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) …