3 Inbox Time Savers

Whether you are managing your own inbox or a clients, the struggle of maintaining order is real. In today’s fast paced, content driven world, the need to wade through information can quickly grow from a desire for knowledge to drowning in information. It is unlikely that you can simply stop signing up for all of those webinars, periodicals or network furthering correspondence. You can, however, make your inbox work for you, rather than being a slave to it.

Here are three time savers that will help you stay afloat in the cyber sea of email.

1) Maintain a Zero Based Inbox

Easier than it sounds, I know. The quickest way to get buried under email is to let everything live in your inbox. Simply put, you wouldn’t leave all of your letters, bills and junk mail sitting in your mailbox. Apply that same diligence to your inbox.

It may take some time on the front end to get to that crisp, empty email home screen, but it is worth the investment. Say goodbye to the stress of seeing that little red badge number climbing up, up, up on your email icon and say hello to the peace that comes from dealing with emails in a timely manner.

The easiest way to do this is by utilizing filters and folders.

2) Use Filters and Folders to Gain Back Your Time

This option can seem overwhelming, but let’s explore and see just how simple it is.

There is no one size fits all. Create folders and filters that work with how you think. One person may have a folder for each property he manages and person that he corresponds with regularly and that works wonderfully for him.

Another may be great at deleting emails as they are done and a simple three folder structure of the following may work for her:

1. Needs Attention

2. Information

3. Archive

If you have someone else managing your emails, this efficient structure may suffice:

1. Needs Attention ASAP

2. To Do

3. Development/Reference

4. Accounting/Receipts

Once you have your folders set up, you can use filters to automatically send emails from certain addresses to specific folders.

3) Manage Your Subscriptions, Don’t Let Them Manage You

The quickest way to fill up your inbox is subscriptions. Content is king, but it can also clutter. A quick tool (especially if you are managing your own email is unroll.me.

This tool will search your inbox, group your subscriptions and then send you a daily digest. All of those emails from your favorite stores, blogs you follow and industry articles in one simple email. And, if you get tired of receiving them-you can unsubscribe from your dashboard rather than clicking through each email

Bonus: For those of you with your own business, your inbox can be your livelihood. If you find you are spending more time sorting through emails than doing what you do best, it may be time to consider outsourcing someone to handle that for you. A Virtual Assistant may be a great option for you, as you can hire for specific tasks or set amounts of time without the overhead attached to a full time employee.

These tips can save anyone time and stress. Just like investing in your 401(K) now will set you up to win in the future, taking a few hours to invest in bringing order to your inbox will save you days of stress in the months to come.

Cover photo creds: libreshot.com

Hold on to Your Why (Part 1)

We now know we have a why…an internal motivation that gives our ministry meaning. This why serves as our anchor when we are faced with the inevitable desire to quit, throw up walls or just go into auto-pilot. To often, that why gets lost in the urgent, monotonous or discouraging things we encounter as we serve. How can we keep our why front and center when all the white noise is looking to push it to the sideline?

Over the next couple of posts, we will take a practical look at some things we can do to elevate and re-embrace our why.

First, Identify your why.

Hold up-don’t we know our why? I can’t start on that assumption. Personal experience has shown me that when discouragement hits, I often have to rediscover why. Why am I serving even though no one seems to care? Why am I investing in people when no one is investing into me? Why am I putting in hours (that, let’s be honest, we don’t really have) only to have no one show up? If we are asking why questions, chances are we need to go back to the beginning and reunite with our why. How do we do that? Take those same why questions and instead of asking them in a reactionary way, ask them in the future tense. “Why would I be willing to serve even if no one cares?” “Why do I want to invest, even if no one is investing in me”?, etc.

For many of us, the answer is: People. For those called to ministry, it is liking having a beating piece of God’s heart deposited in yours. We want to see people know Jesus. We want to see them walking in victory and in the fullness that God has planned for them. We want to see a God centered community formed that then impacts the city around us and glorifies God.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the contrary. If you why isn’t centered on service and glorifying God, it may not be a why that will keep you going. I can say that I want to change my eating habits to look good. But that motivation, that why, may not be enough for me to withstand the immediate gratification associated with a yummy bowl of ice cream. My why has to be bigger than me. As a mom, if I say I’m going to change my eating because I want to make sure my son grows up with healthy habits-bam, I have a why bigger than me.

Ministry was never meant to be about me. I have found personally, if my why has become askew, my what and how become labored and trying.

So, for this week-identify your why. If it is off, realign it and start fresh.

Next Week: Why be accountable?

Have you experienced a why that was off? Share in the comments. Let’s learn from one another. 🙂

Photo creds: paulmadson.com

Hold on to Your Why (Intro)

It amazes me  how intertwined our lives are. As mentioned in a previous blog, whenever I learn about a new app at work geared toward organization or collaboration, my first instinct is how I can I use this at/for church. As a new mom, it is encouraging to see this overlap yet again.

When I was pregnant with Caeden, I had a goal of a natural pregnancy and birth. I refused drugs to help my horrendous morning sickness and turned to ginger ale and Altoids instead (to all my ministry mamas out there…Altoids = God send). I enrolled in a Bradley birthing class, which my champ of a husband attended with me for twelve long weeks. At this point, many of you may be asking why? Which is my point today.


