personal productivitypodcast

Free Personal Productivity Webinar for Pastors


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rich_small_bwToday’s podcast is a FREE webinar on personal productivity designed specifically for church leaders. This episode is packed full of practical tools to help you do more with the time you’ve been given. We take a deep dive into how to effectively manage the dreaded email inbox.  I also talk about some common time wasters that have impacted me in my ministry over the years. I started unSeminary to help church leaders be more effective in their ministry … to help us go farther, faster. There’s no better way to increase the effectiveness of your church then by dealing with your own personal productivity!

Rich Birch // [twitter] [more free stuff]

Webinar Highlights

00:56// Make the most of every opportunity …

02:48// 5 Tips for Managing Your Email

10:38 // 5 Tools to Leverage Your Time Better

19:50 // 5 Time Wasters in Ministry

Resources Mentioned

Keyboard Shortcuts // Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail

Why Gmail is Amazing // Read this article and then switch to Gmail today.

Time Delay Emails (and more!) //  Boomerang for Gmail

Manage all your social media in one place // Hootsuite

Make Google constantly search the web for you // Google Alerts

Remove the ads from the web // AdBlock for Chrome or for Firefox

Your To-Do List Everywhere // Remember the Milk

If This Then That // IFTTT


Webinar Transcript //

Alright, well happy Thursday everybody.  Welcome to a very special edition of the UnSeminary podcast.  We are going to do something totally different today.  Just to change it up.  It’s a holiday week here in the United States and so I thought we’d give our guests a week off.  So no need to interview them.  And today I thought we’d do a mini lesson, a webinar called Pastoral Productivity 101.  So what this is going to be, it’s kind of an online course, a discussion on a number of ways that I think pastors can leverage their time better in ministry.  And you know, it’s really all grounded in this one scripture verse in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.”.  You know the core part of the verse there, ‘making the most of every opportunity…’  You know we are going to talk about that today and how we as pastors can leverage every opportunity that comes our way.  We have been given lots of opportunities every week.  You and I are given the same amount of time, the same number of days and how is it that we can leverage them for our ministry?  You know there’s really 3 sets of 5 things that we are going to talk about today that I am going to talk about today that I am hoping will help you in this coming week as you serve at your church.

The first is 5 Tips for Managing Email. I just want to give you the heads up that email is not going anywhere.  It’s one of those things that as a pastor, as a church leader, we’ve got to figure out how do we use it, how do we leverage it for our ministry.

The second is we are going to talk about 5 Tools to Leverage your Time Better. These are kind of online tools that you could use to really just leverage your time better.  To get better use of the time that God’s given you.

And finally, 5 Time Wasters in Ministry.  These 5 things are things that I’ve seen waste time all the time!  Partly because I have seen myself fall into these areas where I have seen myself waste my time in ministry.

So, these are the things we are going to talk about.  That’s kind of the structure for today.  If you are listening to the podcast, I am going to try and talk in a way so that you don’t necessarily need to see everything, but you might want to go over to and actually watch this episode.  There are a series of slides that we are going to work through throughout today.

Well let’s jump in on 5 Tips for Managing Email.  As I was saying email is here to stay.  It’s not the kind of thing that’s going away.  It’s a communication tool that you and I have to get used to and use it for our best.  Remember the time email was fun?  You know I do.  I remember way back when my wife and I were in University or College and I remember sending emails back and forth to her and that was just so fun.  It was so instantaneous.  I would hear little notes about what was going on at school.  But you know it’s just not fun anymore is it?  These are 5 things that I think you need to pay attention to if you want to manage your email and not have your email manage you.

First of all Smart Phones are Dumb….Smart phones are not a way to process email.  And you see kind of multiple times we will come back to a similar idea here.  You know if you’ve got an iPhone, a Blackberry whatever…they are really a terrible way to process email.  The reason for that is because you can just move so much faster on your computer than on your smart phone.  I challenge you to this and people will say ‘no, no, no I’ve got some cool app’ and they are the expert in this part of the conversation.  ‘I’ve got this cool app that makes processing emails really quick.’  I challenge you to a race.  Find somebody else and choose the same task.  Say ‘We are going to find an email that was sent to us last week and we are going to forward that email, or reply to that email to someone else.’  I challenge you to do that on your smart phone, and have someone else do that on their lap top or desk top and I guarantee you that the desktop will be faster. The reality of it is you can’t move that quickly on your smart phone.  And so they really are a dumb way to process email.  And that really leads us into our second point….

