Inbox zero – miracles do happen

About five years ago I told a good friend that is in the design industry (like me) that I had cleaned out my email inbox to zero.  His reply was something to the effect of “Well, that’s probably not a good thing. If it is close to zero, that means business is not good.”  It dawned on me today as I was working through getting my inbox down to zero, something that hasn’t happened in probably two years, that I took his message to heart.  He meant well, and I do understand what he was saying.  He was just wrong.  A full inbox doesn’t equal clients necessarily.  For me, it has been a constant reminder that there is always something else that I haven’t done yet (like any of us need reminders that there is ALWAYS, ALWAYS something else to be done if you own a business).  My inbox had become an unofficial to do list even though I already had a to do list.  And the older emails in my inbox became older and older and didn’t get done.

Well today….I did it.  How do you like them apples?

Screenshot 2016-08-10 19.09.10

Don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t just go through and delete out my inbox although I’ve been tempted to many times.  No instead, as I mentioned in my previous email, I’ve been on a quest toward improved productivity and overall working smarter.  My inbox was a huge nemesis for me.  I ended up watching a video by Scott Beebe on how to get a hold of your inbox, took notes and began my journey toward inbox zero (not a paid endorsement, just a very helpful tool…thanks Scott).  Took about 1.5 hours to clear out the 200 emails in my inbox…I was a “distributing” machine.  I say distributing because that is one of the mindset shifts that needs to happen: moving from a captive where you are “owned” by your inbox to where you are a distributor, owning your email and moving it to where it needs to go.  200 was my average for my inbox on most days even after clearing out a bunch of items.  How about you?  What is your current inbox number at?  Do you struggle like I do with your inbox or is it no big deal for you?  Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe For Crazy

recipe_for_crazy_trucker_hat-r7f682c549df547cbae0eb351a98b87fb_v9wfy_8byvr_512One of my focuses over the last several months has been focusing on learning about and leveraging systems that will increase my focus, productivity and satisfaction while infusing a more healthy work/life balance into my life.  I want to work smarter, grow my businesses while increasing the amount of fulfillment I get from my work.  So, I’ve added some new categories to my blog (productivity and systems) and plan to loosely give updates on thoughts, tools and processes that I come across during this journey. I plan to make a constant discipline of evaluating what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and asking, “Is there a better way?”

Right now I’m looking at how I handle email, how often I check it and developing better ways to work with it.  I’ve had some days where I’ve worked in response to the activity of my inbox and that alone.  That is a recipe for crazy.  I’m done with that. So, time to do that better.  If you have an email best practices, would love to hear them. I’m reading and implementing some as I read more and will let you know those that I finally land on. I would also love to be able to hand off much of my inbox to an assistant at some point, but I have yet to find a setup that I’m comfortable with that I feel would work for everyone.  That will come later on.

I’m also looking at my daily prioritized task list (Download Here).  I’ve used this for about 3 years now.  The problem? It says daily, but it has about 20 lines on each day, and I can easily fill up those lines with tasks.  The problem is that unless I plan on working around the clock, there is no way that I will be able to accomplish those in a day. That also is a recipe for crazy. This morning, I was needing to print out some more copies of this Daily Prioritized Task, and I paused.  I thought, “I wonder if there is a better way to do this and removed some of the stress I consistently feel from this?” Really, this list would more appropriately be for me a weekly task list.  I’ve often thought that if I could at accomplish these within a period of 2 to 3 days, THAT would be a successful week. So…I’m experimenting. I’ve been taking the items from my list and putting them on my calendar in time slots for about a week.  That helps carve out time, and it helps me focus as I know there is a time slot for the rest of the items on the list. That has helped.  Now my plan is to shift from a daily to a weekly task list in the way it is labeled and the way I view it.  If I get done with my weekly task list in a few days?  GREAT!  I’ll celebrate and then develop another for the week.  It’s an experiment so we will see.

Other items I’ve addressed and implementing systems for included using a scheduling software that has a link to a calendar for set times/days during the week when I’m available for phone calls and/or meetings. People could use the link to schedule a time that might be convenient, and my assistant could use this and schedule appointments easier for me. Also, I’m shifting toward limiting my Skype usage, staying off of social media during work hours except if it is for a client, and I have unsubscribed from a bunch of email subscriptions using and have bundled the ones I wanted to keep into a daily digest which is awesome times 50.  I’m also looking at a ticketing system for clients that we perform routine website updates and support items for.  More to come.  If you have hacks, best practices or tools to share, please feel free to leave a comment below.

UPDATE: I’ve decided to experiment on checking my email 3 times per day for 1 week: 8:30 am, 11:30 am and 4:00 PM for one week.  Since most people check their email more than 20 times per day (crazy right), I’ll see how this works.

