Email Organization That Works

Over the years, I have learned that the key to success in life is discipline & organization (yes, both. . . they often go together). While it is true that being smart is important and can really fuel where you go in life, if you don’t pair your knowledge with discipline, that knowledge gets underutilized.

I was always decent in school. I would make good grades and complete what was required of me, but early on in life it wasn’t easy. As I grew older, however, I started to add more structure to my life. Maybe I was maturing, or maybe it had something to do with the fact I played volleyball for a Navy officer’s wife. . . Regardless of what caused my change in behavior, as I became more disciplined with my school work (you know, color-coded binders for each class with the neatly labeled dividers) it became easier for me to receive those good grades.

Now, I am a firm believer in organizing. I might even go so far as to say I love organizing. Why? Because it works. It allows me to juggle everything thrown my way and event helps me to see when I need to say “no” to requests.

One of the most beneficial things I’ve done for my personal & work life has been organizing and creating a good system for my email inbox. Communication today is heavily rooted in email correspondence. This can make your inbox turn into a monster in a matter of seconds. There have been days I’ve walked away from my desk for 5 minutes and have come back to see upwards of 20 emails waiting for me. Really? 4 emails per minute? (I work at a church, so that means God is on the move & doing somethings great, right?)

Over the past few months, I’ve been tweaking how I organize my emails so that I can not run into panic mode every time I turn on my computer. Our office email is hosted through Gmail. It’s awesome. I love it. If you’re not using Gmail, you might have similar settings to allow you to mimic this system. Here’s the system that I came up with that works for me:

Labels:

The foundation to my email account are the different labels I use. I have labels (with sub-labels) for all of the different types of emails that I get. These can be set up in your settings by going to the gear icon at the top right of the scree > click on “settings” in the drop down menu > go to the label tab > click on the “create new label” button. You can create color-coded labels and “nest” other labels in that main category. This comes in handy if you need to pull up emails from the past to retrieve information or exact correspondence from the past. I schedule various events and have a lot of emails about set up details, meetings, contracts, etc. I have set up a main label for “2013 Events” that house several different sub-labels for the different events I schedule for the year.

The key to using labels is to actually USE them. I spent time setting up my labels (and I add new ones on the fly as new things come up). Any time I receive an email about something, I will immediately label it where it belongs and move it from my inbox to the label once the correspondence is finished. This may take a little time to get into the habit of doing, but once it becomes part of your routine, it’s a breeze & VERY helpful!

Priority Inbox:

Here’s a look at my inbox. I currently use their priority inbox setting, which you can find by going to the gear icon at the top right of the screen > click on “settings” in the drop down menu > go to the inbox tab > select “priority inbox” on the inbox type option at the top. From here, you can customize the different tiers of your priority inbox. Below, I’ve shown an example of each inbox I have.

Email Organization

The first that appears inbox that appears are all of your most recent, unread emails. This is good to have at the top because you can filter through those emails and organize them by priority. I go ahead and label the emails as I read them so I can easily locate it when I’m viewing my email screen.

The next inbox shows the starred emails. I usually star conversations and emails that are not yet closed and still have items that require action from me or hold important information I would need for the day. Once the conversation is closed, I immediately move the email thread to the appropriate label.

The third inbox holds the emails I’ve marked with the “pending” label. I use this label for the events I am in the process of scheduling so I can keep it separate from other correspondence. Once I close the details from each email, I remove the pending label and move it to the appropriate event label.

The last inbox houses all of the other emails I have read, but aren’t starred or pending. This is normally what I filter through at the end of the day to either star, label as pending, or move to its appropriate label.

Remember, you can customize these labels, so there are many ways you can configure the emails that appear in this view and the flow you’d like your correspondence to go through. I have found this system beneficial to my follow-up and helps reduce the amount of things that fall through the cracks. If you find yourself overwhelmed by your emails on a consistent basis, schedule 30 minutes in your day to sit down and create a basic start to your email organization. Once you get the skeleton completed, you can add and alter things as you go.

Happy Organizing!