Stop Checking your Email! Wait a second!  What does that mean?  Well checking your email is that thing that you do when you may just open up your computer, or open up your phone to just see what’s there.  You are just checking.  You’re not doing anything with it, you’re just kind of looking at it.  Why is this a problem?  All this does is build up anxiety inside of you.  You go through, you look at all the emails, you think ‘oh my goodness there’s a chance, there’s someone looking for me to respond to that.’  What you need to do is set time aside to process email.  What this means is you are not just checking your email, you open an email, with one purpose and that purpose is to get to the bottom of your emails.  Clear through all the emails.  Not to just look at the titles or see what’s there because what happens when you do that is not only do you release kind of this emotional anxiety because you have looked, because you haven’t actually dealt with them, you haven’t actually gotten it off your plate.  It’s still something you need to respond to.

Alright, number 3: Reply Sparingly.  A couple years ago I did a study of my email and looked at all the email I had sent over the last 5 years.  I am a huge fan of Gmail so I kind of did a quick study.  One of the things that stood out to me was that I have received twice as many emails as I have sent.  The thing that taught me is that for every email I send, I am going to get 2 in return.  So when I reply to an email I am going to get two back from someone else.  So the question is, ‘Do I really need to reply to this email?”  Can I just ignore it?  My dad had a friend… when we were younger I remember my Dad telling me this story about a buddy of his that was an executive at a company, and this is old school, pre-email, pre-fax and all that.  And what he would do on Fridays is he would get a garbage can, put it at the end of his desk and simply clear his desk off into the garbage can.  He would say, ‘If it’s that important, they will get back to me.’  Now that’s a bit extreme, but you get the idea that if it really is that important, people will continue to get to you.  And if you just keep replying you are just going to ratchet up the amount of email.  So reply sparingly.  Only send emails that you absolutely need to send.

Alright, number 4:  Take Action on First Touch. This goes back to stop checking your email.  The goal of your email is to not to try and open it up and see what’s going on in there.  The only reason you open your email is to process your email, to take action on the first touch.  You should never open an email more than once.  You should open it up and respond right away.   There are 4 different things you can do.  The first is to delete the email.  So the email comes in, I don’t need to respond to it, I don’t need to do anything with this, it makes no difference in my life, I could just delete it. The second thing you can do is delegate it.  You could further it on to someone else.  You could say ‘Thanks so much for reaching out to me, I really think the best person for you to connect with is our Student Ministry guy.  He’s got everything you need to deal with your student in that issue.’  So you could delegate it to someone else. Third, you could defer it to another time.  Now may not be the best time for you to deal with that.  But you could say to someone.  ‘Hey thanks for emailing, I am going to look at this further tomorrow.’  And then you need to come up with a system for coming back to that email a day from now which we will talk about in a little bit.  And then the third is that you need to do it!  Actually respond to it.  Do something, respond to that email right now.  When that email comes through to you, remember the goal is to get that email out of the box.  The only reason you are looking at it is to clear it.  You are looking for inbox zero.  You are looking to have nothing in your inbox overtime you open your email.

Alright, last way to process your email is Keyboard Shortcuts.  Whatever program your’e using to process email, now I prefer Gmail.  I really think that Gmail running in a Chrome browser, Firefox whatever browser you use, is the best way to process email.  Gmail has a lot of high performance features in there for people who really want to process a lot of emails.  Our email super users.  But one of those things that you need to learn about are keyboard shortcuts.  Every program has ways for you to manage your email without taking your hand off the keys.  The reality is that the mouse or trackpad is a very slow way to move around your computer.  It takes longer to get on your mouse, to find and click and drag or respond, or add a tag or hit send.  That takes longer with your track pad or with your mouse than it would if you just learned the keyboard shortcut.  You can go on Google and let’s say you are using Outlook, just type in Outlook keyboard shortcuts.  Even if you did Outlook keyboard shortcut pdf, that will send you out all the shortcuts that you need.  You just print those off and get to know them.  You would be amazed actually how long it takes you to learn them.

