I’ll admit, I don’t know much about cars. I can refill the windshield wiper fluid and check the tire pressure, but that’s about the extent of my expertise. However, I do know you’re supposed to get the oil changed and tires rotated on a regular basis. If I neglect those simple maintenance activities, my car may break down and then I’m stuck with a hefty repair bill.
Your email inbox, to-do list, and schedule are a bit like my car. They need consistent attention and maintenance to serve you well. If we neglect that upkeep, we’ll have hours of catch-up work to do and probably some unhappy people.
Maintenance isn’t exciting or fun, but it prevents a lot of headaches down the road. Here are a few key maintenance activities that, done consistently, can help you progress toward achieving your vision:
Maintenance Activity #1: Own your schedule
You are the only person who truly decides how to spend your time. Yes, other people have a say but you’re the only one really responsible. If you’re constantly in meetings and replying to messages, you’ll never get your own work done (much less have time to think).
Here are a few ways to take control of your schedule:
- If your team uses Microsoft Outlook to schedule meetings, block off time on your calendar to do your work. That way someone trying to schedule a meeting sees you’re busy and, hopefully, won’t try to schedule over that time period.
- Check email 2-3 times a day instead of every time a new message arrives. Email is meant for non-urgent communication. If it’s that big of a deal, they can call or come to your office.
- Do people constantly come into your office area to chat? It’s great to be sociable and develop relationships, but you may need to politely ask to talk later. Do that enough times and most people will get the idea.
Maintenance Activity #2: Clear your email inbox
I know, I just told you to stop checking your email so often and now I’m saying you should clear your inbox. Huh? Here’s the deal: When you switch from thinking through next week’s service order to answering an email and back again, you lose your train of thought and are less productive. Focus on completing the task at hand, then open email and deal with each message.
Each email requires one of these actions:
- Reply and delete
- Forward and delete
- File for future reference
Each action gets that message out of your inbox and either in your trash bin or in another folder. In the interest of full disclosure: I’m still working on getting to “inbox zero” consistently myself, but when I do get there I feel accomplished and know I’m not neglecting any requests.
Maintenance Activity #3: Plan ahead
Before you head home each day, take 5-10 minutes to look at tomorrow’s schedule and your to-do list. By planning your upcoming day, it’ll be easier to leave work at the office and truly enjoy a relaxing evening at home. Your family will appreciate having your undivided attention and you’ll be rested and ready for the day ahead.
These maintenance activities aren’t terribly complicated but they do require consistent effort. If you neglect them, you’ll be frustrated with everyone else dictating your time and won’t accomplish what you need to propel your church’s vision. However, if you’re consistent, you’ll see continued progress and will experience less stress. Maintenance on its own isn’t exciting, but it can lead to incredible results.