# 25 Cracking the ‘Email Code’

For the past few years, I have been experimenting with a variety of approaches to email. My goal has been to respond to every email in a timely fashion and leave with my inbox at zero at the end of the day. I’ve literally gone months without being successful at this goal.

The more you respond to emails, the more you generate. As my friend says, “It’s like digging a hole in sand, the hole just keeps getting deeper and collapsing on itself.”

Thankfully, persistence pays off. I believe I may have finally cracked the code. For 7 days in a row now, I have been able to get to zero at the end of the day before leaving. Wanna know how I did it? Here’s what I’ve learned…

1) Create folders only around people, not topics. Create as few folders as possible. 

2) Group individuals as much as possible. (I chose to organize mine based on two categories I read about from Patrick Lencioni – The Team I’m On and the Team I Lead).

3) Color code your groups (and all the individuals in that group the same color). 

4) Avoid going straight to the mass inbox. Instead, go to the groups. Prioritize them. I now start with the Team I’m On before reading anything else. Then, I move to the Team I Lead, etc. 

5) Create filters to eliminate the junk.

6) Finally, go into the mass inbox and get through it. Try to check email twice per day for about 30 minutes each. Set some boundaries. Creativity loves constraints.


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#24 What’s Your Communication Posture?

As teachers, one of our goals is to maximize all of the communication tools at our disposal. There are more tools available than one might think. More importantly, how do teachers utilize these tools to put ourselves in a stronger position of serving our students and parents?

Proactive vs. Responsive
Communication Postures
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#23 The Tension is Good

Notes from Catalyst Conference 2010
The Tension is Good

 The Opposable Leader: Why Organizational tension is essential to progress by Andy Stanley


  1. Every organization has problems that shouldn’t be solved and tensions that shouldn’t be resolved.
    1. For example: What’s more important?
    2. If you “resolve” any of those tensions, you will create new tension.
    3. If you resolve any of those tensions, you create a barrier to progress.
    4. Progress depends not on the resolution of those tensions, but on the successful management of those tensions.

      i.     Examples of tension between…

  1. Fulfilling all responsibilities at work vs home
  2. Excellence vs careful stewardship
  3. Research & development vs sales
  4. Management vs leadership
  5. Attracting the unchurched vs nurturing your church
  6. Numeric growth vs maturity
  7. All theology vs no application
  8. Spirit lead church services with no end vs preschool/daycare hours
  1. To distinguish between problems to solve and tensions to manage, ask the following:
    1. Does this problem or tension keep resurfacing?  If yes, it is probably a tension that needs to be leveraged for your organization’s success.
    2. Are there mature advocates for both sides?
    3. Are the two sides really interdependent?  (ie: home vs. work)
  1. The role of leadership is to leverage the tension for the benefit of the organization.
    1. Identify the tensions to be managed in your organization.  Identify ones that won’t and those that shouldn’t go away or be solved.
    2. Create terminology.  “This is a tension we have to manage.”
    3. Inform your core.
    4. Continually give value to both sides.
    5. Don’t weigh too heavily based on your personal biases.  As a leader, your words weigh a thousand pounds.  Don’t allow strong personalities to win the day.
    6. Don’t think in terms of balance.  Think rhythm.  Not every department needs equal money or time, etc.  There are times when you need more music, or speaking, or stewardship.  It’s like art.  There’s a season for everything.  Not for the balance.  Don’t try to be a “fair” leader.  Listen to the rhythm.

i.     You have a bias in every conflict.  As leader, your goal is not always to resolve or win, but create and maintain the visibility of necessary tensions.  Be able to verbalize the downside to “your” side, too.  As leader, make sure nobody wins and that the tension remains.

“As a leader, one of the most valuable things you can do for your organization is differentiate between tensions your organization will always need to manage and problems that need to be solved.”

Urgent vs. Important: Executing Your Most Important Goals

Urgent vs. Important
Urgent vs. Important – Prioritize your goals and calendar to deal with both.

hat do you see? think? wonder?

I wrestle with balancing the urgent vs. important items on my ‘to do’ list. I love the image above so much that it is framed and hanging on the wall in my office. The whirlwind is all around is and it is powerful enough to dominate every minute our days. The girl with the camera is focused on what’s important, not what is urgent. It seems illogical and dangerous. What is so important that she is willing to ignore the impending whirlwind? What is so important in your life that you should ignore the whirlwind, too?

From the 4 Disciplines of Execution:
“The whirlwind is urgent and it acts on you and everyone working with you for every minute of every day. It robs from you the focus required to move your team forward. Executing in spite of the whirlwind means overcoming  not only its powerful distraction, but also the inertia of “the way it’s always been done.”

“We’re not saying the whirlwind is bad. It isn’t. It keeps your organization alive and you can’t ignore it. If you ignore the urgent, it can kill you today. It’s also true, however, that if you ignore the important, it can kill you tomorrow. The challenge is executing your most important goals in the midst of the urgent!”

#20 Bringing My Heart

One of the best books I’ve read this summer is Boundaries for Leaders by Dr. Henry Cloud. In fact, it’s so good, I’m not finished yet.

I’m fascinated by the ideas Dr. Cloud writes about leading so brains can work.

“In brain terminology, executive functions are needed to achieve any kind of purposeful activity – such as reaching a goal, driving a vision forward, conquering an objective. Whether driving a car or making and selling cars, the brain relies on three essential processes:

Attend to important data: the ability to focus on relevant stimuli. Know your speed, what lane you are in, which turn is next, etc.

Inhibit what is irrelevant or destructive (ie – you cannot text and drive)

Use working memory: You have to remember where you are in the flow. What was the last turn you made? What have you passed already?”

“If leadership is operating in a way that makes any of those brain functions unable to perform, or creates a team or culture in which they cannot work, results will be weakened and the vision damaged.”

“When a leader’s executive functioning as an executive mirrors and ignites the executive functions of his people’s brains, things get better – sometimes really fast.” 

“Leadership is not dog training. It is the creation of the kinds of conditions in which people can bring their brains, gifts, hearts, talents, and energy to the realization of a vision.”

boundaries for leaders

#19 Shipping and Wrapping

Reflecting on yesterday’s administrative retreat, my mind is full of good things. Shipping and wrapping is the first to come to mind.

Shipping our ideas – Seth Godin has a booklet called “Ship It” designed to help launch your ideas. We all have ideas. Fear keeps us from taking action and implementing them. The goal is to lose the fear of failure and launch them. Learn from them.

Wrapping our decisionsThe Heath brothers new book “Decisive” was on our team’s summer reading list. The premise revolves around how truly bad we are, as human beings, at making the wise/right decisions. There are four guards or filters we can apply to help improve our decision making process.

Widen your options.

Reality test your assumptions

Attain distance

Prepare to be wrong

The challenge is to intentionally practice this process until it becomes natural and internalized.

What ideas are you ready to ship?

#18 The Challenge Resumes

So, I unplugged from technology for vacation and a new baby. Now the 60 Day Blog Challenge resumes, albeit with an extended pause, but continues nonetheless. That’s why we call it a ‘challenge.’ It’s not supposed to be easy. But it is fun.

Thanks to all of the dear friends who have brought food and sent gifts. Your thoughtfulness and generosity means more than you know. We are grateful for you and your influence in our lives. We feel loved.

“Roll your windows down the summer’s nearly gone.” – Time is a Runaway by The Alternate Routes

I’m looking forward to the upcoming school year and excited about the possibilities and the people. I’m bringing my heart.

Before it’s over, here are a few highlights from our family…

photo (24)
Got his first job this summer!

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Both boys caught their first fish with Papa!

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 We welcome a new member to our family!