Alright so 5 tips for processing email. Email is here to stay.  Stop bemoaning.  You need to find a way as a senior leader to deal with it.  Hopefully those tips are helpful!

Alright, so next we are talking about some Time Saving Tools.  So these are tools that I currently use.  And they change from time to time.  But these are 5 tools that I currently use right now so save me time in ministry.  Now I realize, I am given the same amount of time as everyone else in my church, as every one else that we are trying to reach, so I am trying to leverage technology to use my time more wisely.  Here are a number of tools.

The first one I use is what’s called Boomerang for Gmail.  Now what Boomerang for Gmail is, it’s what’s called a plug in for Chrome, because I use the Chrome browser to access the gmail.  Now what it allows you to do at it’s most basic function is to say ‘hey, I want this email to come back into my inbox at a certain time, a future time.’  I want to boomerang that email back into my inbox.  So a simply way to, that’s kind of the simplest way to think about it.  It also does time delayed emails.  As an example, let’s say for instance I was opening up an email here and send it to someone, now what you can do, you can see it adds just a little box to the bottom of your gmail, Send this email at a certain time in the future.  You can preset it to send it two hours from now, 2 days from now, a bunch of those.  Now why is this important?  I can send an email to someone and actually ask Boomerang, ‘if I don’t get a reply to this email, please send it back to me.’  Or I can send an email to you and say ‘Hey, I want to check in and see how things are going on the retreat.’  And you know what, I can program that on a Tuesday afternoon, and let’s say the retreat is on Saturday,  and program that so Saturday morning that email goes to that person.  So I can kind of batch my time together, work on that email all at once but have those emails time out in the future.  It’s a real powerful tool.  They have a free version but then it costs a little bit to upgrade to that.

Alright, number 2.  HootSuite.  Now HootSuite is an interesting tool.  It is used to manage all your social media streams.  So we obviously talk a lot about social media here at UnSeminary.  And HootSuite is the tool that I use at the core of all my social media interactions.  One of the advantages from a time saving point of view is that they have kind of a timed, and auto schedule for social media status updates.   Again, you can batch these.  You can sit down in the morning and write a bunch of status updates for Facebook.  Or you can do it once a week, you could say I am going to schedule out a bunch of different  status updates.  Some compelling content that I want to connect with my people.  And schedule that out over a number of days, weeks, months, you can schedule that out way in advance.  So it makes it super easy.  They also have this feature on there called auto schedule.  You just put content in there and it will auto schedule and they will figure out the best time for the content to hit with the people who follow you.  And HootSuite manages not only Twitter, as the name may intimate, not only Twitter but it also manages Facebook, Google+, Linked In.  It will manage all your streams from one locations.  Again, it’s one interface.  You can batch your time all in one place at one time.

Number 3, Google Alerts.  This is a tool that has changed shifted a little over the last couple of years. But what Google Alerts does is you put in a search feature, something that you want the internet to find, and so for instance, let’s say the name of my church ‘Liquid Church’, and what it will do is, Google is constantly looking for that, say in news articles, and it will send you an email when something happens, when a new news article happens with this name on it.  Now why is this a time saver?  Because for you and for me we don’t want to spend all our time searching on the internet if someone is saying something new about our church.  But we would like to know if someone does say post a news article, or post something that is relevant to our ministry.  So let’s just let Google do that.  Have them constantly out there looking for you to find that information.  So there it is, Google Alerts.  A great tool.

Alright number 4, AdBlock.  Now this one is kind of an interesting one.  Again I use Google Chrome, it’s a Chrome extension, a plug in that goes into Chrome.  And what AdBlock does is it actually removes the adds on webpages.  When you are on the internet surfing around on webpages etc it will remove the adds.  Now why is it that this….You can see this example, 7 adds removed from this particular page.  It removed 1300 adds from this page in total.  Actually, I have just installed it into a new browser, currently on that browser it’s sitting at like, that computer is maybe 6 months old and it’s sitting at 40 some odd thousand adds that it’s removed. Now why is that important, how does this save time?  The reality of it is it is interruption based marketing.  So that’s marking that is when you are on the internet consuming content and they are insetting that.  It slows you down because it distracts you and tries to pull you in another direction.  And what AdBlock will do is go in and remove those adds.  It will go in and say you should come and check this out and it just is a distraction when you are online.  So AdBlock, that’s another tool that might be of assistance to you.