Justice. Mercy. Humility.

mc

Table Topics Tuesday: Happiness In The Present

Table Topic Tuesday 1.22.13

I recently purchased a set of “Table Topics: Happiness” from Target the other week and I love them! (Did I mention they were 90% off?!) They are great conversation starters and fun to flip through. Last week, I came across this card as I was getting ready and  it’s been my head constantly ever since.

Each year, it’s evident everyone is at least somewhat discontent with where they are currently. Why else would there be New Year’s Resolutions? I know I’ve spent most of my time these first few weeks of 2013 imagining what life will be like in 5-10 years. I’ve already written out a few practical action steps to make those dreams come true- blogging is one of them!

I firmly believe vision and personal growth are a good thing (I am actually very passionate about them), but I feel when we focus too much on the future we miss out on a great opportunity to truly enjoy the moment and the place we’re at in life RIGHT NOW. There’s always something that the present teaches us: contentment.

Take a moment today and think your life in its current state. Even if you’re not where you imagine yourself in 5-10 years, identify the things in your life that you can celebrate. Dwell on it. Thank God for it. Choose to have an attitude of joy because of it. Be content with yourself.

As you continue your week, be intentional about taking a moment each day to find the good in life. If you think hard enough, you’ll find one. . . and some days it might only be just one. If it is, cling tightly to it and don’t let busyness and stress steal it away from you.

Oh, and don’t worry, you’re not alone. I’m going to re-read this post tomorrow as well.

Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.

mc

In the Wrong

Women RR signI spent my morning on Friday sitting in the local Panera planning and processing a few ideas for my job. Throughout college, I spent most of my time studying and preparing for presentations or exams there while devouring my body weight in their scrumptious blueberry bagels and hazelnut coffee. When given the opportunity to have an off-site work day once a month, I knew exactly where I wanted to go.

There’s something inspiring to be among people as I work, watching and observing from All-Sons-And-Daughters-blaring-through-my-earbuds-while-feverishly-typing-away corner of the room. It’s as if I’m seeing a improv dance routine take place. Everyone moving at their own pace. Ordering, talking, laughing, eating. . . it’s simply beautiful. While the my recent change in diet has forced me to sacrifice on the blueberry bagel (still working on finding a good gluten-free recipe), I still was able to order a large cup of coffee, which I refilled more than I’d like to admit.

It was about the time I was wrapping up my brainstorming session that those ______ cups of coffee refocused my attention to another part of the restaurant. The restroom. Seeing as it was approaching the lunch hour and business was picking up, I decided to open up some real estate for someone else to enjoy, took my things to my car and hurriedly made my way back into the building.

Rushing past the crowds, I burst through the door without breaking stride and was just about to open the stall door when something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. I turned my head to see a urinal on the side of the bathroom. Now, most of you would have immediately realized you were in the wrong  bathroom, but I can’t lie. My first thought was, “That’s weird. Why did they install a urinal in the women’s restroom?” Luckily, another thought immediately interjected my mind and caused me to realize I was indeed in the wrong restroom. As swiftly as I darted through the wrong door I made my way out and into the proper room, hoping (no, praying) no one would catch me correcting my mistake.

Fast forward through a few details and I am red-faced and giggling at myself in the car over what just took place. Did that seriously just happen to me? I obviously was so focused on myself and my needs that I failed to follow the signs marking the answer to my problem.

As funny as Friday’s experience was, it’s amazing how many times I’ve found myself in other similar situations. When facing a problem, I ignore the signs for help and direction God has placed in my path and I end up standing in the middle of a terrible, embarrassing or just plain sinful situation. What’s even worse is I don’t always immediately realize where I am. The longer we refuse to spend time with God and humbly seek Him, the harder it is to hear His voice and notice His direction. Any situation of pain or struggle, whether physical, emotional or relational is terrible and we must acknowledge it, but when we begin to idolize the pain and allow it to control us, we drift further and further away from God’s direction, healing and restoration. Over time, the problem becomes the only thing we can see and builds a barrier over our heart and eyes, inhibiting us from seeing or accepting truths God is trying to share with us.

