Written by Nick Dilberto
I get really excited when discovering new ways to get more done in less time.
I like to call these methods “productivity hacks”.
As a youth ministry leader, the more productive you are, the more effectively you can point students to Jesus. This is a unique benefit that youth group leaders have when it comes to increasing productivity.
Not everyone can say that their productivity level is directly related to making an impact in the lives others.
The productivity hack I will focus on in this blog post is related to email.
The #1 productivity killer many face is email overload.
(Truthfully, you could lump “social media” overload in there as well).
The truth is that we spend way too much time in our inboxes.
We check it first thing in the morning, all throughout the day, and well into the evening.
I’ve even been guilty of checking email during youth group and while on vacation with my family. Craziness!
I’ve got good news – it’s possible to overcome email overload.
I’m going to share 4 email hacks that will enable you to spend less time on email, allowing you to spend more time on the important stuff.
Like building relationships with students, volunteers and/or parents.
Or like having some space in your week to breathe, pray, journal, etc.
Let’s do this…
EMAIL HACK #1 – DON’T CHECK EMAIL UNTIL 11AM.
I give 100% credit of this technique to author Tim Ferriss.
Focus on your #1 priority of the day BEFORE checking email.
What’s your top priority?
Not what’s most urgent, but what’s most important?
What will have the biggest impact in the lives of students?
Start on that task immediately BEFORE checking email.
Eliminate any distractions. Lock your door, turn off your phone, etc.
Stay focused on that task until it’s complete.
Once that task is complete, then check email.
On average, your most important task will take 2-3 hours to complete. That averages out to be about 11am.
Don’t get stuck on the exact time, just get your #1 task done first.
Why is this principle so tough to follow?
We all have an urge to check email first thing in the morning. Some of us even wake up and check it while still in bed.
Our brains actually crave the dopamine hit we get when checking email.
We also check our inboxes to find out if something needs our attention.
The problem with checking email first thing is that we start off our day reacting to problems, issues and/or other people’s agenda.
Imagine what would happen if you took control of your time each day.
Following this principle will 3x your productivity level.
First, you’ll spend more time on the most important tasks.
Focusing on the important stuff first thing in the morning allows you to spend as much time as needed to get them done.
Second, you’ll set up your day for success.
Your workday has a way of flowing from one task to the next.
What you are feeling, experiencing, and thinking in one task carries over to the next task.
If you start off the day getting important stuff done, you feel better.
You feel less stress and more peace. You started off the day with success.
On the other hand, if you check email first thing in the morning and are blindsided by an angry parent…you’ll take that anger and bad mood into your next task.
In fact, you’ll probably take that with us all day long.
If you 3x your productivity level, how that could have a direct impact in the lives of teenagers in your ministry.
Imagine how much more time you’ll have to do all the important stuff.
EMAIL HACK #2 – CHECK YOUR EMAIL ONLY ONCE PER DAY.
I know, I know. This probably sounds impossible.
But it is possible.
In fact, it’s my goal every day. And most days, I’m successful.
Start with the goal of checking email 2-3 times a day.
Designate specific times during the day you will check email.
Once you accomplish this for a few days in a row, then work you way down to only once per day.
Once you do…you’ll spend a significantly less amount of time in your inbox.
This will free you up to focus on the important stuff of ministry.
The biggest obstacle with checking email only once a day is the fear of missing out on something important.
In my experience, that fear is just in your head.
It’s not based in reality.
We’ve conditioned ourselves to believe that it’s necessary to check email frequently throughout the day.
Now, one legit obstacle I have to checking email once per day – Email is the #1 tool I use to get stuff done.
Throughout the day, I need to send messages to others. As soon as I open my inbox to send a message, I see unread messages screaming at me to be opened.
Once I see them, I can’t resist checking those messages.
I then spend 30 minutes replying to those emails.
Once done, I totally forget who I was originally going to email.
That’s where hack #3 comes in handy…
EMAIL HACK #3 – IF YOU USE GMAIL, GET THE “COMPOSE GMAIL MESSAGE”.
Compose Gmail is an app that enables you to click a button and send an email without going to your inbox.
Use it to send as many emails as you want all throughout the day, without the distractions of your inbox screaming at you all day long.
If you don’t have GMAIL, then look into Work Gmail, which will allow you to connect your work/church email to a gmail account.
And if that’s not an option, then figure out a way to not view your inbox when logging into your email.
Maybe there is a functionality of your email that allows you to do so.
It’s worth taking the time to make this happen.
EMAIL HACK #4 – REMOVE THE EMAIL APP FROM PAGE 1 OF YOUR PHONE.
If you leave it on page 1, then your inbox is screaming for attention every time you look at your phone.
I recently heard on the radio that the average person touches their phone over 2,600 times a day. Geez!
Not sure what the stats are for the amount of time you look at your phone, but I know it’s a lot.
Remove the temptation to check email by putting that app on page 2, 3 or somewhere else on your phone.
I’ve actually gone a step further by removing all task related apps on page 1 of my phone. That includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
I highly recommend you do this too.
It is such a relief to look at my phone and not feel the need to DO anything. Ahhhhh….peace 🙂
ONCE YOU OVERCOME EMAIL OVERLOAD, WHAT’S NEXT?
Use the extra time to do the important stuff in ministry. More time to spend with students, volunteers, and/or parents.
Or maybe go to lunch with your spouse during the week. Ahhhh…a novel idea 🙂
Or use the extra time to pray, journal, or simply listen to some worship music for a few minutes.
The possibilities are endless!
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Nick Diliberto is the creator of this website, Ministry to Youth. He also leads the youth group at the Northshore Vineyard Church just outside of New Orleans, LA. And he is one of the few 40 year olds who is a member of a dodgeball league in Uptown New Orleans. Yep, that means every Tuesday night he gets to play some dodgeball…oh yeah.