Number 5, a tool that I use that I absolutely love is Remember the Milk. So what Remember the Milk is, it’s just a simple to do system that you can put in to do’s to remind you that there is something that you need to remember to do in life or at work or in your ministry and that sort of thing.  The thing I like about Remember the Milk, is not only does it work on my phone, it has an app, but it ties into Gmail, so I see them right there in Gmail, it also ties into Google Calendar, and I’ve got a desktop app.  So the same digital to do list is finding itself on all my various digital channels.  It’s super nice and super easy to enter in and manage my to do list.  It also does recurring tasks.  A lot of these systems don’t do recurring tasks and for me that’s important.  I have tasks that repeat every week, so they remind me every week it’s time for me to do whatever.   But I also have tasks that repeat less frequently, I have tasks that repeat annually.  Say the week before Memorial Day weekend I get a reminder that says, ‘Hey, should we remove chairs out of our auditoriums where we can remove chairs because we are going to have less people?’  That’s the kind of thing that I don’t even have to think about because the system is going to remind me.  And there’s a bunch of them, those kinds of tasks in there.  So you can see here, it kind of shows you a bunch of different places it works.

Now there is one other bonus one.  This is something that I have just started to use in the last 6-8 months.  It’s called If This, Then That.  Now the interesting thing, this is a bit hard to describe, and you really should just go over there and check it out. What If This Then That does, it is a website and it’s kind of looking out on the internet and piece together multiple services that says if this changes on this website, then do that in another way.  So for instance, I have one set up.  I have a bunch set up actually, that says ‘If Kenny, a friend of mine, posts something new on his website, go into HootSuite, another website I use and post it on my feed.’ So I haven’t had to go Kenny’s site to turn around and posting that content.  It’s because it was posted new on Kenny’s site, I then want to post that on my social feed.  I do that the same with the content our website.  So every time the guys get around to posting up a new message from our weekend, turn around and post that on my social media channels.  I just want to do that automatically because I want to make sure the people that follow me, our schedule.  Another one, in Google Calendar, if I put the hashtag call, then give me a phone call to remind me to do that.  It’s an extra notification.  So I put that notification for kind of high value meetings I want to make sure I am on time for.

Alright, we are rounding the corner here at the end.  These are Five Time Wasters in ministry.  Now I talk about these because, you know, I’ve fallen into these time wasters.  So these don’t come from a place of ‘Oh my goodness, I know so much and you know so little.’ That’s not where they come from at all.  These come from the fact that I’ve fallen into them and I just want to pass along some advice from one person to another.

So the first is when we think about, you and I are constantly faced with interruptions in ministry.  We will be working along and things happen, that’s just the nature of working with people.  And the question we have to ask, is this thing that’s happening right now a trivial interruption or is it a ministry opportunity.  There are times when people want to interact with us and frankly it’s a trivial interruption.  It’s taking us off task, its not helping us do what we are called to do.  You know there are times when we get interrupted and you know what, it might actually be a ministry opportunity.  We might have to put things aside and ask ‘Lord, what is it you want me to do with this person right now?  How is it you want me to talk with them?  What are you asking me right now to interact with this person about?’  For me it’s important as interruptions come into my life to ask that question constantly and to say what’s happening right now, is this one of those two and to steer my day based on that.  Sometimes if it’s a trivial interruption, the point is to kind of find yourself to the end of the conversation as quickly as possible, and move them along, maybe get them connected with someone else.  Or if it’s a ministry opportunity you may need to cancel a couple things and say I would love to talk with you right now and maybe pray through what it is that’s on your plate.

Number 2, Multi-Tasking.  I’ve talked about this before on various posts on UnSeminary, but there is no such thing as multi-tasking.  The human brain is not designed to multi-task.  We are designed to do one thing at a time and to go from one idea to the next to the next to the next. Sociologists and phycologists and doctors and smarter people than me have proven that time and time again.  So if you think you are multi-tasking, really what you are doing is turning that task on and off multiple times. And the problem with that is every time you turn on a new task you have cycle time in between there.  It takes time to reconnect what it was you were thinking about before, so when you try to multi-task, actually what you are doing is reducing your effectiveness.  It would be much more effective, instead of trying to write a sermon, and update your blog post and update stuff on Facebook all at the same time, and let’s say you are trying to do all that stuff over an hour, you would be much more efficient if you just took time right now and did all of your sermon writing in a block.  Then take time to update your blog.  And once that’s done, update your social media stuff.  Chunk tasks down into similar, you actually want to kind of reduce the kind of complexity in your tasking. In your working, you want to chunk it, you want to time chunk it together rather than multi-tasking.  That’s a whole other conversation but multi-tasking really doesn’t work at all.

