Question: How can you make email work for you?
Answer: Here’s are 4 things that can help you make email work for you:
- Schedule: Don’t check your email as it comes in. Instead, do your email a specified times during the day. For example, do email 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes before lunch, and 15 minutes at the end of the day.
- Response time: Don’t assume that you must respond to all email immediately or even within 60 minutes. Instead, set a deadline to respond to email, say within 48 hours. This will free you up and allow you to focus on important, non-urgent matters.
- Subject line: Don’t just write a topic. Instead, write a summary—write the thesis of the email. This helps your reader grasp your message.
- Format: Don’t assume using a readable font is sufficient. Instead, use bold and bullets to help your reader understand your message.
- The more email you send, the more email you get. So, if you want less email, send less email.
- When dealing with relational issues, talk to the person face-to-face or by phone. Use email as a last resort.
- Just because you have a concern or suggestion doesn’t mean you should share via email. Your recipients, like your colleagues at work, already have a lot to think about. Try emailing as few concerns or suggestions to a given person as possible—try 1 email per person per week. Better yet, go talk. If talking is too much of a hassle, don’t email—if it’s not worth your effort to talk, it’s not work his/her effort to read your email.
Looking for a way to address your challenges?
Try using the Rule of 3:
3 minutes: Take at least 3 minutes at the end of each day to plan the next day.
3 hours: Take 3 hours each week to work on 1 key project.
3 days: For the first 3 days after an extended vacation, focus on helping those you supervise to get going, not on getting yourself going.
3 weeks: For the first 3 weeks of school, focus on helping those you supervise to get going, not on getting yourself going. And for the first 3 weeks of 4th quarter, focus on planning for the next school year.
3 months: Use the first 3 months of a school year to initiate improvement plans—then take the rest of the school year to follow up.
3 years: If you’re a new principal, give yourself 3 years to establish yourself. You don’t have to get everything right in the first 2 years, but by year 3 year you do need to have established yourself.
- You have 167 unanswered emails in your inbox?
Stop answering email.
- You’re planning 3 major projects? Stop planning
- You’re planning meetings with your team, your
staff, and your clients? Stop planning meetings.
- You have 34 urgent tasks? Stop working on
- You have 25 more reports to assess? Stop assessing reports.
Stop for a minimum 30 minutes each week. And do what? Reflect. Why? Well, reflection is like…
- Putting air in your bike tires so you can ride
efficiently. (How efficiently can you ride on tires
that don’t have enough air in them?)
- Changing the oil in your car so the engine will
run well. (How well will your engine run if you
don’t change the oil?)
- Using a filter when making coffee. Using a
filter is an extra step, but using a filter means
good coffee with no grounds in it. (Do you like
drinking coffee that has grounds in it? I don’t.)
- Taking a hot shower after a tough day. Afterward, you feel refreshed. (If you don’t wind down after a tough day, what happens to you?)
(1) During your 30 minutes, you can pray. Ask God what He wants you to do, how He wants you to do it, and by when. (Remember, it’s God’s work. He has the master plan. Your task is to join God in what He’s already doing.) After you ask, listen. Quietly. For God to speak.
(2) During your 30 minutes, you can consider 5 questions:
- What’s the mission?
- What’s the definition of mission achievement?
- What’s my role in contributing to mission
- What did I accomplish this week?
- What do I need to keep doing? Start doing? Stop doing?
- Instead of responding to your 167 unanswered
emails, define your communication system and the
role email plays in it.
- Instead of planning projects and meetings,
check your goals. Define them more clearly. Then,
decide which projects and meetings are pivotal.
Plan these. Only these.
- Instead of completing your 34 urgent tasks,
assess your time allocation for good things (urgent
tasks) and best things (non-urgent tasks). Build in
time for non-urgent tasks. Even if it means not
getting some of the urgent tasks done.
- Instead of assessing your 25 reports, assess your goals. Then determine your system for assigning reports and your criteria for assessing reports.
(4) During your 30 minutes, you can get coaching. Your coach can help you:
- Think bigger and more clearly.
- Think outside the box.
- Get more focused and stay focused.
- Get organized.
- Get the support, encouragement, and accountability you need to reach your goals.
You: But you don’t know how busy I am. You don’t know what my reality is like.
Me: The real reality is that you can’t afford not to stop and reflect. If you don’t stop and reflect, you increase the likelihood that:
- You’ll feel that it’s your work and it’s God’s
privilege to join you. In reality, God is already
at work, and it’s your privilege to join Him.
Remember, God can do it without you.
- You’ll overestimate what you can accomplish in
1 year, while underestimating what you can
accomplish in 2 years. This means you will strive
to get 2 years’ worth of work done in 1 year. Not a
- You’ll work hard, without maximizing your
God-given strengths. This will make you tired.
- You’ll finish developing a program, but it
won’t be sufficiently exemplary, sustainable, and
- You’ll plan forwards, instead of backwards—meaning, you won’t plan with the end result in mind. Not good.
What do I do? I reflect on a daily and weekly basis. Each day, I reflect as I pray about God’s work. I ask God for guidance. Then I go for about a 15-minute walk. During my walk, I listen for God’s voice. I listen for God to tell me whom He wants me to talk with, what he wants me to write about, and what projects He wants me keep doing, start doing, or stop doing.
In addition to reflecting daily, I reflect weekly for up to 2 hours. I use up to 75 minutes to process ideas, determine progress toward key goals, and identify and schedule tasks for the coming week. I use 30 minutes to meet with my coach. I use up to 15 minutes to review my schedule of tasks in light of my coaching session.
What happens during my coaching session? My coach asks me crucial questions like:
- How are you doing on your goals?
- Are you staying within your goals?
- How’s your life balance?
- How did you equip people this week?
- How can you more effectively equip people?
Imagine if you and everyone on your church staff, tentmaking staff, mission staff, or school staff spent 30 minutes each week in quiet, focused reflection. How would this impact the achievement your mission?
Work smart. Stop working and start reflecting for a minimum of 30 minutes each week. Increase your productivity. Start today.
You know that your schedule is full of good things that will distract you from achieving your plan. And you recall that this past year, you had planned to develop a staff development handbook—it still isn’t done.
What can you do? Invest 30 minutes each week in coaching. During your 30-minute coaching session, you’ll develop concrete steps to accomplish your plan, and you’ll receive the support, encouragement, and accountability you need to achieve your plan.
To get increased results, get coaching. Your mission is worth it.