Toggl: A Tool for Pastors and Other Busy People

One of the presenters at CREDO a couple of weeks ago talked about Jim Collins, the business consultant and author of Good to Great, who breaks down his work week in the following way: 53% Creative 28% Teaching 19% Other

I don't remember the presenter's point any more; I just remember scoffing at the percentages. "Must be nice," I thought to myself. In parish ministry, what with committee structures and aging buildings and never-ending communications tasks, the administrative load is considerable. (And the emails never end.)

The next night at CREDO I received the results of the Clergy Vocational Profile, which is a 93-question survey that 10 members of Tiny Church filled out.The profile asked them to rate me in terms of various skills and activities, but also how important they considered those skills and activities. I filled out the same profile for myself. There were two free-form questions at the end: what does this person do well, and what does she need to work on.

I learned a couple things from the CVP. One, and not surprising, I am much harder on myself than others are on me. But that's not what this post is about.

Two is that, while administration was not unimportant to the respondents, when it came to the free-form question, nobody affirmed the way that I put the Sunday School schedule together. Instead they affirmed gifts in preaching, worship, teaching, communication, spiritual guidance, and visionary leadership.

By the end of the week I had come back around to Jim Collins's ratios. I began to wonder whether I'd been letting my schedule happen to me, rather than trying to create a schedule that matched my skills and the things that the people at Tiny Church value about me.

The other thing I claimed while at CREDO is that I am a creative person, who needs to spend time doing creative tasks in order to feel fulfilled and whole. (This realization came after the "play with art supplies" evening, when I asked to take home some stuff so I could make a book of my CREDO experience over the remaining days. Ahem.)

So! Given all this, I created a goal: to re-balance my schedule to reflect the following ratios as much as possible:

50% Creative: sermon prep, order of worship prep, reading, writing, vision work 25-30% Connecting: pastoral care, teaching, mentoring leaders, meetings 20-25% Logistics: paperwork, email, right-hand-left-hand stuff

I have a number of steps in place to make progress on this goal. One of them is to use Toggl to keep track of what I do with my time.

What is Toggl? Toggl is an application (web, desktop and smartphone) that lets you track how long you spend doing various things. You can use it in two ways:

  • Live: Say you're working on the bulletin. You type "bulletin" into the window, select a project (mine would be "Creative") and hit Start. When you're done, hit Stop. That's it.
  • After the fact: Say you're visiting someone in the hospital. You can manually enter in the time you spent with that person afterwards.

Toggl also lets you generate pie graphs to show how long you worked on various things. So I can look at my ministry activities and see whether creative really does take up half the "plate."

Insert standard caveats here about how ministry does not conform to easy categories. And there is a sense in which ministry is by nature reactive. If the building floods, as it did at my friend Eric's church this week, the "logistics" piece of pie is going to be huge.

But still, let's be honest. We clergy often use the unpredictability of ministry as an excuse, letting our time be taken up with the low-hanging fruit that makes us feel busy but that doesn't actually transform lives for the sake of the gospel.

I am just as guilty of this as anyone... but I'm hoping that, with a better sense of how I spend my time, I can improve.

Now the question is, where does Facebook fit into the pie...