Juggling Sheep
Welcome to Juggling Sheep, Jay Perry's blog about time management and personal productivity for pastors. Learn to balance work, life, family, and personal spirituality.

Share your best practices, tips and tricks, processes, sermon planning ideas, and resources. Feel free to email me: jaylperry[at]gmail[dot]com.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Keeping a Time Log - How Depressing

When I was going through the Ministry Advantage Pastor's Coaching System, my personal coach wanted me to do a 1-week time log. For five consecutive work-days I set my timer to go off every 15 minutes (during "at-work" time) and wrote down what I had been doing during those last 15 minutes.

Then, in a second column, I had to categorize my time by roles - "pastoral," "administrative," "visionary," "evangelistic," "secretarial/notmyjob," "janitorial/notmyjob," "rescuing/notmyjob," "games," etc.

I did not like what I found. But they tell me that awareness is the first step to recovery.

I must say that the point of this exercise was NOT to show the utter disaster of my time management skills (although that was a healthy side-effect). My coach was really trying to help me figure out my pastoral role. Was I doing the things I was hired to do, or could these things be done by someone else?

It was really easy for me to rationalize it out from day to day and say, "I'll just do it myself. I want it done right. I don't have time to train anyone, anyway. Who else would do it?" And then I end up mailing out the weekly sermon CDs. For a year! What was I thinking?!!

Do a 1-week time log. You may be surprised at what you find. But awareness is the first step to recovery.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Gmail Gets a Gold Star

Gmail Inbox NirvanaI finally achieved Gmail inbox nirvana!

I've been working toward getting my email inbox empty for a couple of weeks now. And it finally happened yesterday.

Here's how I do it:
  1. Every message that comes in gets a cursory view.
  2. If I can deal with that message in less than 2 minutes, I do it right then.
  3. If I need to answer it later, print it off at the office, or incubate it for any reason, I star it.
  4. Back in the inbox view, I select all the unstarred emails and archive them.
Now I can tell by looking in my inbox what I actually need to do!

And the other emails are still in my archive, just in case I should ever need them.

Present a Rough-[almost final]-Draft

Because churches are volunteer organizations, and because they are run by committee, and because the church will be there long after you leave - you NEED buy-in. In fact, buy-in may be one of the most important commodities in a congregation. If there's no buy-in, you're just spinning your tires.

As a young pastor, I wanted to look professional in front of my board. I wanted them to believe me and trust me. I wanted them to like my proposals and vote them unanimously!

And it worked. They trusted me. They believed I had thought through all the issues in advance. They liked my proposals. And they voted them through unanimously!

But there was a problem. No buy-in. My early proposals were so slick, so convincing that they actually prevented me from getting buy-in. They liked the idea; they voted it through. But nobody else had wrestled with it. Nobody had made it their own. Nobody else was willing to go out on a limb to actually make it happen.

So here's my little lifehack for getting buy-in in meetings. It's not an efficient way of ramming through your agenda, but it is an effective way of getting collaboration and buy-in. It doesn't look terribly professional, but it works.

When you're about to make a proposal, create a document that is your best work. Then mark it up, cross something out, and make notes on the sides. Copy that and hand it out. People will see it as a work in progress - a rough draft. They'll read what you've crossed out. They'll automatically start brainstorming with you toward a better idea. They'll automatically assume ownership.

Poof! It becomes theirs. It becomes collaborative. Buy-in has been achieved.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Time Management Quote for the Day

From The Stewardship of Life by Kirk Nowery:
Traditional approaches to time mamagement deal with sgementation, prioritization, implementation and the like; but the bigger question when it comes to time management is not the degree of practical efficiency but the measure of spiritual effectiveness. If we are to be truly wise stewards, we have to ask: What is really going to matter at the end of our earthly days? When we answer to God for our lives, what will be of greatest value?
Begin with the real end in mind...

