A while back my buddy Richard shared with me an email strategy called “inbox zero.” I tried it for a minute then went back to my old ways of letting thousands of emails pile up. I have recently taken back the banner of inbox zero and I am sticking with it. Those who post about hundreds upon hundreds of emails piling up, I feel your pain. I know what it’s like to come home from vacation and have to filter through all the junk mail to find the things that truly need your attention.
Inbox zero is a new philosophy for email management. Instead of your email being a catchall for everything the Internet wants to throw at you, Inbox zero says to look at your email like a task list. Only keep things visible that need action. Inbox zero is the minimalist way to manage email and it will keep you on task. At the end of the day, you should have zero emails in your inbox. Yup, ZERO.
Here are a few tips for getting there:
- Change the way you think about email: My main task every day is not to manage email. Email is important to my work but it really isn’t everything. I do need to stay up on it or it will consume me. However, I was not hired to manage email an inordinate amount every week. My main tasks are teaching, leading and helping others grow. When email overwhelms me, I am off task!
- Delete Freely: I delete any message four years old and message that is clearly spam. Why? When I search for old emails, spam can find its way into the search results and that is frustrating. (If your are in a profession that requires you to keep records for seven years then don’t do this)
- Archive Freely: There is this old management motto that went something like this, “a peace of paper should never touch your hands twice.” In other words, when you see it, deal with it! Archiving email is just hiding it. Once you’ve dealt with the email, archive immediately. In most email apps you can simply search for that email or search archive and pull up what you need. Archive does not mean delete!
- Unsubscribe to everything non-essential: I wish I could do this with the advertising mailers that come to my house. They are literally mailing me trash! As a person that sends a weekly email, I feel the pain on this, it hurts to lose subscribers, but on the other hand it will hurt you worse in the long run to bother them!
- Turn off email notifications on your phone: I cannot begin to tell you how awesome it is to not see the emails as they come in. Unless your business absolutely demands that you reply on someone else’s schedule, it is not necessary to have this notification come up!
- Close that email window: I get it, some work demands being on email all day. If your task isn’t primarily email, then close that email window. It is throwing you off what you were hired to do!
- Set a time to open your emails: For the most part I have transitioned to only dealing with emails on my computer. I try and only open my emails three times a day. I work on email at the beginning, middle and end of my day. In the process I have been less stressed and more responsive to email.
- If you get to many emails per day to handle then you are at the point of hiring an assistant: A really good assistant can think for you, and can deal with the bulk of your email. They can free you up to do what is really important.
It is my hope that as you follow these steps that you will begin to manage your email and not allow it to manage you. Once you are in charge of your email rather than your email running your life you will begin to brag about how few emails you get!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Kingdom work is supposed to be easy, joyful and restful. We are supposed to find deep contentment in working with Jesus. When Jesus tells people to come with him, that His yoke is easy and his burden is light, how many of us have said, “yeah right Jesus…you should try being a pasto, teacher, mom, lawyer…!” Being a pastor for over 10 years I can tell you that there have been times of extreme burden and pain. But I have come to realize that those are the times in which I try to pull the load alone. The burden that Jesus was easing was keeping the religious commands of the scribes and Pharisees. If the Pharisees and Scribes were around today, they would base their religious success off of Sunday morning attendance, sermon response and church growth. How did Jesus measure success? Probably more in the the renovation of the heart in individuals than in the amount of people who show up in a building a certain day of the week.
Making disciples is always a work of pulling, and if it is tough, there is a good chance that you are not doing it in fellowship with Jesus. The entire idea of a yoke is two people sharing one burden. Sometimes the work is tough because we are trying to force our will forward. We end up pushing other people into things they are not ready for. This is tough, forceful and ultimately damaging. When we lead from a posture of pulling, we tend to exemplify the very thing we lead people into.
What is the burden that we are pulling? It is our task to introduce people into a new reality of the Kingdom of God. When we pull people into God’s Kingdom then the work will seem joyful, you will find contentment and you will ultimately say, “That was easy.”
May your work be joyful today…
May you pull instead of push today…
May you realize that you share the yoke with the king of the kingdom…
Act in all things according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel. As such, it is your duty to employ your time in this manner in which we direct: In preaching and visiting from house to house; in reading, meditation and prayer. Above all, if you labor with us in the Lord’s vineyard, it is needful you do that part of work we advise, at those times and places which we judge most for His glory.
At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told a story about wise and foolish builders. You probably know the story. The wise built their house on a rock and the foolish built their house on sand. The idea is that when the storms of life come the ones who built their life on a solid foundation will withstand it and the one who didn’t will wash out. I think that this is what rule eleven is getting at.
At the end of every list of rules, that are life altering, then what’s wrong with saying, if you don’t listen to this then you’re foolish. So this is the last rule, if you’ve been following along with the rules for a preacher series hopefully you’ve see the value in 125 year old wisdom. If you don’t at least consider the wisdom of these rules and build some foundations on them, well then, you might be foolish.
If you missed any of the previous posts you can see any one of them here
You have nothing to do but to save souls, therefore spend and be spent in this work; and go always not only to those who want you, but those who want you most.
My week starts on Sunday. I get in to the office at 7:15 am. I unlock the doors, walk through the bathrooms and make sure that everything is looking great. Then I will go to my office read through the day’s message and re-look at Sunday school material. Then we have a staff meeting at 8:45 to go through the service and pray, we do Sunday school and church and then we try to do lunch with new people. We normally get home at around two, put the kids down and crash. Monday is full rinse and repeat mode. I have my regularly scheduled staff one on ones (through out the week) then I deal with things like, window repair, remodels, capital campaigns, follow up, rental contracts, sending notes, visitations, meeting with regional leaders, reading, writing, teaching, marketing, praying, dreaming and just about anything else you can think of.
So when this rule starts out, “you have nothing to do but save souls,” my first thought is, “yeah that’s because your building was new in 1888 and now I’m dealing with your old building.” On one hand this rule is absolutely correct. On the other, I have so much to do every week; sometimes it doesn’t all fit into the week. However, the truth I have learned is that I need to prioritize studying and preaching and focus on the congregation. All that other stuff I need to delegate or have minimal hands on with it. The only redeeming part of my work is introducing and inviting people to begin a relationship with the Redeemer.
One of the things that Jesus told the religious was that it wasn’t the healthy that need a doctor but the sick. When I read rule 10 this is the idea that goes through my head. In 1888 the people who wanted to talk to a pastor the most were probably the sick, the dying, prisoners and people without hope? Do we go to the people who need redemption the most or do we stay with who is safe?
Be punctual. Do everything at the exact time. Do not mend our Rules, but keep them: not for wrath, but conscience’ sake.
The reliability of the messenger affects the credibility of the message. When pastors do something unethical, everything they have ever said becomes suspect. How does being punctual relate to being ethical? The answer is really in the idea of our word being our bond.
My mind goes immediately to Jesus’ saying, “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” That is what this rule is about, keeping your word. Doing what you say you will do goes a long way in the pulpit. A hundred years ago, relationships were built on verbal agreements. If you were punctual and you kept denominational rules then it said something about your integrity. When you begin to slip into a lifestyle in which you don’t mean what you say your words become less and less powerful.
I always try to start and end church services on the exact time for a few reasons.
1. I can not stand to be late to anything, it drives me crazy.
2. It builds trust with people who have other things happening on a Sunday.
3. It shows professionalism
The reliability of the messenger lends to the credibility of the message.