In Honor of Rocco

30790_1466906042615_492214_nLast night my family and I had to make the very difficult decision to let our boxer Rocco go.  To say that we are just devastated would be pretty accurate.  I wanted to share a little about his story partly to have it out there, but also because at the moment, it seems a good way to deal with my own grief and as I watch my family grieve.  This post will be pretty long so just wanted to put that out there.  I know a lot of people have varied view on pets and animals.  All we know is this: Rocco was dearly loved and knew it.  And he loved his family, too.  Beyond us, you would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t love Rocco, too, after meeting him.  He was a special dog, indeed.  He certainly set the bar high for any pet.  If every family could experience a pet like him, they would understand what I’m saying for themselves.

Several months ago he started having serious issues with what seemed to be his hips and back and was placed on an anti-inflammatory (and at times aspirin) along with glucosamine which really seemed to help him get up from laying down and move about a little better.

Fast forward to about 2 weeks ago, and his health seem to deteriorate pretty quickly.  He had increasing problems just getting up, his legs would buckle at times when walking, the “boxer wiggle” and even wagging his nub were gone (which is unusual if you know boxers and especially if you knew Rocco), he had increasing bouts of incontinence, and would often just stand and have a 1,000 yard stare about him.  He would often during the night be circling, walking around.  We came to find out that more than likely he was in severe pain in his back.  We did some blood tests and although he did have a slightly low thyroid, there were just a number of other things going on that didn’t seem to fit just a low thyroid.  The vet and our family had suspicions that something neurological was going on based on his behavior.  Boxers at that age often have tumors or lesions in the brain so that would certainly be a possibility.  He was placed on several medications to try to help him including a steroid.  At first he seemed to be responding well but then seem to deteriorate as the higher dosage of steroid was tapered off.  So the vet wanted to elevate that back up, which we did.  He seemed to respond okay again. Then two days ago, he again started to go downhill.  The same issues he had been struggling with returned and seemed to even be worse.  Last night it got to the point where we couldn’t get him to get up on his own although he did at one point when my parents came over (he just loved my dad).  He had been heavy breathing and panting for about two days and last night at times started whimpering.  We made the decision that it was time and that we had done what we could.  After consulting with the ER Vet, we surmised that even with possible X-Rays, surgeries, etc. that there was no guarantee that his quality of life would be better or even good.  We all said our very tearful goodbyes, and then Rocco went peacefully to sleep at about 11:30 pm.

Rocco was a big boxer (95 lbs, give or take) and was just so full of life.  He was about 9.5 years old, and he lived a very full and happy life.  The average lifespan of a boxer is around 9-10 years or so according to the experts.  I say that he was “about 9.5 years old” because that’s what we can best guess from when we got him. You see, Rocco was a rescue that we adopted through Carolina Boxer Rescue (CBR).  We had been considering adopting a boxer for a while, and had been looking at the website a good bit at available boxers.  We had seen Rocco’s photo on the website, but to be honest, he looked pretty bad.  In fact, we said to ourselves at one point “That poor dog. We wonder what family would EVEN consider adopting him.”  Well…..that would eventually be us.  Each adopting family has to have an interview with one of the staff from CBR to make sure that your yard is fenced and probably to make sure you can care for a pet. They would bring boxers that were being fostered with them to get them used to visits even if a family wasn’t going to adopt that particular boxer.  We still think that was a setup btw. 😉  So, they had named Rocco already and brought him along for the visit.  Rocco had been found wandering the streets and was eaten up with mange before coming to CBR.  He was almost 3/4 the way through his treatments for mange when he came to visit us.  So the lady from CBR brought Rocco inside, and he looked a good bit different from the photos we had seen online.  What a sweet dog he was.  We were watching Rocco with our kids as he played with them out back.  He was having a blast.  Probably the pivotal moment was when Rocco and Spencer were together, and Spencer said to Rocco, “Sit”.  On the spot, Rocco sat.  One of those moments where both Kim and I glanced at each other like “Hmm, this could be something.”  With Spencer being autistic and 5 years old at the time, finding the right fit for him was going to be important, in addition to being a right fit with the rest of our family. The visit ended and the CBR lady left with Rocco.  Kim and I looked at each other, and said, “Well, what about Rocco?”  We both decided that he was the one we wanted to adopt.  A little bit later, Rocco became an official part of our family.