Working Two Dayparts

One of the things my supervising pastor taught me when I was an intern was the two daypart rule. The rule: work two out of three dayparts every day. He didn't ask me to clock in or keep a strict schedule (although he did evaluate my work to see whether or not I was being lazy). All he asked was that I worked two dayparts every weekday.

Most days I worked morning and evening. Occasionally, I would work afternoons.

I still think this is a good system. There are a lot of things a pastor has to do in the evenings - church board, school board, prayer meeting, worship practice, visitation, etc.

I've seen some (workaholic) pastors who put in a full work-day (every day) and then try to fit in full evening schedules as well - to the detriment of their families (and their sanity).

And I've seen other (workaphobic) pastors who have no set office hours, come in only when they feel like it, and remain impossible to find - to the detriment of their churches.

I really do believe that I get more done in the mornings than the afternoons (which is why I prefer a morning/evening split schedule). Sometimes I have to switch, but not very often.

Whatever you decide for your work schedule, I suggest that you write it down, share it with your church, post it prominently on your office door, and try to stick with it. There's already a weird notion that pastors only work on weekends; there's no need to reinforce the stereotype.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Some of My Best Thinking Happens in the Shower

I don't always capture all of my ideas, projects, actions, and must-dos. There. I admitted it for all the world to see.

I found myself just this morning obsessing about going to the office and setting up the PowerPoint Projector (our old one died last week). So I went to the office and set it up. When I went to cross it off my project list... it wasn't there. Huh. Maybe that's why I had been obsessing about it.

The funny thing is, I've needed to set the projector up all week. And I've even been reminded multiple times. One time, I was reminded while sitting at my desk (right in front of my blank paper and my inbox and my PalmPilot!).

Why didn't I write it down and put it in my inbox (at the very least)?

Do I not trust my GTD system?

Do I really think it will do better rattling around in my head all week? I mean, that's just begging for me to forget about it and panic when I finally do remember at a later time.

I even did a great system review this Monday. I trust my system...

Maybe even after 8 months of GTD, it still isn't an automatic habit to write things down.

I have great ideas all the time that I don't write down. Usually when I'm in the shower or when I'm driving. I suppose I can get a voice memo recorder for when I'm driving (even though I do drive a stick).

Any suggestions for what to do about my ideas in the shower?

Over on the GTD forum, there's a thread about whiteboards. Gtderik says that he keeps a dry erase marker in his bathroom to make notes on the mirror:
I actually stole the idea from Jason Womack, but I have kept a dry erase pen (with magnetic tip to stick to the framing) in my bathroom. the mirror in the bathroom has become a great place for capture and placeholding for me... I tend to have lots of ideas but are fast to disappear.... so even while shaving i can scribble some notes to myself... in the mornings I often get a waterfall of things that bubble to the surface...the mirror has also become a makeshift @spouse list as well to communicate if I get in late and she is already in bed...

Any other ideas?

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Tuesday is My Pastor's Date Night

My wife and I are both PKs (pastors' kids - for those of you who don't know). And both of our shiny, happy families disintegrated when our pastor dads left our pastor's wife moms. Her family split when she was six; mine finally tanked when I was in seminary.

Needless to say, we both learned a lot about pastor's families. Mostly what not to do. I'm shocked I'm a pastor. And my wife is shocked she's married to one.

So, when we were first getting serious about being in a relationship together, we put some safeguards in place to keep us from the kind of non-relationship that destroyed our parents.

One of those is date night. Ever since we've been married, we've always taken one night per week for date night. It usually means dinner out and a movie in. But sometimes it means Taco Bell and a trip to Barnes&Noble. The point is that we are intentionally making special time for each other on a weekly basis.

When we had our firstborn, it was a little harder to have date night. But as soon as he was old enough, we set up a babysitting co-op for Tuesday nights with a couple of other young families. So now we have date night 3 out of 4 Tuesdays (it's our turn to babysit the other week).

My church knows about date night. They know not to call me on Tuesday evenings. Ever. I put it on my work-schedule that I share with all of my members. And I enforce it. It makes its way into sermons (when I preach about the Sabbath, I talk about date night; it helps people see Sabbath in a relational way and reinforces my date night boundaries).

