church planter harness your productivity

3 cheers for productivity! Who doesn’t need help getting more done?  

To be fair, asking a church planter if he needs help is like asking my teenagers if they’ve ever heard of Snapchat. Of course!

We’re all on the lookout for productivity power sources. Finding the right app can feel like discovering gold at the end of a rainbow. Well, call me a gold digger then. Because when it comes to apps, I’m a bit of a collector.  I love me some new-fangled apps. I’m also cheap, like a church planter. So I salivate over helpful apps that are a bargain…or free.

I’ve rounded up 10 apps (and a website or two) to help you harness your productivity. I use them daily. But you’ve probably missed these…unless you’re the American Pickers of apps.

Warning. This article is crammed with helpful goodies. Do NOT continue reading if your aim is less productivity.

One final note before we dive in. This is the last official Church Planter Starter Kit article for 2017. I’ll be taking a break during this busy but joyful season to enjoy Jesus. May these apps increase your productivity so you can enjoy Him more this Christmas too.

My Top 10 List of Undiscovered Productivity Apps for Your Stocking

We’ll start with number 10 and countdown to my #1 most-productive app. Enjoy the foretaste of Christmas morning anticipation.

Yes, I know this article is for church planters, not nightclub owners. (My weekly clubin’ article always goes out at 2am. Know your audience, right? 😉 ) Bartender organizes your menu bar on your Mac. You know all the info, startup apps, and icons in the upper RH corner of your Mac? This status-report space is home to things like your…

  • Battery power
  • Clock
  • Date
  • Wifi
  • Bluetooth
  • and icons for any startup apps

The right side of my menu bar gets more crowded than Manhatten. I’ve got the usual suspects mentioned above. Add to those Dropbox, Adobe CC, my favorite memory cleaner, and about 7 or 8 more scrumptious apps vying for space. (Several of them on this list.)

Bartender lets me determine which apps to show and which apps to hide. If I need access to an app Bartender has moved out-of-sight, I simply click the Bartender icon to reveal it. Problem solved.

I head to Crello’s website to create simple social media images. Sure, I could use Photoshop or Illustrator, but Crello is much faster. The results don’t cramp my hard drive space. And I avoid spending too much time fiddling with pixels. Crello does the trick for free. I’ve also used Canva. But Crello even lets me upload my official Robby Fowler Design fonts (the ones I use for my brand). BTW, I just used another app on this list writing that last sentence. Stay tuned.

I’m a one-track-mind kinda guy. Once I’m focused on something, you can forget me remembering. I use Gestimer to create simple reminders. I also use it to manage the time I spend on specific tasks. I can do either in less than 2 seconds. Best of all, Gestimer is fun to use! (You have to see it for yourself. Watch the quick demo on their site.)

Two real-world examples from yesterday: 

  1. I set a 20-minute timer to remind me to pull the chicken out of the freezer. I was editing this article when my wife told me as she left the house. Without a reminder, the chicken…and my wife’s feelings for me upon her return 7 hours later…would have been Stone Cold Steve Austin!
  2. I set a 12-minute task timer for email. I gave myself 12 minutes to check email. Then it was time to move on.

How’s that for productivity? I avoided the black hole of email and a black eye. My customer testimonial will read, ‘This app saved my marriage.

I do a ton of writing for Robby Fowler Design and Church Planter Starter Kit. TextExpander lets me insert snippets of text using simple shortcuts. I used it 4 times in the sentence above. Let me explain…

  • I typed the shortcut ‘;rfd’ and TextExpander insert “Robby Fowler Design” for me.
  • Next, I used the shortcut ‘;web1’ to insert my URL “https://robbyf.com”
  • Rinse and repeat for “Church Planter Starter Kit”

I use the standalone version of the app rather than the monthly subscription. Saves me a ton of time and headaches. Give it a try.

#6: iOS Dictation (Built-in)

While not technically an app but a function of iOS, I use the dictation feature of my iPhone every day to save time. Dictation works in any app where you use your iPhone keyboard. When the iOS keyboard pops up, you’ll find the dictation mic just to the left of the spacebar. It’s the key with the little microphone on it. Click it. Talk. And watch your spoken words magically turn into text.

I use it for text messaging ALL the time. It’s faster than typing. I can click the mic and say “About to head your way” quicker than typing it.

The other place I use it every single day is…well…it’s coming. Keep reading.

Anytime my Chrome browser is open, OneLook occupies a tab. I use their “reverse dictionary” as a thesaurus. It’s come to my rescue in this article. Onelook has a utilitarian interface and straightforward functionality. Nothing fancy. With it, I hunt down the right words in no time flat. I also use it for brainstorming. 

Here’s how I’d use it for brainstorming sermon series titles. Say you’re spending a few weeks in Job. You’ll focus on prayer and suffering. Plop Job’s theme of ‘suffering’ into the reverse dictionary. Scan the results. ‘Trouble’ catches your eye. A lightbulb goes off. You call your series ‘Talking to God When You’re Trapped by Trouble.’ Done.

Control+~ is my keyboard shortcut to call up this handy app. I use the free version to launch apps, do simple math, empty my trash, eject external hard drives, and more. Let’s say I want to fire up Chrome.

  • I invoke my butler Alfred with my keyboard shortcut.
  • I type a few letters of the app, like ‘chr…’.
  • Faster than I can type, Alfred suggests Chrome and other items beginning with ‘chr…’.
  • But wait, Alfred knows me. So he puts Chrome at the top of the list based on past behavior.
  • With Chrome highlighted, I hit the Return key to launch Chrome.

