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.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Finding/Making Time to Read

A couple of days ago, I posted some book summary sites as a way to get a grip on the volume and breadth of reading a pastor really should be doing.

Calvin writes:
As a 4-month newbie to GTD, I want to ask how do you find time/ make time/ plug
in time to get the reading done you need (even with executive summaries)? It is
my #1 frustration in ministry. (OK, that may be an exaggeration, but it is up
there AMONG the top frustrations in ministry).

Making time for reading is one of those Quadrant 2 things that we're just going to have to intentionally make time for. It's not urgent (it's not screaming at you, begging for attention), but it is important (if you want to continue growing, leading, and thinking).

I used to read 50-70 books a year (not book summaries. books). But then we bought a TV. And then we had kids. And then I started blogging. So now I'm down to about 20 books and 20-40 book summaries per year.

The whole trick to making Q2 work? Make the hard decision up front to replace something less important (American Idol?) or something urgent/not-important (interruptions, junkmail, too-frequent email, phone calls, some meetings, visitation with long-winded members) with something very important (in this case, reading).

I think part of the problem with pastors (in general) is their uncanny ability to spiritualize every part of their job and artificially force it into Quadrants 1 and 2. We really think every phone call might be life or death. We really think we're building the Kingdom of God by letting a church member waste our time with stories about their great aunt Martha. We think there is something innately spiritual about being at everyone's beck and call 24/7. Jesus didn't fall into that trap and neither should we.

In my life, three major Q2 areas stand out - reading, prayer/devotion/spiritual disciplines, and family.

So here are some ways to make time for reading:

1. Calendarize it. Make it an unbreakable appointment on your calendar. Try to do this first thing at work (after devotional time), so all of the emails and phonecalls haven't claimed all of your time yet. If someone needs an appointment with you, schedule it at a different time (you have an appointment then, don't you?). Same thing is true with all Q2s.

2. Make it accountable. Ask someone to keep you accountable on a weekly or monthly basis. You choose the person. Choose what specific things you want them to ask you about - how many books? how long? what genres? what interesting or mind-stretching have you read? what are you reading now? etc.

3. Start/join a reading group. This has been very fruitful for me. I meet with a group of church planters 2X per year. Our meetings are based around a book that we've all been reading as an assignment. So there's 2 books per year that I'm forcing myself to read so I don't look like an idiot. My wife and I set aside time every other week to read a relationship book together and discuss it. Locally, I meet with 2 other pastors every week and discuss a leadership/spiritual growth/preaching book we're all reading.

4. Keep an @reading list. When I wrote down all of my "current" reads in my @reading list, it turned out I was trying to read 8-10 books at the same time. I've since gotten that down to 5 books that I'm keeping open on my list. (1 church planting, 1 relationship, 1 preaching, and 2 others). Minimize the open loops.

5. Take a reading retreat. If you just can't make yourself read at home or work (you probably also can't pray there), take a reading retreat every month or quarter where you blast through 1-3 books over a couple of days.

6. Don't leave home without it. Always keep reading material with you. If you have to sit in the waiting room for 30 minutes, don't waste your time with whatever magazine hapens to be lying around. Read the book or article that you brought (or one that's on your Palm Pilot). If you have to sit outside the changing room while you're shopping with your wife, use the time reading.

That's how I make time to read. What works for you?

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Gadget Alert - Mac "Subnotebook" in '07?

So yesterday I posted about Vulcan's new FlipStart. It's so cute and portable. And I wished aloud that Apple had such a thing in the works...

Today, I came across this Reuters article talking about how Apple may start using flash drives "in small computers known as subnotebooks in the second half of 2007."

Then I found this article on ThinkSecret about Apple posting a job for "Manager of Mobile Mac Architecture."

What could it all mean? Could we see a very small Mac Book with a thumb keypad in our future? Then I could really get rid of my Palm Pilot and just have my GTD system in one system. Not that I want to get rid of the Palm Pilot, but it just makes so much more sense to only have to interface with one operating system that will do everything I want it to do...

iNotebook? iMacBook? iMCrazy?

Okay, these last couple of posts have been a little off topic. I apologize. But it's all sooo exciting! I just had to share.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Gadget Alert - Tiniest Laptop Ever!

