28 Tips, Tricks, Apps and Hacks for Senior Pastors

If you‘d like to get more done in less time, here are a number of my favourite time saving tips, tricks, apps and hacks for Senior Pastors in the trenches.

Brian’s Productivity Rules

3 Sentence Email Rule – Except in rare circumstances, I never respond in email with more than 3 sentences. If something warrants a longer response I’ll say, “See me Sunday” or “Bring this up at staff meeting.”

“Can You Email Me?” Rule – Stop telling people before/during/after services that YOU will contact them. Put the burden on them. Stop allowing yourself to be the revolving pinwheel of personal contact request keeping. Better yet, see below…

“Just Tell Me Now, Please” Rule – I can’t tell you how many people will approach me after a service and say, “Can we get together and talk?” I get asked this five times a weekend. The answer is, “No, just share with me now.” 99% of the time its something that can be answered in 3 minutes, instead of going to all of the trouble to schedule a meeting, carve out time, go to the location, sit down, and then hear the situation they’d like to discuss.

“No More Meetings” Rule – This has become a mantra for me. The tendency in collaborative environments is to try to meet more, not less. Therefore we have to discipline ourselves to force our teams to utilize the existing meetings we already have set up to make decisions.

Change Your Cell Phone Number Every Three Years Rule – This forces you to continually re-evaluate and winnow the potential people who have immediate access to you. Outside of your family and friends, I suggest that you limit cell phone access to your governing board members, staff, and a handful of trusted key leaders.

Set Reminders For The Day’s Meetings Rule – In the morning I set alarms/reminders five minutes before each of my meetings. The phone reminders give me peace of mind as I quickly move from meeting to meeting. Outlook reminders are always too quiet and I’ve trained myself over time to ignore them.

Keep Simple Files Rule – Many Senior Pastor’s have disorganized filing systems on their laptops. Audit your files and winnow them down. Make them intuitive and easy to find. Dump everything off your laptop you don’t need regular access to onto a backup disk.

Never Put Anything On Paper That Can Be Typed Rule – Stop writing down things in long-hand, thereby necessitating transferring that information later into a file on your laptop. Take all notes in Evernote. See below.

Go To Bed And Wake Up At The Same Time Every Day – This is the keystone habit of personal discipline for Senior Pastors. Consistency in sleep fosters energy, focus, and intentionality.


Expensify – Our whole staff uses this app for expense reports. It’s cut our time doing reports by 90%.

Evernote – I save EVERYTHING to Evernote – sermon illustrations, important family papers, recipes, etc.THIS book will get you started.

Kindle Notes – Whenever I read a book in Kindle I’ll highlight quotes that stand out to me, then have my assistant go retrieve them in my Kindle account and put them into Evernote. I’m surprised how many Senior Pastors don’t save what they read in an easy to retrieve format for sermon fodder. Read a book a week, highlight the quotes, get them into Evernote, and in one year you’ll have a treasure trove of illustrative content.

Wunderlist – Our entire staff lives and breathes this app. Hands down the easy way to manage to-do lists and collaborate as a team. Watch THIS to get a feel for how this will revolutionize your life and ministry. Like Evernote, Wunderlist syncs between all devices.

JotNotPro – For whenever I need to snap something directly from my phone, turn it into a PDF, and attach it in an email to myself or someone else.

Dropbox – This is the only way our Teaching Team, Art’s Team, and myself share sermons, videos, and pictures with one another.

LastPass – I NEVER remember passwords, cut and paste them from a file, etc. LastPass does it all for me.

MyFitnessPal – Hands down the single best way to track what you eat and your progress towards fitness goals.

Allrecipes.com – Since my wife is finishing her doctorate I do the grocery shopping and a lot of the cooking. This has become my go-to site for new recipes and ideas. Save me lots of time, and has great how-to videos.

Time-Saving Tools

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i Mobile Document Scanner – This sits on my desk. Scans up to 12 pages at a time and then gives me 20 different options for where to send them: email them, save to file, save to dropbox, share with…, etc. Love this thing.

eaHELP – My Executive Pastor and I both have virtual assistants through eaHELP. I listed this under the tool section because Kimberly has tripled my productivity. She’s smart, intuitive, funny, incredibly gifted, and has become my administrative right-hand.

Thermos 24 Ounce Tritan Hydration Bottle with Meter, Teal – I continually rotate three of these throughout the day. I drink 100 ounces of water each day – 20 ounces before each meal. This bottle saves me time going back and forth getting water and looking for cups.

Alaska Bear Natural Silk Sleep Mask – Since lack of sleep kills productivity, I take sleep very seriously. Hands down the best sleep eye covering mask I’ve found.

EZ-DUZ-IT 3028 Deluxe Can Opener with Grips, Black – I know, this is random. But I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted looking for a good can opener. Touted as the “World’s Greatest Can Opener” – I believe it. 100% reliable and cheap.

Nutribullet – I fix protein shakes in a fraction of the time with this thing. Clean-up is so quick and simple. No large blender sitting around. In, out, done.

The Best Writing On Productivity I’ve Ever Read (or heard)

Chapter 2: “Know Thy Time” in Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive – Should be required reading of all Senior Pastors.

Chapter 5: “The End of Time Management” in Tim Ferris’ The Four Hour Work Week – Some of the most helpful advice I’ve found on restructuring how you approach time and your ministry.

Chapter 9: “The Leader’s Schedule” in Henry Blackaby’s Spiritual Leadership – Hands down the best spiritual writing on putting first things first I’ve ever read.

Letter 13 in the Tao of Seneca (audiobook) – This fantastic audiobook of Seneca’s Moral Letters To Lucilius should be required listening for all Senior Pastors of growing churches. A stoic mindset helps mollify emotional swings, which in turn kill productivity (i.e. – it’s hard to work on a sermon when you are anxious or depressed). Letter 13 addresses “On Groundless Fears.” I’ve listened to it a dozen times.



By Brian Jones


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