The work of ministry is never done. There is always more you could do. More people you could meet with. More sermons to write. More emails to answer. More outreach opportunities.
More. More. More.
Productivity matters for pastors. You will never be able to do everything, but the Bible encourages us to be wise and make the most of our time.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV).
Pastors and others who work in ministry will be held accountable for how well we steward the time God has given us.
How are you doing with that?
I have not always been the most productive person. However, in my years of ministry, I have learned a few things along the way that have benefited me.
I wish I had known and practiced these productivity tips earlier. I hope they will help you as well.
1. Practice Spiritual Discipline
Without exception, begin your day with time in God’s Word and prayer. Disciples are disciplined. You cannot lead your people spiritually if you are spiritually empty.
Prayer and time in the Word is productive. God will always accomplish more in you and through you than you could ever do on your own.
2. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is proven to increase productivity, especially as you age. You will have more energy. You will feel happier. And you will be healthier.
Exercise also boosts creativity. Pastors must be more conscious of their physical health, and better stewards of the bodies God created for us.
3. Delegate, Automate, or Eliminate?
Look at all the things you have to do this week. Ask, “Can this be delegated, automated, or eliminated?” If you can delegate it, send it someone else’s way. If you can automate it with technology or a template, do that.
If you are honest, a lot of things simply do not need to be done. If it’s a recurring task from a church program or meeting that doesn’t advance the mission of the church, eliminate it. Just say “No.” Stop doing it, and do the things that produce the most fruit.
4. Delegate Responsibility, Not Tasks
By far, one of the most productive thing you can do is delegate. You cannot do everything yourself. Don’t even try. You need a team of people and volunteers working together. But many pastors delegate poorly. They just give people a task to do.
Nobody wants to be given someone else’s to-do list. Leaders want responsibility. If you want to build leaders (and keep leaders), you have to give them authority and let them lead. When you delegate to someone, give them responsibility for a certain area.
Be clear with them what the desired outcome is, give them boundaries as needed, and then step away. Don’t tell them exactly what to do or how to do it. Just tell them what they are responsible for, and let them lead. Only come alongside to help if they are struggling or are not achieving the desired outcome.
5. Automate Your Appointments
Use a tool like Calendly to set appointment blocks in your schedule. You pick the times when you will be available to meet. People can then look at your open time slots, and book themselves.
This saves the hassle of multiple emails back and forth trying to set a date and time for the meeting. Instead, you just send them a link to your Calendaly calendar. The appointment will automatically appear on your calendar. This is a game-changer for counseling appointments or any other meetings with church members!
6. Schedule Appointments with Yourself
If you do not fill your schedule, others will fill it for you. Schedule the most important things first. For example, if you need a few hours every Monday morning to work on your sermon, make a standing appointment for sermon prep every Monday.
Then, when people ask if you can meet at that time, you can look at your calendar and say with integrity, “Sorry, I have an appointment at that time. How about…” Think of all the things you need to do every week, month, or quarter and block time for it.
7. Make a Daily To-Do List
Take Jesus’ advice. Do not worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Have a place to write down all the things you need to do in the future. I use Wunderlist.
Constantly looking at this huge list is overwhelming and unproductive. So each day, write down the 5 most important things you need to get done today. Accomplish these things first. Then, if you have time, move on to other tasks.
8. Set a Timer for Your Tasks
Think about how much you get done when you only have a short time to finish it. Setting a timer forces you to focus and work fast. Many people swear by this technique.
Give it a try. Set a timer for 25 minutes and see how many emails you can answer before the buzzer. Think of it as a game, and you will get a lot more done with a lot less wasted time.
9. Only Touch an Email Once
How many times have you read an email, and clicked the “mark as unread” button? This is procrastination at its worst. You don’t want to write a response, or you don’t know the answer to the question, so you push it off until later. You waste a ton of time re-reading the same email and thinking about it too long.
Make a rule to only touch a message one time. Do not check your email, unless you plan on answering it. When you do, answer immediately even if the answer is brief. If the response will take too long to write, call the person or set a meeting.
10. Get more sleep
In our world of smartphones and computer screens, it is easy to stay up late reading one more social media post, answering one more email, or binge watching another show on Netflix. But we cheat ourselves when we cheat sleep.
Sleep is proven to boost productivity. It gives you more energy, increases your brain function, helps you stay more focused throughout the day, and helps you stay emotionally healthy. God created sleep for a reason.
11. Take a Sabbath
Working every day is a sin. We wouldn’t break any of the other Ten Commandments. So why do pastors frequently break this one?
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:8-10 ESV).
Clear your schedule one day a week for absolutely nothing. Enjoy your family and activities that give you life. No, Sunday does not count. We all know that pastors do not rest on Sundays. God commanded us to rest for a reason.
12. Drink Coffee in the Afternoon
If you get enough sleep, you shouldn’t need an energy boost first thing in the morning. What you need is energy in the afternoon. In fact, research backs this theory based on natural cortisol levels.
Most people start to hit a wall in the afternoon between 1:30 and 5 p.m. That is when a cup of coffee will have the optimal effect. So find the time of day you are at your worst and drink your coffee then.
13. Organize Your Office
How much time do you waste looking for things? A cluttered office is a cluttered mind. If you cannot see the surface of your desk, you need to get organized. If your computer files are all dumped on the desktop or random folders, you need to get organized.
Create a system, organize your files, throw away things you don’t need, and keep your space tidy and clean. You will have less stress, feel better, and get more done working in an organized environment.
14. Don’t Go Alone
Lead like Jesus. Jesus walked with his disciples everywhere. Every ministry opportunity was also a teaching opportunity. Don’t go places alone. Disciple people as you work together.
Always be inviting others to come with you when you have errands, hospital visits, leadership conferences, go out for lunch, or whatever. You will accomplish the task and build a disciple at the same time.
15. Prepare for the Next Day at the End of Each Day
At the end of your day, write down the 5 things you will accomplish the next day. This way, your mind is already prepared for what needs to be done. When you get to the office in the morning, you can hit the ground running.
Also, tidy up your office. Put things back where they belong. File or throw away any loose papers. This will eliminate distraction in the morning because you will come back to an organized and clean space.
These are some tips I have learned, but I am still learning.
Have you tried any of these?
This post was originally published at ProPreacher.com.