Getting (Pastoring) Things Done, Part II

Harold Lloyd Clockface

My previous post is the theoretical side of productivity in the pastor’s life. This one is practical; it’s the practices I am actually doing right now. I share not because everyone should do the same, but because it is working for me, and because to get particular is helpful.

First, I’ve solidified my morning routine. My “office hours” are 7am-4pm, Monday-Thursday. I set those hours myself, because I’m a morning person, and because when I started the job, it worked well for when my son (then eight months old, now not) was conscious, so I could see and help care for him.

Wake up
4:50-5:20am Walk two miles
5:20am Coffee
5:25am  Bible (currently three chapters OT, one chapter NT), devotional reading (currently Julian of Norwich), journal, pray
6:15am Breakfast, shower, get ready for work
6:52am Leave for work

I’m in the midst of keeping a time audit, because I kept losing lots of time before. It’s a temporary tool, which returns from time to time as needed. What I’ve tried to do at the office is create places of momentum, where I don’t waste energy making decisions  in the moment that don’t need to be changed from day to day, and where I can get into heavier tasks more easily because the first repeated tasks get the flywheel moving.

For me, “heavier tasks” are the ones that tend to take more emotional, intellectual, or creative energy. That could include planning a sermon series, reading headier stuff, or writing, as well as phone calls. (I assume some extroverts procrastinate from the tasks I like by making phone calls.) The momentum building routine is that first hour at the office in the morning, and then I push back Noon Prayer to after lunch, because I need another repeated habit in the afternoon, if I don’t want to lose half of it to random Internet crap.

7am Morning Prayer
7:30am Planning Pomodoro
12pm Lunch
1pm Noon Prayer
1:10pm Silence
1:30pm Back at it
4pm Head home


7pm Caloric cut-off
8:30pm Screens off
9pm Bed

Better energy, more must-do tasks completed in less time, better sleep, more creativity, more in touch with myself emotionally, less divided in heart and mind when I’m home, prayer for my churches is actually happening

Final notes:

  • Yes, it’s ideal, but it is also working really well for me. The main thing is to experiment, and to let experiments have a chance to progress for a while. Being able to look at a schedule with a “non-judging” eye is the best way I’ve found.
  • For planning a morning routine, check out this from Michael Hyatt. I also found his post on journaling a very helpful framing for the practice.
  • If you want to do Pomodoro, or have even dabbled with it in the past, I urge you to read this .pdf. It is far more helpful than any of the derivative summary posts that are out there.
  • If this stuff interests you, you really should check out a much more in-depth conversation at The Productive Pastor (podcast).

2 thoughts on “Getting (Pastoring) Things Done, Part II

  1. Iknowiknow that I already commented on facebook, but also wanted to say here that another reason I appreciate reading your work is because I like seeing how you prioritize contemplation. Some comments you made, years ago, have stuck with me and opened my eyes to the importance of contemplation in a regular work day.

    I’m working on writing poetry more (had a writing coach/spiritual director for 6 months this year) which is connected to silence for me, because I write about one poem for every 3 hours I spend just staring at a candle, thinking, with a blank page open. That’s what I did for an hour and half yesterday and it was WONDERFUL. Just what I needed to get me ready for Sunday after a busy week.

    Silent stillness. Who knew. Should be a thing.

    • Kathryn, thanks for both notes. I’d love to know what I said about contemplation that stuck with you.

      That is an intense practice you’re talking about. I don’t remember the last time I sat for an hour and stayed conscious, but maybe a candle would help. I’d like to move up to longer times, and maybe a candle would help (or a walking meditation). There was some blog post I read years ago, where the author insisted that people who don’t practice two hours of contemplation a day have no business writing books about it. I don’t know that that’s possible for the non-monastic life, but it still stuck with me.

      Finally, on the silence, I love the NRSV rendering (which I’ve never looked to see what it’s based on) of God’s “still small voice” (KJV) to Elijah as “the sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19).

      Also, one of the best prayers in the Book of Common Prayer, from p. 832 (riffing on Isaiah 30:15):
      “O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art our God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

      Yes, I do use the weekly prayers from the BCP in my United Methodist congregations every single Sunday…

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