The good news? In each problem I’ve been in, I eventually realized where I was (thank you, God!). Sometimes I was standing outside the door. Other times I was in the middle of the room, staring at the urinal and wondering why it was in the wrong restroom. No matter how deep I was in a wrong situation or how unlike Jesus I was behaving, I still got the opportunity to turn around and walk in the right direction. There’s a bit of shame and embarrassment, a bit of giggles at foolish decisions, but a whole lot of thankfulness for God providing a way out.

I love the way God uses embarrassing situations in our life to reveal truths to us. You better believe the next time I am faced with a problem, I will pause and look around to see if my surroundings are what they should be. Until then, I am simply going to try and make sure I avoid being in the wrong room. . .  because I probably won’t be lucky enough to walk into an unoccupied room the next time. 🙂

Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.

mc

Early Morning

Well, it’s about to be 7AM here as I write this, but my morning has been going since I woke up at 4AM thinking there was a knock at our front door. How can I sleep through the shuttle landing’s sonic boom that shook our house, but lay wide awake from “thinking” I heard a knock at the door? If you can figure that one out, please tell me so that I can make sure it doesn’t happen again!

After fighting myself for 30 minutes, I got out of bed and went to the living room to try to MAKE myself sleepy again. After reading a few chapters in the Bible, catching up on Twitter, thinking of butterflies, and getting comfy on the couch, I finally gave up and turn on the light. Why does this thing always happen on Saturdays? I can sleep in as long as I want, yet something in me won’t let that happen- the phone will ring, I will get inspired the night before to go to garage sales, I will agree to volunteer for an early morning church event. Now, don’t get me wrong… not all of those are bad, but I wake up most weekdays wishing it was a Saturday so I could sleep until noon. Yet every Saturday that comes up, ends up doing more damage than repair on my body. Ugh.

I think my body is going through changes again. I used to be up at 6AM every morning as a kid. No matter what time I went to bed, I was up and at ’em! This was great for me because my dad was usually up and willing to treat me to a Daddy/ Daughter Breakfast Date. This pretty much lasted until I went to college. Weird schedules and not firm bed time because of assignments and random outings helped me to learn the art of sleeping anywhere and at any time. Once in a comfy bed and a Saturday morning ahead of me, I could sleep in like no one’s business. Only a little over a year out of college and I’m not skilled in that art. I wake up early on the weekends, and I’m at work by 8AM every morning. That’s a far cry from my first class of the day at 11:45AM last semester of my Sr. year.

So, I’m getting up earlier again. To make matters worse, Tomy can sleep in (grrr). On the rare occasion he’s up early with no obligations with a sports season, he’s not very big on eating breakfast… Who wants to eat pancakes and bacon alone? Not me!

The optimistic side of me is actually looking forward to having a productive day today. On top of all of the other things I’ve done so far, I’ve made a long list of things to do today. Most of them came from the worried thoughts that infiltrated my mind as I laid in bed trying to force myself back to sleep. So, I was expecting to be Sleeping Susan this weekend and wound up with Productive Polly. I’ll take it, I guess. The only opportunity is to let Grumpy Gretchen come, and I really don’t like that alternative.

Good morning, Florida! I’m ready to see what this day holds!

“Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.” -Ruth Ann Schabacker

 

 

Do Justice . Love Mercy.  Walk Humbly.

// mc

Balance

If there’s one thing in my life that I struggle with, its balance. I am one of those rare individuals that likes to get a lot accomplished because I get to knock out a long to-do list, but also loves getting lost in conversation with others or creativity sessions. I have a hard time feeling content while participating in either because I end up feeling deprived of the other.

Most days, my default option is to focus on the tasks that lie ahead of me. I get stuck on the “stuff” of life. It’s easy to see why– no one wants to be the irresponsible one. So, I do my work, clean the house, run the errands… all so I can check it off of my list. But what about the people I am around every day? Do I stop and smile at the woman I pass as I reach for the cereal that’s on sale this week, or do I even notice that there’s a human being next to me as I continue checking items off my list?

My desires are playing tug-of-war with my heart. Every day a different one will win. Does it have to be like this, or is there a key to living a balanced life of both doing and being? Will this only get worse when I have children?

