Pastor – Your Work is Not About Getting Things Done!

getting things done


A pastor’s schedule is not about getting things done. It’s about praying, writing, thinking and reflecting first and managing and leading second.

Getting Things Done

Since my days as a solicitor (lawyer), I have organised my tasks using the principles found in David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which suggests collecting anything that comes to mind that needs doing (literally anything!) and put it down on a task list. So for as long as I can remember, I have always had a very long to do list, even when my schedule became a pastor’s schedule. Then I was influenced by Michael Hyatt, who takes the principles of Getting Things Done and focuses them to ensure you are hitting your priorities. I have organised my calendar according to my ideal week – what my week would like if everything was perfect – and taken time to reflect at the beginning and end of every working day, and on a weekly and quarterly basis about what are my top priorities from everything that’s on my very lengthy task list.

A Complete Change of Mindset!

I am often stressed about getting everything done. So imagine my excitement when a while ago I read a post entitled, Get Rid Of Your Bloated To-Do List And Get Your Life Back, by Brian Jones. He explained that one day he looked at the 167 items on his to do list and decided, “this is stupid!” So he deleted it and hasn’t looked back since.

Makers v Managers

What was the problem? Brian realised that task management systems are perfect for managers. But as a pastor, we spend the majority of our time being makers.

This is based on Paul Graham’s classic article, Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. In it, Graham says:

There are two types of schedules, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one-hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

The bottom line, as Brian Jones says, is this: 

Makers work in large blocks of uninterrupted time. Managers work in units of time.

A pastor’s schedule is different to a manager’s schedule.

A Time Management Eureka Moment

So, using Brian Jones new suggestions, I completely overhauled my time management system.

I have two projects in my task management system (Omnifocus for Mac) – MAKER Priorities and MANAGER Priorities. I have set Omnifocus up so that my MAKER Priorities take priority over my MANAGER Priorities.

Ideally, every Monday to Friday morning would be my Maker time, when I focus on these tasks. However, because most of our programme is in the mornings, I have scheduled every afternoon to spend in my study at home on Maker Priorities such as sermon preparation and writing, worship meeting preparation and my daily devotional writing.

When I sit to do my Weekly Preview (usually on a Monday morning) I pick no more than six or seven of these Maker tasks to focus on in the coming week.

I also make all Manager/Leader meetings a different colour to my creative tasks in my calendar. Why? Because Manager/Leader work and Maker work are completely different kinds of work that you have to protect from each other. If not, Manager/Leader work will always eat away at Maker work. Pastors must protect their Maker work from their Manager work.

Feeling Clear and Focused

I have to tell you, I immediately felt calmer the first time I saw my calendar and work look like this. I have already benefitted from a simple, clean and intentional to do list. I’ve stopped trying to achieve more than is humanly possible, or should I say, I have stopped beating myself up for never achieving more than is humanly possible. My mind feels clear and I have felt more focused and productive in the blocks of time available to me. I finally feel as if I am a praying, writing, thinking and reflecting maker first, and an acting, deciding, relating, empowering manager second.

And it feels good.

Photo by Jason Strull on Unsplash

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