I wrote a review of Do More Better a few years ago and still stand by my review. Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity might be my favorite book on productivity I’ve ever read. It’s brief, easy to read, and very practical.
The author, Tim Challies, leads the reader through a brief theology of productivity and then guides the reader through practical next steps. He helps raise the need for three different tools—a calendar, a to-do system, and an information management tool. Challies recommends Google Calendar, Todoist, and Evernote. He then helps the reader set them up and marry them so that they work better together. You don’t have to use those three tools to apply his counsel.
I recently read Do More Better for the fourth time. This time I read it with my marriage ministry teammates. It was fun to discuss it with others and share best practices, questions, and learn from each other.
My favorite section of the book might be the Appendix. I bet you’ve never heard anyone say that before! It’s not because the rest of the book stinks—it’s hardly that! It’s because the Appendix contains two very helpful lists:
- Tame Your Email: 6 Tips for Doing More Better with Email
- 20 Tips to Increase Your Productivity
I want to camp out for a few minutes on email. I’m straying a bit from my usual content on marriage and ministry. But there’s not much in the world that can affect your marriage and ministry/vocation more than email. Email can negatively affect both aspects of your life. If you and I don’t learn how to better manage email, then you can be sure email might mess with your relational and vocational worlds.
To be specific, I struggle with email dominating my life. It’s on most of the day on my computer and when I’m not on my computer, I often check it on my phone. I need to stop being married to my email (pun intended).
Some Helpful Suggestions About Email
Challies makes a few suggestions I think will be helpful for you and me. There’s nothing here groundbreaking that we haven’t heard before, but the reminders are so helpful.
1. Don’t leave your email open all day.
Rather check it throughout the day at set intervals. Caveat: some of you may have jobs or bosses who require you to email all day. This isn’t for you. I’m not trying to get you fired! But if your job allows, don’t leave email open all day long. You’ll be distracted by the constant ping of new email and usually it’s a never ending task. Instead set times throughout the day when you will go through email. Maybe it’s first thing in the work day, right before and/or after lunch, and before you go home. Set aside 30 minutes for each of these and work through your email instead of constantly checking it throughout your day.
2. Only look at email once.
This is one of my biggest challenges. Challies makes a genius analogy with our physical mailboxes at home. I don’t have time to go through the whole illustration, but it alone is worth the price of the book. His point is that you should do something with every piece of email on the spot when you read it the first time. You either do it and respond (if it takes less than 1 minute), delegate it to someone else (and move it to a waiting folder), delete it, put it in an archive folder if you need it for later, or put it into a folder to remind you to respond later if it’s going to take more than 1 minute.
3. Connect your email system with your calendar and task management systems.
In other words, if you don’t respond to an email on the spot, don’t just keep it in your inbox. Rather, make a spot on your calendar to respond to it or add it to your task management system so you know you need to respond. Too many emails dominate our lives and distract us from other important work. I’m not saying email isn’t important, but there’s more to life than email!
I’m a big fan of this book. So much so that I own it in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook. If you’re looking for a retool on your productivity system or for a book to read with your team, check out Do More Better by Tim Challies.
What’s one of your best email hacks? How do you keep email from dominating your life? Please share below!
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