As end-of-year responsibilities pile up—often in the form of event invitations, gift receipts, worship plans to review, requests for care and counseling, and plenty of cards and notes to write—the resolution to get things under control returns anew.
"Next year," you think, "I will keep all this clutter from accumulating. I will stay on top of my to-do list. I will never forget an appointment or deadline again!"
Fortunately, there are many tools available to help you with these lofty goals—many marketed heavily this time of year to prey on your stress and good intentions. But many are FREE, and after soliciting reader input and trying things out ourselves, we have some tips and tools to help you get organized in 2013.
Managing Your Time
How many times have you ended a day feeling like you've been running nonstop and yet accomplished nothing? Sounds like your schedule may be out of control and out of balance. Keep a calendar with you at all times, whether it is a physical notebook or an app on your phone or tablet, so you always have a "big picture" view of your day—what time is booked and what is still open. If you have an administrative assistant who helps manage your schedule, use an electronic calendar that gives you both a real-time view. Readers recommend Cozi and Google Calendar. (Check out this how-to on synching your Google and Outlook calendars, and integrating a calendar into your church website.)
"With Yast, I know exactly how much time I'm spending on various projects. Plus, it helps me stay focused. Knowing the timer is running on a particular project keeps me from trying to multitask." — Jessica Miller Kelley, Ministry Matters
Don't hesitate to schedule time for yourself as formally and officially as you schedule other meetings and appointments. If your schedule rules the day, make sure "sermon writing," "prayer time," and "family dinner" are booked as indelibly as that premarital counseling appointment or staff meeting.
Managing Your Tasks
Knowing what needs to be accomplished and in what timeframe is key to quelling free-floating anxiety, at least for many Type A personalities. That's why pastor Bromleigh McClenighan loves her to-do list pad from Knock Knock Stuff.
"At the bottom, it reminds me to 'Make a list, you'll feel better.' Also, it's cheap." — Bromleigh McClenighan, Rockefellar Memorial Chapel
(It also has an extra check box at the bottom when you're "ALL DONE," giving the user yet another endorphin rush that comes from crossing something off a list.)
Plenty of leaders go the old-fashioned route for task-management, making to-do lists with pen and paper on any scrap they can find, or by jotting down notes in a nice Moleskine notebook.
Basecamp is a higher-tech way to organize your to-dos and collaborate with others working on the same project. It's not free (beyond a 45-day trial) but may be a worthwhile item in your admin budget.
"Basecamp has literally been a lifesaver for me. No other tool that I’ve found has allowed me to juggle so many different highly-detailed projects!" — Myca Alford, United Methodist Publishing
Trello has been described as a cross between Basecamp and Pinterest, with "boards" for various projects, to which users can add "cards" of to-do lists, ideas, comments, and even attach documents and images related to the project.
Managing Your Stuff
Perhaps most in need of organization for you is all that stuff—the random papers and program bulletins, books and notebooks. They can take over your desk, car, and computer bag before you know it. While the "paperless society" people envisioned at the advent of the personal computer age hasn't totally come to fruition, there are still countless ways to clear the clutter off your desk and store it in the cloud instead.
Some of our readers raved about the tools they use to digitize all those papers and scraps. Guy Williams tweeted us his recommendations for the Evernote and Google Drive apps (available on Android platforms as well as iPhone and iPad), on which users can create and store notes, documents, images, and more. Also, Genius Scan, with which users can easily scan a receipt, book page, bulletin, or any other document and store it as a PDF or jpeg. With grid lines and a perspective sensor, the app keeps the integrity of the document much better than simply taking a photo of it.
A subscription to Ministry Matters saves thousands of dollars and many feet of shelf space by making exhaustive Bible reference works like the New Interpreter's line and indispensible preaching, teaching, and worship helps available in a single online library. Even non-subscribers can save our free resources in bins to access later. (Start a Lent, Easter, or VBS bin now to keep ideas close at hand when your planning ratchets up in a few weeks!)
Half the benefit of organizing your stuff with digital tools isn't just clearing away the clutter but keeping the stuff you need and use most close at hand. When you can access a key commentary on your laptop, tablet, or phone, work can get done while you're getting your oil changed or waiting in the car pool line! Several readers wrote in about their denomination-specific lectionary apps.
The app that is most helpful to me is the Episcopal lectionary application. It helps me plan and write no matter where I am during the week. – Becca Stevens, St. Augustine's Chapel
Other readers' top recommendations were tools for aggregating all the virtual stuff they enjoy. The old favorite iGoogle dashboard is going away later in 2013, but Tim Stevens recommends NetVibes.com:
I use this as a homepage aggregator of everything I want to see at a glance, including top news, blog posts from my favorite people, Facebook and Twitter updates, movie listings, weather and more. It's totally customizable to what is important to you, and stays current on each computer. – Tim Stevens, Granger Community Church
So what are your favorite organizational tools? Have the tools mentioned above worked for you? Any new ones you want to try?
Leave us a comment and include your Twitter handle, and we'll follow you back!