How I'm Getting Things Done with Field Notes

Field Notes are the clever, collectible (and thus, a bit addictive), design-focused notebooks that all the bloggers rave about. They really are fun, fairly affordable, and quite useful.

I use my Field Notes as my pocket notebook. It goes where I go to capture thoughts and ideas while out-and-about. I also use them to plan out my day.

When I’m disciplined, it goes like this:

  • At night, I’ll prepare the page for the next day by writing the day of the week, month, date, and liturgical feast if applicable at the top of the page.
  • Right below that I will write down the readings for Morning and Evening Prayer for the Daily Office.
  • On the left side of the page, I will list the most important things I’d like to get done for the day (no more than six usually). As the day goes on I just capture item below that to make a running list.
  • On the right side of the page I’ve started making a simple daily agenda from 9-5 with any hard commitments I’ve made so I can see my day at a glance and add to it as necessary.
I’ve used Patrick Rhone’s Dash/Plus system (similar to Bullet Journal) as a quick way to indicate meta info on each list item.

I use a Pilot G2 .07 mechanical pencil to write in my FN, which I love, because the metal tip retracts when not in use, making this a pocket-friendly pencil.

If you want, you can get tons of nice covers for your Field Notes, but they’re fine without, as long as you are okay with your notebook developing some character. I like having a bit of extra protection for my notes, so I had a cover custom made from this Etsy shop.

How I'm Getting Things Done with Trello

For context, you’ll want to read Say hello to Trello, a new tool to organize your life and ministry

I have a “team” in Trello called Trusted System. Within that team I have six boards:

  • Next
  • Projects
  • Tickler
  • Someday/Maybe
  • Reference Lists
  • Horizons & Areas of Focus


My Next board has four lists of cards:

  • Inbox - for throwing stuff in as go throughout my day
  • Waiting for  - anything that needs to get done ASAP but I'm still waiting on someone else's action (reply to an email, etc)
  • Next - Stand alone physical next actions ( for example "move bookshelf from living room to hall nook")
  • Agendas - One card containing a list of things to talk about, per person need. There's always agenda cards for my wife, bishop, associate pastor, administrative assistant, plus a few others as needed.

I use Trello color-coded “labels” for contexts. My contexts are:

  • Home
  • DMAC (the church I pastor)
  • Read
  • Phone
  • Errands
  • Anywhere
  • Laptop


My Projects board contains anything that that requires more than one physical next action. As I review this board every week, I add physical next actions to my next board. I have two lists on this one:

  • Current - Projects that are active
  • Pending/Delegated - Similar to "Waiting for" on my Next board.

Reference Lists

This is a pretty flexible board that just contains any lists I need on regular basis for reference. Mostly just packing lists as this point.

Someday Maybe

My Someday Maybe board has six boards, each with stuff I’d like to do eventually, but are not at all pressing. As I review this I move these things to the appropriate places on my Projects or Next boards. My lists are:

  • Personal Projects
  • DMAC (the church I pastor)
  • Writing
  • Stuff to buy
  • Home & Family


This functions as a complement to my physical tickler file and my digital calendar. It is made of four lists:

  • January - March
  • April - June
  • July - September
  • October - December

As I go through the year I drag the current quarter to the left so it’s always the first one I see. I use this to put date-specific reminders, files/confirmation numbers I’ll need etc.  This is for stuff that needs to happen around a certain date/month, but is not set in stone. So “schedule eye exam - January” I’ll just throw in January-March. When I review this board, I’ll move stuff to the appropriate place as needed: Projects, Next, or my calendar.

Horizons & Areas of Focus

This board is made up five lists. The first list is Mission and Core Values. The first card contains my personal mission statement:

“Help others discover and grow in the great love of God.”

Below that I have a card for each of my core values:

  • Spirituality
  • Family
  • Fellowship
  • Fun
  • Service
  • Stewardship
  • Creativity
  • Rest

In each of those cards I have a list of core habits I try to cultivate. So in the ”Stewardship” card I have:

  • Spend less than I make
  • Exercise at least 3 times per week
  • Review calendar weekly

The other lists are “areas of focus” or “spheres of life.”

  • Husband
  • Father
  • Parish Priest
  • Musician

Each of those lists has four cards:

  • Desires - Specific ideas of what I want to be like in these areas
  • Actions - Concrete ways to move toward the vision (no more than 3 at a time)
  • Challenges - Thinking ahead to possible obstacles
  • Vision - A description of  the big-picture "end result" in each of these areas

If you'd like humility, try praying for it.

God gives grace to the humble. Are you developing the virtue of humility?

This old Christian prayer–in a form of repeated petitions called a litanyhas challenged many, including me. I believe if you pray these things honestly, God will grant your request in his time. It is especially appropriate for the Lenten season; it is combined here with a prayer from my own Anglican tradition.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, Jesus, hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being sought, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being considered, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humbled, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being rebuffed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being slandered, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

*  *  *

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may grow in the opinion of the world and I diminish, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be employed and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I forgotten, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred before me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be more holy than I, provided I am as holy as I can be, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

*  *  *

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Why I observe Lent

I had been in an emotional and spiritual struggle for years, processing how the Body of Christ could be so defined, so marked, by division, quarrels, and willful ignorance of each other. My spiritual journey had led me right into the middle of some of those painful internal wars, and I hadn’t escaped without getting hurt.

My wounds weren’t gaping open, but they were profound. I left them largely untreated because they were–at first–easy to ignore. They became infected with a certain amount of bitterness, anger, and cynicism, almost without me being aware of it.

Something happened to me, however, on Ash Wednesday of 2011. Baptists, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Non-Denoms all gathered together. I saw the auditorium filled with Christians with deep disagreements over theology and practice nevertheless admitting to one another their deep need for a savior, their total moral, emotional, intellectual, spiritual bankruptcy apart from the Cross of Christ and the promise of his Resurrection.

For a brief 2 hours, I saw the Church, not in perfect unity, yet nevertheless walking together toward Jesus. For the first time in a long time I thought she looked like the Bride of Christ. Hope sparked.

As we received Communion it was as if that spark turned into a roaring fire, and I found my hardened heart couldn’t stand it. Just like that, the bitterness, anger, and cynicism melted away and–in a word–I was healed of my old injuries.

I had hope once again that Jesus will in the power of the Holy Spirit make his Church what she is meant to be.

To me, this is the power of Ash Wednesday and Lent: making space to remember that at the end of the day, all our hope is in Christ, and we will never hope in vain.