Yes, systems take extra work to set up and extra work to maintain. Systems require you to take a short break from the busy and think about things you don’t often think about. However, a little investment of time and mental energy to create and set up systems will pay dividend for years. They will enable you to spend more time doing the things that make a bigger impact. One of the first steps to setting up systems requires you to be a futurist. Basically, anticipate what is going to happen. Let’s take a look at what this means practically.

Lets talk about email. It’s probably the largest productivity killer for most people around the world. Why? Because we’re constantly checking it and rather than having short/focused time… we spent large amounts of random/unfocused time. So here are some of the systems I’ve set in place. Every few months I go through my inbox (or emails I’ve archived) and find emails that come regularly that are time wasters. I create filters (super easy and quick to do) that make it so that those emails, emails with those subject lines or emails from particular people automatically get archived, deleted or go directly to a folder for future reference. That way I won’t ever see those emails unless I choose to. I can also set up filters to send emails directly to other people. I buy lots of stuff on Amazon, iTunes and a few other email venders. I actually have filters that automatically send receipts to a receipt folder so it never clutters up my inbox, but they’re exactly where I need them when it’s time to do finances. Spending 5-10 minutes setting up filters ever month or so means that I don’t get email in my inbox that isn’t critical. I also use the Mailbox App that helps me sort my email. So, I can spend 5 minutes checking email on my phone and go through my entire inbox delegating, delaying, archiving, deleting or quickly responding. This means that 2-3 times a day, I can open my phone and process all the emails in my inbox in about 5 minutes or so. It’s a system.

Here’s another thought. There are certain emails that I get every week. Emails like:

  • I want to volunteer
  • I want to get married
  • I’d like to meet
  • I want to get baptized

The worst thing I could do is respond every time I get one of these emails. However, what I can do is create a template email. I can save the templates on my computer and when I get that email, I just cut and paste from the template and maybe type one sentence on the front and end to make it personal.

Several years ago, we used to get multiple emails/phone calls asking about baptism, infant baptism and child dedication. I took a few hours to put together great information about what these things were, how we practiced them at our church, when the next ones were scheduled and how someone can sign up for a class all online. Now when an email comes to the front desk, they simply send them a link. I never get calls/emails anymore… just registrations for the classes.

Last example. I wrote about this a long time ago. We use Fellowship One for kids check-in. Although we’d have 3-4 years without a tech incident, I just knew that one day, the system would crash and we didn’t have a backup. So, we bought church nursery labels. Since then we’ve used them twice and checked in all our kids without incidence or inconvenience for parents.

So, I challenge you now. Take 15-20 minutes this week and write down as many things as you can think of that you anticipate coming. Maybe it’s an email you know you’re going to have to write every week. Maybe its something that happens annually like camp, promotion or VBS. What can be done once that can be reproduced to save you tons of time.