Alfred means I rarely travel to my Dock to launch programs. That’s so 2015. I use it to open files without ever going to Finder…and finding the file. The last several versions of Apple’s OS make many of the same features available in Spotlight. You could use that too. Click Command + spacebar to invoke Spotlight. Then type a math problem like ‘344/7’ and you’ll see 49.1428571429 (which you can highlight and copy). So handy for your provisional elder who’s an accountant by day.

Snap! That’s what Magnet lets me do with windows on my laptop screen. I can organize my laptop screens to look at 2 or 3 windows at the same time. I can snap my browser window to the top half of my screen. Then I can open a Pages or Word doc and snap it the bottom left. And open a PDF I’m referencing in the bottom right. Most church planters don’t have the luxury of huge iMac screens or dual monitors. Get Magnet. So clever.

#2: Polymail (Free or Paid) [Link…but see referral code below]

My email app of choice is Polymail. I use the native OS app on my laptop and the iOS app on my iPhone. The free version is great. I used it for 2+ years. I upgraded to the paid version last month. Here’s why I use Polymail over Mail (Apple’s built-in email app) or Gmail/Google via my browser.

  • Email tracking: Notifies me when someone reads my email, kinda like ‘Read’ text messages
  • Click or Download tracking: Tells me when someone clicks a link or downloads a file from my email (like a Dropbox link to a client)
  • Follow-up Reminders: Tells me when no one replied back to an important email (after a set # of days)
  • Message Templates: No need to recreate the same email over and over. I use a template instead.
  • Activity Feed: I click on an email from you and can also see all email activity between us. No more hunting.
  • Calendar Integration: I can suggest meeting times or schedule meetings all within Polymail. The recipient clicks a button to say yes to a suggested time. Voilà. Syncs with my calendar on my laptop and phone.
  • Contact Profiles: I click on an email from you and get instant access to your social profiles. I can see/copy your email address,  Twitter, Facebook, etc. 

Try it for yourself. Get a free month of Polymail Pro with my promo code 9FY36A at https://polymail.io

And the winner is…WorkFlowy. This is my favorite app. It’s a lean, mean, organizing, productivity machine. I use the web version (in my laptop browser). And I use the app on my phone. Here’s the magic of WorkFlowy:

  • Think of bulleted lists.
  • Now make them collapsable (fold sub-points, or unfold/show subpoints).
  • Now Zoom in/Zoom out (kinda like drilling down) so you only see the list you’re working on.
  • Drag, drop, reorder with ease.
  • Get all the clutter and unnecessary formatting out of your way. 
  • Capture the flow of your thoughts, meeting notes, sermon ideas, phone call outlines, etc.
  • Feel the power of distraction-free organization pumping through your veins.
  • Go conquer the world and be home by 4:55pm to the delight of your wife.
  • As the sun sets, grab your bride and…(ok, you get the idea).

I use WorkFlowy for everything (with the exception of that last bullet point above). 

To put WorkFlowy in perspective, you need to know I’m a long-time Evernote user. My first note is dated October 28, 2008…before some of you were born (#overstatement). I still use it to capture web content, receipts, recipes, etc. I now use WorkFlowy for everything else. In fact, I finally upgraded from the free plan this month. Here are a few ways I use WorkFlowy to get stuff done. 

  • It’s home to all my articles/blog post ideas. I have a bullet for each idea, subject, or title for every Robby Fowler Design article and every Church Planter Starter Kit article. (And yes, I just used TextExpander again.)
  • I outline every article in WorkFlowy.
  • I capture any business, marketing, or entrepreneurial ideas.
  • I have a list of all my Robby Fowler Design clients in 3 sub-lists [Current, Completed, Pending]. And I can drill down to specific projects.
  • My electrical box (breaker box) is in WorkFlowy. FYI breaker 1 = Kitchen.
  • My topmost list (parent list) is 2 bullets: home, work. From there I can drill down into anything, focus on it, and capture/organize my thoughts in seconds.

WorkFlowy is so helpful, it deserves its own article. Until then, here’s the final reason I love it. I walk. I usually head out for some sort of walk, jog, or combo in the afternoon. Every single time I walk, I get ideas. Ideas for clients. Ideas for articles. Ideas for ideas. With WorkFlowy (plus #6 dictation), I keep walking and dictate my ideas into WorkFlowy on my phone. I’ve outlined entire articles, sermons, marketing plans, messaging frameworks, book ideas, and more without ever breaking stride. Sure, I look like a lunatic. But at least I’m an organized lunatic. 

I love this app. It just clicks for me, more than any other app I use. Hey, “If the app fits, you gotta commits.

What’s Your #1 App?

There you have it. 10 apps that make me more productive. How about you? What’s your #1 app? Hit me back and spread the love. Your suggestions can help your fellow church-planting man during this season of giving.

PS While I’m taking a break from writing articles until the new year, I’m not taking a break from helping you. I’ll be working hard to launch the beta Church Planter Starter Kit in mid-January 2018. It’s gonna be so helpful for you! You’ll connect your church website and brand to the heart of the people you’re called to reach like a missional maestro. Hop on the beta waiting list if you’re interested in learning more and securing a potential spot. There will only be a handful spots available for the steeply-discounted beta. Sign up here. Signing up doesn’t commit you. It just reserves your spot if you decide the Kit is a Fit. Grab your spot.

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