Email Under Control – Schedule Email Work

August 12, 2008

For some this will sound obvious, but many of us find that email can be compulsive.

(1) Do Email Less
(A) Turn off your email application completely when you need to concentrate
(B) When the email application needs to be on, stop autocheck. This has the fringe beneift that email also tends to feel less urgent

(2) Limit Processing Email [Checking and Scanning New Email]
The pattern that works best for me:
-Start my day with the email turned off, to concentrate to Bible study and prayer
-Then, after a coffee, to process any new email.
-Then again after lunch, then again at end of day.
i.e. Email processing 9h30; 13h30; 17h00 – each time emptying the inbox (max 10 mins each time)

(3) Actioning “02 – Daily Pending”
I find that any email that hasn’t from my ‘Pending’ folder which hasn’t been actioned during the course of the day is best dealt with at the end of the day – this usually takes a maximum of 15 minutes

(4) Actioning “03 – Respond To”
(A) Most projects I work on are well-handled in one or two scheduled sessions per week – and this is when I deal with these emails
(B) In addition, just in case I have missed something, I schedule approx 20 minutes on Monday and approx 30 minutes on Thursday or Friday.
(C) Occasionally I do a 5-8 minute email dash through ’03 – Respond To’ just to give myself a lift as I respond to emails that need a response.

(5) No Fiddling
If I don’t minimise fiddling’s amazing how the minutes lost become can grow…

(6) Action Emails in ‘Pending’ & ‘To Respond To’ Folders Throughout The Day & Week

Schedule Email Time Based on Tasks & Jobs at Hand

Rhythms are Important – as a pastor, here are some rhythms I find important in scheduling tasks:

-Daily: Very few emails I receive as a pastor require major action on the same day, except brief responses and keeping the ball rolling towards the goal.

-Weekly: I find that much of church life revolves around a weekly cycle – particularly to do with preaching and leading worship services, pastoral care, weekly meetings

-Monthly: Council meetings, and various other meetings are often on a monthly or near-monthly timetable and task scheduling relates accordingly

-Termly: Most churches I have served in have termly (3-monthly) cycles as well – programme preparation, sermon series, etc

– Yearly: next Christmas, Easter, Holiday club, Council retreat…

…and as I get further into ministry there are longer rhythms (five-yearly etc) …


Email Under Control – Less Email

August 12, 2008

Get less email
(1) Don’t subscribe to anything you don’t need
(2) Unsubsuscribe from anything you don’t need – you can always subscribe again, if needed
(3) Email subscriptions you need to receive – can anything come as a daily, weekly or monthly digest?
(4) Spam [‘Junk’ Email] – you need a good spam filter, and never respond to spam [or you will receive a whole load more]
(5) Email from people – the ‘real’ stuff – we’ll look at processing email in a moment

Keep less email
Do you really need to keep it?
If not, then delete it.
If you do then just put it into one big “Archive” folder [I found it hard to be torn away from the sophisticated folder system I had devised]
Finding Email is not difficult with modern email clients like Gmail,, and Windows’ Google desktop search.

Email Under Control – An Empty Inbox

August 12, 2008

Empty the Inbox with One Touch on Each Email
‘Process to zero’ – each time I process email in my inbox, empty the inbox completely. [If there are a lot of mails – you may find it helpful to ‘think spades, not teaspoons’]

Give each message as much attention as it needs and no more. That means enough time to decide what you need to do with each email, and do it.

Stay in One Mode at A Time – This Reduces Worry

Convert to actions
What action, if any, does this message require of me?

Empty the Inbox with One Touch on Each Email
6 Verbs that Keep Email Under Control
– RESPOND (1,2, or 3 line response)
– DO

6 Verbs – What They Mean
1. I do not need to do anything, nor keep this email – DELETE it.

2. I just need to save this for future reference – move it to ’01 – ARCHIVE‘.

3. This needs action by someone else – DELEGATE it – forward it to someone else
& have a follow-up reminder

4. I can write a quick & worthwhile reponse now – RESPOND – here are some ideas:
(A) A brief response
Write a few words in response [1-5 sentences]

(B) A Template
These are used by many people in business – using pre-prepared well-worded responses. Here are some suggestions I have come across:
(i) Basic “thank you” responses
(ii) Responses to frequently asked questions
(iv) Responses to administrative information requests.
(v) Use a template program, such as Mail Template for [e.g.

(C) A Weblink
“Here’s a link that might be what you’re looking for…” is a great and super-fast response.

(D) A Question
This may seem so obvious to you, but I find it useful nonetheless!

(i) Clarifying questions – e.g. How about…? When do you need…?
(ii) If the email is an old one ..’do you still need …?’

(E) “I don’t know”
I often find this difficult, but people really appreciate it more than taking a long time to try to cover up what I clearly don’t know.

“I have absolutely no idea”
“I don’t know — but you might like to ask …” can be the most useful response anyone could receive.

5. I don’t have time to answer this now – DEFER it
(A) Not Urgent – move it to “03 – RESPOND TO” and answer it within X days
(B) I need to convert this into an action by the end of the day, but cannot write a quick & worthwhile response – DEFER it – move it to “02 – DAILY PENDING” folder, and action it by the end of the day

6. I am able to action this now – then DO it

Email Under Control – To E or not to E?

August 12, 2008

If you are reading this, you are probably the kind of person who uses email. You might even be the kind of person who has always used email. I have used email pretty much since it began – and I like it…

BUT… as a pastor, and as a human being, I find more and more that I need to answer the question ‘To E or not to E?’
Email is quick, but that sometimes leads to minimal communication…
…minimal communication is great for some people, but not for other people
…minimal communication is great for some subjects, but not for other subjects
…minimal communication is great for some times, but not for other times

As a pastor, and as a human being, I want to make sure that email helps build relationships and that any ‘virtual community’ facilitates real life and real community.

‘To E or not to E?’ That is a question I must remember to ask.

Email Under Control – Folders

August 12, 2008

These are the folders that help me keep email under control…
…Something Very Simple so I don’t have to make lots of choices.
…Folder Numbers Force The Viewing Order I Find Helpful
…Folder Names have Explanationsto keep me focussed

01 – Archive – For Future Reference
02 – Daily Pending – By End of Day
03 – Respond To – Within 7 Days

09 – Current Action
In ‘Current Action’ I Have Subfolders for a Few Current Projects

09 – Personal
I Find this helpful to separate work/personal email

09 – To Clear
‘To Clear’ is for all those emails which I know I will be able to delete, but am not yet sure about deleting . On Mondays during a quite moment, I delete those I am sure about deleting. [You could call this my ‘coward’ folder]

09 – Work – Non-urgent
This is for newsletters etc which don’t need action by the end of the week. I schedule time each week to process these emails.

Email Under Control

August 12, 2008

Email can easily become the master of my time, but I am determined for it to be my servant!

Email is only a medium for communication, though it can feel like a flood overwhelming me!

…and I know I’m not alone

I think I’m finally getting email tamed. Here are some things I have found helpful.

I hope you find it helpful too