If you‘d like to get more done in less time, here are a number of my favorite time-saving tips, tricks, and hacks for Senior Pastors in the trenches.
3 Sentence Email Rule
Except in rare circumstances, I never respond in email with more than 3 sentences. If something warrants a longer response I’ll say, “See me Sunday” or “Bring this up at staff meeting.”
“Can You Email Me?” Rule
Stop telling people before/during/after services that YOU will contact them. Put the burden on them. Stop allowing yourself to be the revolving pinwheel of personal contact request keeping. Better yet, see below…
“Just Tell Me Now, Please” Rule
I can’t tell you how many people will approach me after a service and say, “Can we get together and talk?” I get asked this five times a weekend. The answer is, “No, just share with me now.” 99% of the time its something that can be answered in 3 minutes, instead of going to all of the trouble to schedule a meeting, carve out time, go to the location, sit down, and then hear the situation they’d like to discuss.
“No More Meetings” Rule
This has become a mantra for me. The tendency in collaborative environments is to try to meet more, not less. Therefore we have to discipline ourselves to force our teams to utilize the existing meetings we already have set up to make decisions.
Change Your Cell Phone Number Every Three Years Rule
This forces you to continually re-evaluate and winnow the potential people who have immediate access to you. Outside of your family and friends, I suggest that you limit cell phone access to your governing board members, staff, and a handful of trusted key leaders.
Set Reminders For The Day’s Meetings Rule
In the morning I set alarms/reminders five minutes before each of my meetings. The phone reminders give me peace of mind as I quickly move from meeting to meeting. Outlook reminders are always too quiet and I’ve trained myself over time to ignore them.
Keep Simple Files Rule
Many Senior Pastor’s have disorganized filing systems on their laptops. Audit your files and winnow them down. Make them intuitive and easy to find. Dump everything off your laptop you don’t need regular access to onto a backup disk.
Never Put Anything On Paper That Can Be Typed Rule
Stop writing down things in long-hand, thereby necessitating transferring that information later into a file on your laptop. Take all notes in Evernote. See below.
Go To Bed And Wake Up At The Same Time Every Day
This is the keystone habit of personal discipline for Senior Pastors. Consistency in sleep fosters energy, focus, and intentionality.
The Best Writing On Productivity I’ve Ever Read (or heard)
Chapter 2: “Know Thy Time” in Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive
Should be required reading of all Senior Pastors.
Chapter 5: “The End of Time Management” in Tim Ferris’ The Four Hour Work Week
Some of the most helpful advice I’ve found on restructuring how you approach time and your ministry.
Chapter 9: “The Leader’s Schedule” in Henry Blackaby’s Spiritual Leadership
Hands down the best spiritual writing on putting first things first I’ve ever read.
Letter 13 in the Tao of Seneca (audiobook)
This fantastic audiobook of Seneca’s Moral Letters To Lucilius should be required listening for all Senior Pastors of growing churches. A stoic mindset helps mollify emotional swings, which in turn kill productivity (i.e. – it’s hard to work on a sermon when you are anxious or depressed). Letter 13 addresses “On Groundless Fears.” I’ve listened to it a dozen times.