Lead Better: Get Organized

This is the third installment in a series called “Lead Better…” It focuses on some often overlooked, but incredibly important, practices for better leadership. Part One. Part Two.

Trying to lead while being disorganized is like running a marathon with bricks strapped to your feet. Doable, but unnecessarily difficult. Get organized to lead better. Most definitions of “organization” focus of things being orderly. That’s a good start. But I look at being organized this way: having easy access to what you need to get the job done.

Lead Better: Get Organized

An orderly system doesn’t matter if it’s not user-friendly (think: the Dewey Decimal system). Having all the right information is pointless if your office (or computer) is a disorganized mess and you can’t find anything.

Four Areas to Get Organized

There are four areas that you need to organize: your space, your stuff, your time, and your tasks. Each one plays a significant role in your work as a pastor.

Your Space

Whether you have an office or not, wherever you primarily do work needs to be organized. Take a look at your desk. Would you say that your desk is conducive for doing work? Desks are for doing work, not holding work. For help setting up your desk, check out this book from Matt Perman. New Testament professor, Andy Naselli also has a helpful post on setting up a desk here.

Take a look at your office. Is it clean and orderly? Or does it convey a sense of being lazy or out of control? Keeping a clean office can lead to increased productivity.

Your Stuff

Not only do we need to organize where we do work, but also what we do our work with: our stuff.

For most pastors, the physical stuff we have is books and notes. Take a look at your bookshelves. Is your theological library set up well? Can you easily find that book you want to give away? Tim Challies writes about how to set up a personal library.

But even more, pressing is the digital stuff we have. Most of our work is now done online. So we need to have some kind of system for storing and organizing information. Evernote seems to be universally regarded as the best tool to capture and organize information. Rookie Preacher co-founder, Brandon Kelley, has an extremely useful article on how to set up Evernote for maximum productivity.

An awesome add-on for Evernote is their Web-Clipper. It’s kind of like “bookmarking” a web page but on steroids. The web clipper enables you to save an article or web page exactly “as is.” No need to fear links expiring any longer. You can even make it easier to find content by “tagging” the article with a keyword.

Your Time

Stop lamenting that, “I have too much to do and not enough time!” Organize your time. Here’s a suggestion for setting up your schedule as a pastor. I’ve found Google Calendar to be the single best calendar option out there. From the ability to set up repeating appointments to reminders to the ability to share calendars, you cannot beat Google Calendar.

As a pastor, you need to spend the majority of your time doing what God has called you to do. Don’t allow others to set your schedule. Instead, push against the busyness and the urgent to make sure you’re devoting adequate time to your most important tasks.

Your Tasks

Speaking of tasks…So what are you supposed to do as a pastor?  This is where having a “To Do List” comes in. I recommend using ToDoist. Tim Challies in his book, Do More Better, has helpful guidelines for setting up ToDoist. His guidelines are also relevant even if you’re using a pen and paper.

First, figure out your areas of responsibilities. Next, open ToDoist and create each of those areas as a “Project.” Next, all you need to do is add tasks under those projects. Challies writes that tasks are, “Specific and actionable items related to the project” (pg. 56). In other words, only use ToDoist (or a To Do List) for things which need to get done. It’s not for meetings or appointments.

Just as with physical health, organization is not end in itself. Being organized for organization’s sake is a waste of time. It’s about gospel ministry. Being organized frees you up to do more and better gospel ministry. Always searching for what you need to get the job done wastes precious time to do God’s work. Get organized.

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Written by Chris Pascarella

I am a pastor at Lincroft Bible Church in Lincroft, NJ. I graduated from Southern Seminary with an M.Div in 2013. I like the New York Football Giants, coffee, and watching TV (don’t judge me).