Not only is date night good for my sanity and the strength of my marriage, it's good modeling for the other families in the church.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Pastor's One Minute Job Description

In Kenneth Blanchard's classic One Minute Manager, he talks about having One Minute Goals so you (and your supervisor) know what you're about (and not about). Something that you have prominently displayed so that you can review it in about One Minute every day.

One of the biggest problems facing a pastor is that there is virtually no agreement on what a pastor's job description is or should be. Your denomination thinks your job is to promote denominational programs, values, and initiatives (and get your paperwork in on time). Your church thinks your job is to visit everyone (especially the elderly (especially those in the hospital)), preach good sermons, do some janitorial work, be good at fundraising (but not always talking about money), do a lot of Bible studies with the lost, and make sure the next generation doesn't leave the church. You (straight-out-of-seminary-smartypants) think your job is to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry," give yourself "continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word," and "go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them..."

It's really easy to fall into the trap of trying to make everyone happy all the time. But there just aren't enough hours in the day. If you try to be all things to all people, you'll end up losing your sanity, spirituality, family, sobriety, or will to live (or a combination of all of them).

In Ron Gladden's book 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Churches, he describes a situation where he was half-time pastoring in a multi-church district. And the small church wanted him at their worship service every week. He was able to refer them back to a mutually-agreed-upon job description that revealed the priorities of the position. His point is that every time we say "yes" to one thing in ministry, we necessarily say "no" to something else. We must be sure we are saying "yes" to the right things.

I created a One Minute Job Description just over six years ago. It has served me very well. I laminated a bunch of copies and put it on my wall at work, on the mirror in my bathroom, on my bedside table, and on my computer. I shared it with my church board. My only regret is that it doesn't include an evangelistic component (quite the oversight). Here it is:
Goal 1: to get as close to God as possible through daily Bible study, prayer, and meditation, putting aside all things that destroy my relationship with Him.

Goal 2: to produce one sermon by Friday of every week. Each sermon will be biblical, interesting, relevant, balanced, and Christ-centered.

Goal 3: to train and equip my church board members to be effective leaders in their various areas of responsibility so that they can train and equip all church members to live a life of faithful service to God.

This has really helped me to remember the essentials. It's what I'm paid to do. Everything else the church gets out of me is a bonus.

2 New GTD Resources on the Web (update)

NOTE: This is just an update of a previous post. Duff has asked me to change his link to http://gtdmastery100.com/, as the original site was not set up to handle so much web traffic.

In case you haven't already found them, I wanted to let you know about 2 great Getting Things Done resources in the blogosphere...
Duff just posted a list of 100 Behaviors for GTD Mastery. You've got to read it! Use it as a way to track your journey into blackbelt productivity. I've heard time and time again that you don't really get GTD until year 2 (fourth reading). I can only imagine, seeing what it has done to my life and productivity in a mere 8 months.

Also, gtdfrk has just created The Ultimate Getting Things Done Web Index. You can see how fresh the GTD posts are and what people are writing about. All on one page. And Juggling Sheep is on there. How cool is that?

Sunday, February 4, 2007

GTD Review Scheduling for Pastors

The weekly GTD system review is a very important component of the whole Getting Things Done process. In fact, I think the review is the only way to make yourself trust the system enough to use it consistently.

The Getting Things Done literature says that Friday afternoon is the ideal time to do your weekly system review.

As a pastor, building toward a public worship event at the end of every week, I find that my weekly review works best on Monday morning. It gives me an opportunity to review the last worship service, judge my sermon effectiveness, process all the new inbox stuff that was dumped on me during church, see who I need to visit, look at what I need to do to be ready for the upcoming sermon, and plan my week accordingly.

I also find that without the impending deadlines associated with every weekend, my mind is free to do higher-level thinking and strategic planning. So my weekly review is scheduled for 10 AM on Monday morning.

When do you schedule your system review?