Okay. I may have been a little hasty a couple of posts ago to write off ever using MSWindows again.
jkOnTheRun has just posted a 20-minute video review of the Vulcan FlipStart.
He writes:
The FlipStart is essentially a tiny laptop complete with a full QWERTY keyboard, trackpad, trackstick, integrated EV-DO, and a secondary display in the LID. It’s taken a while to get the FlipStart out the door but it appears Vulcan has used that time wisely with a lot of attention to detail and a very solid build quality.

The unit I am using has a Pentium M 1.1 GHz processor with 500 MB of RAM, A 30 GB hard drive, Windows XP SP2, integrated EV-DO, and a web cam.
He even says you can use it for VoIP. This would be a great replacement for my Palm Pilot and a great addition to my GTD family of inboxes.

Now, if only Mac made one of these. (Maybe a good next project after the iPhone).

Some FlipStart downsides: Older processor, high price ($2000), non-upgradable memory, etc.

Go to the Vulcan FlipStart website.

Here's the video:

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Not Enough Time to Read?

As "idea professionals," pastors can never read enough. You have to keep up on church growth literature, business/management/leadership practices, and theological and cultural trends. And you have to make time to feed your own soul.

Here are a few great resources:

ChristianBookSummaries.com - FREE. This site has a large library of summarized Christian books. Most are contemporary. Some are classics. You can sign up to get an email each time they upload a new summary. The books are well-summarized (about 8 pages each) and easy to move through quickly. You might find the quick summary read-through is enough (it took 200 pages to say that???). Or you might find that you want to buy the whole book. Either way, you've saved quite a bit of time and kept up on some recent Christian thought.

Tarrant Baptist Association - FREE. Also has a bunch of great Christian (and some business) book summaries. They seem to be less professional and all html-based, but I've gotten a lot of interesting reading out of them. They also seem to have some more up-to-the-minute titles.

PastorResources.com - FREE. If you go to the "bookshelf" section, you can see summaries (and/or excerpts) of very recently published books. I've actually found several very interesting books from here that I have put on my amazon.com wish list. You can also sign up for a weekly email that includes 4-5 book summaries each week.

Executive Book Summaries - NOT FREE. The site that started it all. Get all of the best and most recent books on management, leadership, sales, marketing, cultural trends, etc. This is a subscription service. It's a little pricey, but not nearly as much as you'd pay for the books (and time to read them, to boot). Download some free samples, while you're there.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Palm Syncing with Google Calendar

I got a comment on my last post (about having to tweak my calendar so it's no longer a block schedule):
Josue said...

You may want to use Google Calendar. Then set a primary calendar for your hard appointments and a secondary one for your blocks. They can be given different colors and you can hide or highlight them very easily at any time.

GTD is cool :) I just started implementing it 2 weeks ago and it has changed my work flow in an amazing way!

1. Way to go, Josue! Keep using GTD. The first month may be the hardest. But if you focus on the amazing results you're seeing, you will never want to go back!

2. But I use a Palm Pilot. And in searching online, I've only seen nasty, ugly, roundabout hacks to get Google Calendars to sync with a Palm Pilot. Most of them involve iCal, which I don't use because I used to have Palm Pilot and iCal syncing issues.


So this evening, my wife and I were enjoying some idle conversation, when I wistfully proclaimed, "I wish there were some good way to sync my Palm Pilot with Google Calendars. I got this great comment today... And I can have multiple calendars with one as my block schedule and one as my appointment calendar..."

My wife said, "Did you even check your del.icio.us links today?!"

Lo and behold! There it was. A link from my lovely wife to goosync.com. And it looks like it actually will sync my Palm Pilot with Google Calendar! There's a free version and a subscription version. I'll have to see how well I like the free version before I go throwing money at anything.

I'll let you know what I come up with.

I'm not really tied to MSOutlook anyway, because I'm only a MSWindows person at work. And my work situation is changing... And I really doubt I'll ever have to use a PC again. Am I rambling?

P.S. Thanks for the tip, Josue! Thanks for the heads up, wife.

P.P.S. Did everyone else already know that you could sync Google Calendars with a Palm Pilot? Am I the last one to know these things?