5 Productivity Tools for Ministry

As a married, full-time lay minister in the church raising two young children, my life is hectic!  Most of the time I’m going a mile a minute and loosing important things along the way.  My ministry tends to suffer from my pace of life.

Lately I have found that with the right use of tools I can do a much better job of not letting things fall through the cracks.  These tools can be applied in a variety of settings like churches, other non-profits and the business world.  I’d like to show how they’ve been helpful for me in my ministry.

  1. I love FlockNote!

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It’s designed just for churches, and lets me communicate with our parishioners the way they prefer.  I can write one “note” and some will receive it as a text message, some will receive it as an email and some who don’t text or email even receive it as an automated phone call!  It’s linked to our parish’s Facebook and Twitter accounts so I can choose for the note to be published there automatically as well.  There are even widgets that I’ve used to have the latest notes appear on our parish website.  It has allowed me to do in one step what used to take 6 or 7 steps.

Parishioners can sign up easily by either texting our keyword (smsebree) to 84576 or going to our registration page www.flocknote.com/smsebree and choose which lists they would like to receive lists from. They choose how to receive the notes and can update their own information so I don’t have to worry about that administration piece.  It’s also possible to import an existing database if you already have permission to use people’s phone numbers and emails.

The lists we use most are Announcements, Prayer Requests, Bulletin and Parish Newsletter.

  1. I love Google Calendar!

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I have never been able to keep a written calendar.  Inevitably when I want to schedule something I don’t have it with me!  So I would walk around will all these post-it notes or scraps of papers with notes to remind me of things.  Obviously I missed a lot of appointments and meetings!  Then I moved to keeping my calendar on my phone which helped a ton!  But then I also had my appointments on my Outlook calendar and had a hard time keeping them synchronized.  I moved to Google calendar and have never looked back!

Right now, synchronized on my phone and computer, I have my own personal calendar, my husband’s calendar with his major commitments, our parish calendar with all of the happenings on campus, the diocesan Hispanic ministry event calendar, my Nozbe tasks (more on that next) and a collaborative calendar to share appointment/meeting information with my pastor.  Wow!

This has been such a life saver!!  They’re each color coded.  They’re all set up to automatically synchronize between my phone, computer or other devices as well as with whomever I have shared the calendar.  I can easily schedule appointments or meetings knowing that they don’t conflict with my personal commitments nor with the parish, my husband, my pastor, etc.  This has made collaboration so much easier!  And I don’t miss appointments and meetings anymore!

  1. I love Nozbe!

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This is like the ultimate to do list.  It’s modeled after David Allen’s book Getting Things Done (GTD).  There are a bunch of great resources out there to learn GTD techniques including a free video course from the Nozbe homepage.  The first step, and for me the most helpful, is getting everything out of my head!!  As David Allen says, I can’t actually get anything done when I’m distracted by all the things in my head.  There is power in just getting it all out: every task or project or idea that needs my attention.  They all go into my Nozbe Inbox.  Then the trick is to process that inbox to assign that task a due date, a context, a project, etc.

For example, after mass on the weekend there is usually a line of people needing something.  I am armed with my phone ready.  She needs a baptismal certificate for little Maria – add task to inbox, context: office work, due date: next Sunday.  He needs an appointment to get his diabetes checked – add task to inbox, context: phone work, due date: tomorrow.  I can do that quickly and easily from the app on my phone.  That allows me later to see what I need to do, batch tasks according to their context and even mark them as Next Actions so I know what steps to take next.  It is all synchronized between my phone and computer.  Right now it’s also connected to my google calendar so tasks for today show up on today’s calendar.

So my mind is more clear because I don’t have to keep it all in my head and who doesn’t love the feeling of checking things off a to do list!

Click here to give it a try http://www.nozbe.com/a-stmichaelsebree (Affiliate Link)

  1. I love Evernote!

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This is what would usually happen: I’m sitting in a meeting, cooking dinner, shopping or something and I think – Oh I need to remember to ask Father about scheduling confirmation classes.  I love that flyer; I need to remember that for our next VBS flyer.  I need to remember to pack headphones for vacation next week.  What a great insight, I need to remember that for a future blog post.  And what would I do?  I would scribble it onto a piece of scrap paper which I would promptly lose or promise myself I wouldn’t forget.  Yeah right!

Not anymore!  Now I use Evernote.  From my phone or computer I can make a note then tag it or add it to a certain notebook.  I can add a note by taking a picture or dragging a file or clipping something from the web too.  Again it is synchronized between my phone and computer so wherever I am, I have the note.

So when I sit down to meet with my pastor I open my “Parish Team Meeting” note and I have all the points I have thought of this week that we need to discuss.  For annual events I can just pull up all notes tagged with that name to see what I did last year, ideas for improvements, flyers, etc.  All the notes are searchable, even the pictures with text in them!

Click here for a free month of a Premium account.

  1. I love Dropbox!

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With so many devices these days it’s hard to have access to what I need when I need it.  Inevitably there is a file on my computer that I wish I had to show someone at a deanery meeting.  Or pictures that I took last night at an event on my phone that I want to add to the parish website.  I know there are many in the cloud storage programs, but one of my parishioners invited me to DropBox and it has been so helpful! I can create folders for personal use as well as invite others to share certain folders.  For example, our Parish Council secretary can add the minutes to our shared folder and both our pastor and I can see them immediately.

The most helpful thing for me has been setting up Dropbox on my phone so every time I take a picture it’s automatically added to my Dropbox folder so I can immediately open it up on my computer.  Before I would have to connect my phone via Bluetooth or USB and fight with my phone’s pc software.

BONUS: OK if you’ve read this far you deserve a bonus tool!  I love divineoffice.org! This one is not exactly a productivity tool, but it has helped me!  I have struggled for years to make the Liturgy of the Hours part of my daily routine, but I could never really get myself to make time for it.  Now with two young kids it’s even harder!  But www.divineoffice.org has helped me finally do it.  I keep my iPod stocked up via iTunes and also access the site with my phone.  So now while I take a walk, fold the laundry, do the dishes, etc. I can listen to and pray with a great recording of one of the hours of the Divine Office.

What’s your best tool that helps you be productive in your ministry or personal life? Please share it with us here!

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