed and inspired.
Clean off your desk! Seriously- get all of the knicknacks, cups, and clutter off. If you walk in your office and it’s a filthy wreck, you start to feel like your office looks. But if it’s clean and straightened and organized, it’s going to make you feel that way, too. So get rid of the clutter, you’ll feel so much better.
If 2020 taught us one thing, it’s that most meetings can be done via email. Cancel the ones you don’t need or that can be handled by someone else. Go through your calendar and prioritize. We spend far too much time in meetings.
One of the most insightful quotes on meetings that we’ve heard comes from Koula Callahan, Director of Content at Storybrand: “If you have to stop your business for more than 30 minutes, it had better be making you money.” This is true, even in the church. Your time is valuable. People rely on you, and there are things- like counseling, or being present with your family- that only you can do. So if you’re wasting time in meetings that you don’t need to be a part of, you’re really robbing yourself and your church of ministry opportunities.
Before you leave the office, plan your next day. Write down your top three, and schedule how you want the day to unfold before you leave. This enables you to control your time- in ministry, there are always unforeseen circumstances, of course, but you can control about 80% of your time if you take the time to be intentional.
Our brain needs to refocus when it’s shifting from different things. Depending on what kind of work you’re doing, it can take you 25 to 45 minutes to refocus on any given task. That’s a lot of time that’s wasted! If you think you’re really good at multitasking, the reality is that you’re better at focusing on one thing, and you can get more done if you just focus on one thing. If you try to get things done all at the same time, you’re wasting a lot of your brain’s calories and energy by causing yourself to refocus all the time.
This tip is unique to pastors. In marketing and business we say to automate everything that you can. For pastors, if you can use templates in your sermon-writing, it’ll keep you from staring at a blank screen. We include templates with prompts inside of Sermonary, and we just added on from Tim Keller. It’s not only going to help you save time, but it will help you communicate with your congregation in a way that will increase their understanding and enjoyment of God’s Word!
You can templatize anything you do over and over again- like wedding and funeral sermons, for example.
There are so many things you can do, as a pastor, to save time! That’s part of why we created Sermonary and Ministry Pass. We know you’re busy- you’re doing so much more than just creating a sermon every week. And we want to make sure that we provide you with the resources and tools you need so that you can give the very best of yourself to your ministry, family, and God.