Rocco truly was “Man’s Best Friend”.  He was an incredible blessing to our family, and I think that we were to him as well.  He was with our family through some really dark days and some really great ones, too. I think that the hardest part is dealing with the reality that I won’t hear his tag jingle as he walks around, I walk into rooms where he would lay, and he isn’t there anymore.  I miss my friend.  I will miss taking him for walks, petting on his soft head and ears, greeting us when we got home and chasing our fat cat Max around as he played.  Last night involved a lot of tearful prayers from our family as we gave thanks to God for the blessing Rocco was to our lives.  None of us wanted to go inside last night when we returned home because we knew how that would feel at first: Empty.  Yet, we sat down inside and were able to talk about some of the happy times we had with Rocco and what he meant to each of us.  He was very loved and will be deeply missed.  Sleep well, my friend.


Heroes Message Series Graphics

Some of the work that my companies do is custom design (both graphic and motion video) projects for churches. We basically come along side as their creative media team to help them develop screen, print and video resources for their message series. I’ll be posting some of those new projects here and there just to share. Here is a recent series that we designed called Heroes. The project called for a comic book feel overall. Below is the main message graphic and the bumper we created.

Heroes Sermon Series Artwork

A Key To A Successful Relationship

This past weekend Kim and I had a chance to celebrate 20 years of marriage by traveling to the Biltmore House and Estate in Asheville, NC.  This place holds special meaning for us as it was one of our stops on our honeymoon.  We haven’t been back since so it was cool to see how the estate and the surrounding area has grown since.

After we toured the estate, we went out to dinner to finish out the day.  While we were discussing a number of things, Kim asked me, “So, what do you think is the ‘secret’ to us being together for 20 years?”  I had to think about it for a minute because that is a pretty involved question.  I told her that I think there are a number of factors that I think contributed to our 20 years of marriage.  In the practical though, one practice did stand out that I think is HUGE for any relationship.  Here’s what it is: Continue reading

Too often we want the benefit OF a relationship without putting in the commitment TO the relationship.

Setting Goals

Setting goals has not been one of my strengths.  Even though study after study seems to indicate that those that do are more successful and achieve more than those that don’t, I have struggled every year to set goals.  I wondered why that was so difficult for me.  It came down to this:

I was overthinking it WAY too much and making it much more complicated than it has to be.

In my mind, I was thinking that I had to have the right formula, a certain number of actions points, perfectly formatted and equally bulleted actions steps, etc.  I would often wonder what should I set goals for, and what categories should they be listed under.  See what I mean.  Overthinking.

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By Faith

Hello…Hello….is this thing on?…

Well, I had seriously considered shutting down the blog, but I held off just because I thought there might be a remote chance I would want to blog later on.  This has always been a place where I’ve shared thoughts and ideas that are swimming in my head. So although it’s been a while, here’s the latest.

leap-of-faithThis morning I was reading through Hebrews 11:8-16.  Some would call it the “Hall of Faith” because it goes through several lives of people in the Bible that lived and took action “by faith”.  In fact, that phrase “by faith” appears 4 times in this short passage.

You can read the passage for yourself.  While I’m always struck by the amount of faith each person had and acted on, in my mind, Abraham’s always stands out: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (v8)

That is incredible faith.  It’s not just incredible, it’s dangerous.  It’s the kind of faith that would make some look at you like you’ve lost it.  Even other believers in Christ will think that of you.  It’s not “prudent”. It’s not “wise”.  I’m not throwing out wisdom and prudence.  It’s just that so often faith seems to go against the grain of what would be deemed as wisdom and prudence.

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Small Groups and Church Staff

Let me preface this post by saying that this is in no way meant to be an attempt to tear down church leadership nor is it directed at any church leadership in particular.  Rather, this is a post to speak about the reality of being on a church staff, some retrospect in my own journey and to possibly be a voice for some church staff who have and are going through this reality.  This Augusta 31st marks one year since my last day (for now) as a vocational church staff member.  I’ve had some time over these past 9 months to process my experience as a full time church staff member, and it’s been particularly interesting during that time to view things as now we’re plugged into ministry and our church from a non-staff person’s perspective.  Let me say that I believe fully that the local church is God’s Plan A and there is no other plan.  I love the local church.

As Kim and I have become small group leaders at our church, it’s been so exciting to be able to meet together with a group of people each week and dig in to the Bible, get to know each other, and slowly be transparent about life….the good and the bad.  It’s about being involved in Biblical community.  Probably one of the best phrases I’ve heard to describe this is “doing life together.”  That’s what small groups and Biblical community should be like.  It’s about being real, being authentic and where appropriate, transparent….get the picture?

Now, here’s what I would say from my observation and experience over the years: A lot, if not most, church staff members (and their spouse if married) struggle with “doing life together” in Biblical community and small groups within the church they serve.

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