Number 4, Travel Time. We are often out, heading out and meeting with people.  We are maybe meeting with donors, or volunteers that need help, or other ministries.  And travel time is one of those things that can suck an incredible amount of time out of your day.  Particularly if you do this, if you get in your car and you are going to the next town over to meet with a volunteer, because you want to encourage them or ask them to join a team. When you drive out there and meet with that person, and then just meet with that person and then drive back, you’ve wasted that travel time because you’ve done is spent that travel time with that one individual.  What you should do, again on the chunking thing, is try to chunk together multiple meetings in that area for the time you are there.  So meet with not only that volunteer but also drop in on another church leader or meet with that volunteer and maybe there is a coffee shop around the corner and you know you want to do some sermon writing time and you know if you kind of change your location you’re the kind of person who feels more creative when you are in a different location.  Add that to that meeting.  Try to find ways if you are traveling to a location to do multiple things in that location.  Preferably multiple meetings or multiple interactions in that location rather than just doing one thing at a time in that location.  Also, a great thing with travel time is podcasts.  Hopefully you are tuning into UnSeminary podcast in that timeframe as well.  Try to use that time, redeem that time, leverage that as much as possible.

Alright, number 4…coming to round the corner to the end here.  Micromanagement.  You and I tempted to step in when we assign other stuff to other people for them to do.  We try to empower them and say you take that ball and run with it.  We are super tempted to jump in and to either take it back from them, or to over manage them, over lead them, micromanage them.  The reality of it is in your ministry, once you assign it to someone else, and you give them what they need to do that role, you need to let them do it.  You need to resist the urge of jumping in because they may not do it as well as you. In fact, there is a good chance that they won’t do it as well as you would do it.  But the reality of it is, you’re not doing it!  This is a lesson for me and I constantly think this and I struggle with this to be honest….only do the things that only I can do.  And when we micromanage what we are doing is we are doing the things that other people could do.  And we need to give them that freedom, give them that stuff and move along.

Alright, number 5, Sloppy Social Media.  You know I love social media.  I think it is a great tool for ministry.  It can be hugely effective for your church.  It can help you extend your reach and your brand, help you interact with new people in a new way.  But the reality of it is, those tools, all of those tools are designed to kind of suck time out of you.  They are designed for you to open up Facebook, jump on there and three hours later you’ve just looked at a lot of posts, and a lot of adds by the way, and just wasted a bunch of time.  Every time you interact with social media you need to have a clear call for what it is you are going to do right now.  So if you are jumping onto Facebook right now, the goal should be I want to interact with as many people as possible.  I want to like, comment, share people’s posts on there from my church as much as possible because I want to encourage volunteers right now.  That’s what I want to do, find volunteers on there right now and encourage them through their social media.  You need to have a goal overtime you open up social media.  Not to just open it up and see what’s happening on Facebook right now.  Or maybe it’s, I am going to go on and, it’s really just I want to catch a pulse with my people, what’s going on…which is fine.  That’s actually a good goal for social media.  But when you open it up, say I am going to spend 30 minutes, and put on a timer and I want to just read a bunch of people’s posts and get a sense of what’s going on in my people’s lives today.  So avoiding Sloppy Social Media use is number 5. That is a time waster…Sloppy Social Media.

Thank you so much for tuning in.  Thanks so much for listening to the UnSeminary podcast today.  I hope that today’s mini-lesson, a little something different than what  we’ve done in the past, hopefully that was helpful.  You know this weekend as you go into your church and as you have the opportunity to share with people,  God has given you a limited amount of time and so this is an opportunity over the next couple days to ask the Lord, how can you use the time that He’s given you.  Thanks so much for tuning in and we will see you next week on the UnSeminary podcast.


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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.