The Ultimate Guide to Productivity [7 Tactics and Over 100 Tools/Apps]

The Ultimate Guide to Productivity

Let me be clear right up front about the fact that I have a lot to learn in terms of productivity. I certainly have not arrived. I have simply learned from many others over the years about tools, tips, and practices they use to help them be more productive. People like Carey Nieuwhof, Jim Wideman, and Frank Bealer are great examples of leaders who are extremely productive and have lots of wisdom to share in this area.

This guide is a collection of most of the principles, ideas, tools, and practices I have found to be helpful when it comes to making the most of the limited time we have.


I won’t expand on these, but here are some overarching principles I believe in as it relates to productivity. They are the foundation for everything else in this post.

  • You can’t manage time. You can only manage your activity.
  • All hours of the day are not equal, so focus on managing your energy.
  • Don’t touch things more than once, otherwise, you’re wasting time.
  • “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” – Parkinson’s Law
  • Plan your work and work your plan.
  • As your responsibilities grow, particularly across distinct areas, the more important this all becomes.


Before you jump in and change how you work, it’s important to evaluate how you have worked to get an accurate picture of how well your current system functions (or doesn’t). Here are a few ways you can evaluate your current system.

Track Time

This is tedious and certainly isn’t fun to do for a long time, but I think it’s important to track your time in great detail for 2-4 weeks to really see where you’re spending your time. Create categories for your time and shoot for 6-10. If you have 2-4 categories it’s probably not enough and more than 10 will make it hard to track. After 2-4 weeks, look at it and see where you’re spending most of your time so you can determine if it’s being used well.

List and Categorize

List everything you are responsible for doing. If you track your time like I just mentioned, this should be fairly easy. Break that list down into 3 categories based on the return on investment of your time and how it matches your gifts/strengths. The 3 categories are:

  • Low return on investment
  • Average return on investment
  • High return on investment

If that’s not clear enough, it might help to think about it in business terms. If you were the owner of a business, the time you spend could be categorized like this:

  • $10 return on investment
  • $100 return on investment
  • $1000 return on investment

Use the insights from this exercise to make one, complete, prioritized list. As you plan your work, make sure you’re spending your best time on the things that give you the highest return.


Now that you have evaluated your current system, you’re ready to consider changing your approach. The following includes some specific practices you can do to help boost your productivity.

Plan Your Work

One mistake we all make is we jump in each day without really planning our work. Often times, we do this simply because we’re so overwhelmed and behind on everything that we don’t even know where to start. We have to begin digging just to figure out how deep the hole needs to be. Regardless of how much there is to do, it is always worth it to plan your work. Here are some tips to help you do that:

Plan Your Day

Schedule Everything on Your Calendar

  • Use your calendar for more than just meetings.
  • Block out time on your calendar for everything you will work on each week.
  • Don’t schedule work if it doesn’t fit in the calendar.
  • If you miss something, move it on the calendar to the future.
  • If someone asks if you have time, check the calendar and count work blocks just like meetings.

Batch Your Work

  • Batching is simply working on similar things together.
  • Batching allows you to gain momentum and work faster.
  • Some ways you can batch work to be more productive, include:
    • Check email 3 times/day: morning, lunch and at the end of the day.
    • Have a block of time (or two) set aside each week to work on the recurring tasks that are similar.
    • Bunch meetings together on the same day.

Theme Your Days

One challenge with productivity is jumping from a project to a task, to a meeting, back to the project, to another task, etc. When we work like that, we lose time transitioning from one thing to the next because they’re so different. We never hit a stride. Having themed days allows you to focus and be more productive. Also, it doesn’t have to be a full day. It could be half-days. Theme day examples include:

  • A day for meetings.
  • A day for projects.
  • A day for tasks/admin/communication
  • A day for children’s ministry
  • A day for student ministry
  • A day for large group
  • A day for volunteers

Use a Consistent Process

Something that can negatively impact our productivity is not having a consistent process for how we organize everything we need to do. You can come up with your own system, but I highly recommend the Getting Things Done system, outlined in the book by author David Allen.

Training to Help You Be More Productive

Carey Nieuwhof’s High Impact Leader Course

Michael Hyatt’s Free to Focus Course

Use the Pomodoro Method of Work

Knock Out Big Things First (Learn to Eat “Frogs” for Breakfast)

Learn How to Delegate Things You Shouldn’t Work On

Tools & Apps

Tools and apps will not make you productive on their own, but if you use them well, they can absolutely help. Generally speaking, my core productivity tools and apps include a digital calendar (Google Calendar), reminder app (Toodledo), file storage (Google Drive), note storage (Evernote), a Pomodoro Timer (My Amazon link here), and a really cool physical notepad that can quickly be sent to any/all of your favorite digital places (Rocketbook).

However, I  can share a lot more than that if you want an exhaustive list. Just use the form below to sign up and I’ll email you some bonus resources, including:

  • The 30 Apps We Use To Lead Family Ministry PDF
  • Notes from a “Ministry Hacks” Breakout I led along with Jim Wideman at the 2017 Orange Conference
  • Another 80+ apps and tools included in the Ministry Hacks handout thanks to Corey Jones


Win a Copy of the High Impact Leader Course!

