Get Stuff Done with an iPad

Apple has rounded up some of the top iPad apps for productivity and put them on a single page in the iTunes app store.

My favorites from this list include . . .

  • Evernote for everything from quick notes and snapshots to snippets of web pages to collections of sermons and Bible studies. Evernote collects all this and syncs them across devices and computers.
  • OmniFocus for iPad is the heaviest investment but also an app that I absolutely depend on to organize my tasks and get stuff done in a timely fashion.
  • MindNode is a great mindmapping tool which I use for brainstorming and collecting ideas. I’ll use a mindmap for organizing a Bible study series or planning meeting agendas.

Two other productivity apps that don’t appear on that iTunes list but that I count on are OmniOutliner and Bento.

What’s your favorite app for getting stuff done in your ministry?

Pastoral productivity with an iPad

Productivity and the pastoral ministry

Productivity has been important to pastors since the time of the apostles. Of course, Paul was more likely to call it faithfulness or diligence rather than “Getting Things Done” (or GTD). That’s because the apostle entrusted the results of his labor to the Lord. But there’s no denying that the greatest missionary of the first century worked hard at performing the tasks that he had been given by virtue of his divine call. He taught young pastor Timothy to do the same: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching…. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress” (1 Tim 4:13,15). Is it blasphemous to wonder how much more productive the apostle Paul would have been if he had had an iPad and a slew of productivity apps? Perhaps. But I’m not Paul and, I’d venture to say, neither are you.

Advantages of tech tools for productivity

The hectic pace of modern ministry often proves a challenge for the chronically unorganized. Rookie pastors quickly find themselves overwhelmed if they don’t choose some system to keep track of their appointments and other duties. A pocket calendar or handwritten to-do list have worked for generations of pastors, but computerized versions have certain advantages.

  1. A paper calendar can’t give you reminders. Unless you remember to check it regularly, it can’t let you know that you’re running late for an appointment. If you don’t like being beeped at by a machine, you can change the alert to something less intrusive. But at least you won’t be late.
  2. Syncing to the “cloud” means you can have all your notes wherever you are. If you make a new entry in your address book on your iPad, you’ll find the same information on your hard drive when you get back to the office.
  3. Syncing to the “cloud” allows you to share your calendar with others. Whether it’s your wife or your ministry team, sometimes you need others to know what your daily plans are. And in the ministry those plans can change in a hurry. Changes you make to your agenda on your tablet or smartphone can be immediately and automatically synced with a master calendar.
  4. Details can get lost in a stack of paper. But you can simply search on your tablet for whatever you’re looking for: a telephone number, address, or calendar event.

Productivity apps for pastors

The built-in Calendar and Contacts apps on the iPad may prove to be sufficient for your mobile productivity needs. But Apple’s Calendar app doesn’t currently do tasks, only appointments. Fortunately, there’s no lack of to-do apps in the iTunes store. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know which of them will best meet your needs without trying them.

If you want a barebones task-management app with no syncing, you could use Things which has a simple design and allows you to categorize by project or tags or both. Or you could just type quick notes to yourself in a slim app like Simplenote.

Zenbe Lists allows you to create lists with checkboxes that you can sync and/or send by email to others. Might be useful for sending a meeting agenda in advance to members of a team.

If you want more power, however, for your task management, you should consider Todo or Omnifocus. Both of them give much more control over your to-do items, including synchronization and nesting tasks (for projects). Neither of them are cheap, but I have not regretted my investment in Omnifocus. Its design and user interface truly help me get things done on a daily and weekly basis.

Mindmap tools such as MindNode or iThoughtsHD can be invaluable in organizing your thoughts, plans, and anything else that you can visualize.

No substitute for self-discipline

In the end, the iPad is no substitute for self-control and discipline, which are fruits of the Spirit. If you find yourself easily distracted, the iPad can inflame the problem with the many games and other time-wasters that you can download onto the device. But if you are a self-disciplined pastor who is looking for a tool to organize your tasks and increase your productivity, you will find plenty of apps to help you on the iPad. God’s blessings on your ministry!

Data collection with an iPad

Watching Star Trek in my youth, I came to think of the space-age technology used in the show as falling into two categories: 1) “that’ll never happen,” and 2) “ohhh, I hope so!” In the first category I put things like warp drives and matter transporters: “advancements” that were either impossible by the laws of physics or so complicated that they would never be developed in my lifetime. The second category was full of items that were less showy perhaps, but highly practical.  That magic combination is probably what inspired gifted men and women to develop real-world applications of gadgets like communicators, tricorders and handheld computers.

Modern tablets like the iPad have a lot of showy media features, but the reason why they are here to stay is because of the “boring” ability to get things done. That includes collecting, storing and displaying data of all sorts. Consider the following uses for the pastoral ministry:

Record keeping. A church is not a business, a pastor is not its CEO, and the “bottom line” isn’t what steers its ministry. Still, the Lord requires faithfulness and good stewardship, which demands a certain level of organization. A pastor can find help with the chore of record keeping with a number of iPad apps. Apple’s iOS spreadsheet app, Numbers, is not as easy to use as its desktop version, but it can open up Excel files and modify them as necessary. Numbers comes with built in templates which include: Checklist, Auto Log, Budget, and Weight Loss & Running Log.  Other, more targeted apps could prove more helpful. One example is Attendance. Although the main intended use is for classrooms, the app can easily track attendance at any type of event, recurring or otherwise. Read more of this post