Tuesday Toolbox: Productivity Journaling

Welcome to another round of Tuesday tool-testing. If you missed last week’s post about the task management system, The Eisenhower Method, then check it out here.

My Dad is one of the best Dads around. One of his wise sayings is, "the right tool makes all the difference.” So whether we were painting a gazebo or mowing the overgrowth at my first home he would always take the extra time to get, borrow, or buy the right tool for the job. My favorite part of these excursions was learning about how many tools had similar looks but completely different uses. Seriously have you seen the tool department at big box stores! 

Youth ministry is in many ways similar to tool-shopping. We need the right tools and sometimes we didn’t even know they were available (or affordable). 

Caveats: Not every one of these will be new to you or useful. No worries, sometimes tool-shopping is about remembering what is out there for later. Also, it takes some time to adapt to new tools. If you have never used one of these tools before remember that adding or shaping your personal workflow (or your team’s) takes time, practice, and routine. 

How do you know if you are effective weekly in youth ministry?

Somedays it feels like the work of youth ministry is random, a collection of never-ending tasks. Whether we are setting up chairs, driving to sports games, preparing newsletters, devising games, writing lessons, or making calls youth ministry leaders can sure feel like that we are completing a lot of dots that never form a line. 

Part of that frustration stems from not getting important work done. Youth ministers are the masters of responding to the urgent tasks when they are presented, but the next level for many youth ministers is completing the stuff that is important but has not presented itself as urgent. Assigning urgency and importance is the feature of our tool last week, but this week we are going to take things one step further and start documenting daily what we actually need to get done. 


Productivity Journaling

It is hard to get everything done. It is also taxing to think you are not getting enough or anything meaningful done with your time. The work of youth ministry can be crushing to your sense of self-efficacy. Doing all the work may leave you feeling you haven't gotten anything done. 

This may not be the problem of the work but the worker. We need to not only get our big priorities right but also get the priority of each day right. 

Before we dive into mechanics, hear this, #YouthMin Friend you have worth, you have value, and you can and will make an effective difference in the lives of young people and their parents.


So let’s make a plan. 


At the end of every workday:

 We want you to document what you did. 

Take 5 mins and write 3-4 sentences about what you did that day.


Then take 3 mins and write

What you will do tomorrow. 


That’s it. Try it for a full week before you judge whether or not it is working. 

At the end of each work day. Pause. Breathe. Write. Plan. Go. 


Journal Selection

It wouldn’t be a good Tuesday Toolbox if we didn’t offer some suggestions for journals for journaling. 

Analog Options (Chad’s People)

1. Notecards: Maybe your productivity journal practice looks like leaving a notecard on your desk at the end of the day so that when you arrive the next day you are ready to go with the thing(s) you need to get done. Remember, we just want you to get that important stuff written down and in front of you so you will be more driven to get it done. 

2. Small Yellow Legal Pad: Probably a giant stack of them free or half-used lying around your office. We encourage you to use the smaller variety for portability and to reduce the temptation to write down too many things to do. Remember this is not your brain dump list. This is your most important things today. 

3. Moleskine: Iconic, stylish, and celebrated. If you are analog in your journaling buying a Moleskine is joining a special club. They are proven, cool, and there are very few products like them. Finding the right size for you is half the fun of beginning to journal more in them. 

Digital Options (Zac’s People)

1. Google Drive Document(s): Google drive is great not only for storing and sharing information but it is also super beneficial for keeping your stuff together so that no matter what 

2. Apple Notes: If you are an iOS user creating notes on your iPhone or iPad is super helpful. They are searchable, shareable, and frankly, the latest update has got a lot of people talking.

3. Evernote: There are thousands of words that we could write up about one of our favorite apps, but today we will just say that if you are looking for a cheap and functional notebook to log in all of your daily and weekly productivity and progress you couldn’t find a better app than Evernote. 

Start journaling your work today and feel the improvement tomorrow.

Thanks for reading. 


How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
— Annie Dillard