Thanks to the generosity of Carey Nieuwhof, I’m giving away a free copy of his High Impact Leader Course. I went through this course and it is incredibly helpful. To enter to win, just comment below with your name and your favorite tool, app, or practice as it relates to productivity.

Orange Conference 2017: Bob Goff

Orange Conference 2017 Bob Goff

Bob Goff

  • Look for Christ in people.
  • I’m not trying to be right anymore. I’m trying to be Jesus.
  • Following Jesus means leading a life of being constantly misunderstood.
  • I’m just a participant in this. I just want to see more Jesus in people.
  • On you very worst day Jesus calls you beloved.
  • Don’t be right. Be Jesus.
  • Get back to the simplest version of your faith.
  • Jesus doesn’t do things to show us His power, but to show us His presence.
  • Your faith and mine is the sum of everything you are hanging onto and everything you are willing to let go of.
  • If it matters more what your faith looks like than what it is, it’s time to do something else.
  • Love everybody, always.

Orange Conference 2017: Session 1 Notes

Orange Conference 2017 Session 1

Carlos Whittaker

  • Help parents differentiate what is fact from what is feeling.
  • If we are for parents, we never let parents parent alone!

Gerald Fadayomi

  • We have the most incredible opportunity to point teenagers who want to be a heard, to a God who listens.
  • The next generation needs someone who has gone before them to be for them.

Danielle Strickland

  • Jesus saw past every single barrier, including the one you put up over your own life.
  • Instead of seeing a problem, see a neighbor.
  • How much would your life, ministry or church change if you saw all people as beautiful, as Jesus does?

Reggie Joiner

  • Sometimes it takes a party to change how we see each other.
  • Sometimes it takes a party to show that God cares about people who party.
  • Sometimes it takes a party to confirm that we can always be forgiven.
  • Sometimes it takes a party to prove that people matter more than our opinions.
  • Sometimes it takes a party to remind us that everyone is invited to the party.
  • What if everyone started acting like EVERYONE is INVITED to the party.
  • What would happen if we started looking at the kids and teenagers in our church through a different lens?
  • Stop acting like discipleship is about information and start acting like discipleship is about relationship.
  • We have been programmed to teaching kids what to believe, but not coach them how to serve.
  • How to be a better neighbor:
    • Invite someone to new the table. Someone not like you.
    • Start a party that is not about you.
    • Inspire every kid you meet.
    • Create beautiful spaces.
    • Speak up for someone else, use your influence for good reasons.
    • Discover life together, do faith together.
    • Do something you don’t have to do.
  • Why inspire kids? Because Jesus said to.

10 (of about 1,343) Things I’m Looking Forward to at the Orange Conference

Orange Conference 2017 #oc17

It’s Orange Conference week. One of the things I look forward to the most each year. The list of things I love about the Orange Conference would be really long and I’ve mentioned much of it in other posts (like here and here). So, here are 10 things I’m specifically looking forward to this year.

Hanging Out With Our Team

We’re taking some more people from our church this year and we’ll get to hang out with a good friend of ours who has been doing an internship at Gwinnett Church. She’s helping with the conference and it will be fun for our team to be together while we’re down there.

Co-leading a Breakout with Jim Wideman

Jim and I are leading a breakout called A Couple of Ministry Hacks (get it?). I’ve learned so much from Jim over the years and it will be an honor to lead with him. I’ll actually get to talk about lessons I’ve learned from him and applied to help me grow as a leader.

Frank Bealer’s New Book The Myth of Balance

Frank’s new book The Myth of Balance, about making job and family commitments work together, pre-releases at the conference. I totally agree with the premise and I’m excited to see how his ideas come through in the book.

Interviewing Jeff Henderson

I’ll be interviewing Jeff Henderson for the podcast while I’m in town. We’ll talk about a new thing Jeff is helping launch and I’ll try to get as much wisdom out of him as I can squeeze in the time frame. Jeff is a great leader and I’ve learned a ton from him over the years.

More Phase Books

More Phase books are being released at the conference this year and I’m excited to see them.

The Art of Group Talk Books for Small Group Leaders

These books are also being released and I’m excited to get these in the hands of our amazing small group leaders.

Conversations With Leaders

The thing I probably look forward to the most every year is catching up with friends and making new ones. There are already a number of leaders I’m planning to connect with and I know I’ll get the chance to meet some new folks as well. (Let me know if you’re going!)

Learning How to Be For Our Neighbors

The theme of this year’s conference is something I’m passionate about and I’m eager to learn throughout the conference how our church can do a better job of being for our neighbors.

The NextGen Extras

Kenny Conley, the track leader for NextGen Pastors, always organizes extra things to help us connect while we’re at the conference and I’m looking forward to every bit of that.


I’m always surprised by something, usually multiple things, at the Orange Conference. I look forward to seeing what will surprise me this year.

Are you going? What are you looking forward to?

FREE Webinar: How to Create Themed Environments in #Kidmin

Free Webinar: How to Create Themed Environments in #Kidmin

In this webinar, How to Create Themed Environments in #Kidmin, I’m joined by Lisa Molite and Rachel Walker. We talk all about environments, themes, and decor in #kidmin.

Lisa has a great website where she shares tips, tricks, and a behind-the-scenes look at the environments she creates at our church (we serve on staff together). You can check that at out

Just sign up here and you’ll get an email with the webinar replay and a link to download the PowerPoint we shared.

I hope it’s helpful!