A friend of mine once said, “If you lose your why, you lose your way.”

Why was I able to endure the worst kind of ongoing sickness I have every experienced for over three months? Why was I able to embrace a pain that society has raised me to fear and do everything within my power to negate? Why? Because of my son. Because I wanted him to have the best start to life that I could give him. Because the importance of my goal was bigger than my momentary desire for relief. My “Why” was firmly in place.

After walking this path, I am amazed at how much the birthing process is like ministry. With a heart full of love, we embark on a journey, armed with dreams and hopes for the future. We dream of people being reached and God being glorified. Inevitably, the sickness comes. We endure, we go on, but we eventually get tired and become aware that there is an option to find relief-be it quitting, putting up walls or giving in to our now jaded vision. For the bi-vocational, this is doubly the case.  In the middle of it all, it is easy to lose site of the end goal, the dream we embraced as we started down our path. If we do, eventually, we will lose our “Why”. If we lose our why, it is only a matter of time until we lose our way and drift from the course we have already given so much to travel.

In the middle of labor, I had to remember my why.

As you are birthing the dream and calling that God has placed in you-remember your why. Remind yourself regularly. Don’t be content to just go through the motions, because when push comes to shove, only your why will deliver your destiny.

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Over the next few posts we will explore some practical ways to hold on to your Why.

What is your why in ministry? Share it in the comments and let’s pray and encourage each other while it is still today 🙂

I’m back….

I know, I know…surely I have been captured by carnies and now have a career juggling on the high wire. Not quite. My absence has, in fact, been the result of something that is just as impactful and requires lots of balance and juggling.

I became a mom.

I became a mom by going through somewhat of a rough pregnancy that severely inhibited my ability to focus and write and do much outside of my daily requirements (and those were a stretch). No joke, I blew through all but two of my PTO days by November…and they reset every year in July.

I have learned so much through the process, let me tell you. And I am truly excited to get back into the swing of things. I never realized how being a parent would give the other aspects of my life a whole new depth.

Thank you for your patience, in my absence and as I jump back in (warning…I may reference my son/being a mom in ministry, etc a whole lot). A huge thanks to my husband who has single-handedly kept HGF going, while carrying a much heavier load in my absence and limited ability for the past year.

All that to say…I’m back, pumped, hopeful and with a new appreciation for the life that God has given me…because it includes this guy now:

Meet baby CJ-the newest tool the Lord is using to blow my mind when it comes to perceiving the love He has for us.

Here is to a grand new season!

~ Lyssah

Photo creds: Pinterest

There’s an App for That: Slack

slackSlack is a wonderful means of alternative communication. As bivocationals, it is important to stay connected and communicate with other staff and volunteers at any given time. Slack serves as a hybrid between texting and chat, allowing you to access the same channel of communication from your computer and your phone. This handy app not only allows instantaneous communication, but also facilitates document sharing, searchable conversations and syncs with interfaces like DropBox. Just like Wunderlist (teaser) and Evernote, it is accessible across all of your devices (phone, computer and tablet) and will send push notifications according to your customization to both your phone and e-mail.

Some of handy features available are:

  • Searchable channels (up to 10,000 messages in the free version)
  • Functional channel hierarchy with multiple top level channels and channels for specific discussions/participants
  • Direct private messaging
  • Multiple integrations
  • Simple drag and drop functionality for attachments

If you are looking for an app to keep you connected and up to date, this is it. Like Evernote, this is a freemium product that is wonderful in it’s free form and has some great upgrades in the paid version, including unlimited storage and searching.

You know the features now, but how can it be practically applied to ministry?

Why…I am so glad you asked! 😉

1) Staff Communication

Maybe you are on staff with a church where others are full time. This can make communication difficult. Mass texts are great, but texts are only as good your most recent messages. E-mail is also handy, but lets face it: when you are bivocational, you are probably juggling at least three different e-mails and things can get lost. By utilizing Slack as a means of communication, all information is centralized and customizable. You can have a general channel that everyone is part of. This is a great place for questions and announcements, such as “We need to tear down the youth room for the fellowship dinner after service”. You can also set up specific channels. Say you have a team working on the 4th of July picnic. Simply create a channel and add the needed people. They will immediately have access to the thread from within their Slack app. If there is a new message, it will be highlighted. Not to mention, the search bar will search all conversations, making it extremely easy to find that message from last month with the cleaning schedule.

2) Volunteer Communication

In the same way you set up Slack for those on your church staff, you can create a channel for your volunteer team as well. Send invites to all of your volunteer team and set up a general channel. This is a great way to get out information, send out sign up sheets or even collaborate on graphic design. Let’s say you have a team within that team that focuses on connecting with church members throughout the week. You can make a channel for that. Or maybe you are a youth pastor and you’ve got a couple who are helping to coordinate a youth lock-in. Set up a channel for that and keep it out of the general flow. The beautiful thing is you can add yourself to every channel and get quick updates on where things are by simply clicking on a channel, even if you are not directly part of the discussion.

I am sure there are plenty of ways Slack can be used, these just happen to be the most basic options. Check it out and see if it doesn’t help streamline your life.

Can you think of any other ways Slack can be a valuable resource? Are you already using it and have some best practices? Share them in the comments below.