Lord, reveal to me the areas of my life that need to be put back into balance. Remind me of my purpose and how my friendships, my job, my responsibilities, my finances, and marriage should fit together.

Fruits of the Spirit: A forgotten post worth publishing

January 2011:

If there’s one thing I love about family living far away, it’s the road trips that I get to have with Tomy. Other than that, let’s be honest… family living far away really stinks. BUT, without those long 9 hour car rides we take out to Colorado for the holidays and vacations, we wouldn’t normally be only 2 feet away for such a long time. Naturally, we have some of the best conversations during those road trips, and I really feel like we hash out our problems, dream big dreams, and recommit ourselves to one another through open and honest conversation.

A few weeks ago when Tomy and I were headed out to Colorado to see his family for Christmas part 2, we started to engage in honest conversation about our marriage– where we are, where we’d like to be, and what kind of couple we want to become. Through this conversation, we became aware of our extreme cognitive dissonance. Our true reality indeed looked different from our perceived reality. It was right then and there that we made a decision to realign our actions towards becoming the Godly couple we intended to become when we said, “I Do.” It’s only been a few months and we already need to make some changes; Great.

For the next 2 hours of the trip, we discussed ways in which we could improve our relationship with Christ as well with each other, and we decided to take on a long-term goal for this next year. Our goal was to take the Fruits of the Spirit (you know, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control) and focus on practicing a different one each month… starting with self-control. Personally, I will tell you that starting with that one was a little selfish because I was really looking for a kick-start to eating better, but the other reason was that we wanted to end our year building towards the ultimate goal- to LOVE God and one another more perfectly.

If you’ve been around Tomy and me for a conversation about God and life, you will quickly hear us talk about love. It’s not because we want to be stuck in a romantic comedy where we end up kissing in a public location as a camera spins around us 360 degrees before panning away towards the sunlight as the credits roll. Rather, it’s because we see- even more so now that we’re married- that love is the one thing that gives us life, brings us closer to God, draws us to one another, and ultimately is the one thing that matters. That one thing that gives us life and purpose is the one thing that is hardest to do. Why? I know Paul wrestled with this question in Romans. Good thing the answer lies in Christ and His power to help us if we just learn to lean on Him and let Him have control of our lives.

 

Now, fast-forward to June. Tomy and I have been focusing on a different Fruit each month. Despite the major changes we’ve gone through in the past 6 months…. or even in the first year of our marriage, we’ve stuck to this journey. This month we are on one of the most terrifying one to work on in a marriage: Patience. Usually people tell you to never pray for God to give you  patience because that usually means you’ll be thrown in a situation where you’ll have to use it. So far we’re good and haven’t had a major crisis moment. After this challenge is done, who knows if we will start it all over or move to  a different focus. For now, we will wake up every morning and see those 9 Fruits of the Spirit written boldly on our bathroom mirror and discuss ways in which we can practice them that day.

I’m approaching our 1st anniversary with a smile on my face. Not because we’re perfect, but because we are trying to be the extraordinary couple God wants us to be if we just let Him teach us how.

We’re not done learning and I know we’re not alone.

Heart of Oklahoma to the Heart of Florida

I promise that I wasn’t avoiding my blog because I didn’t want to write…

The truth is, November 2010- March 2011 would have been filled with posts that could have read like novels. During those 4 months, Tomy and I had our world turned around. There are things I will never understand, and one of them is God. Through these past few months, I have seen God call us to do some scary things and now looking back on it all, the only thing I can do is lift my hands praise the One who gave us the strength to say yes to Him.

Tomy and I had only been married for 8 1/2 months, we just purchased a house in November, we had both just started new jobs that we loved, we were connected to our church and had lots of close friends still in the area… but God stirred our hearts while we prayed for 3 months about moving to FL.

Where are we going to live? What are we going to do with our house we just bought? How are we going to tell our bosses this news? Florida is further away from our familes- how will this effect our relationship with them? Will we make new friends? I know Tomy will have a job, but what will I do?

You know what happens when you bring your questions and your concerns to God? He comforts you with peace beyond all understanding and sometimes even answers them in might ways.

It’s now April. Tomy and I are now in Lakeland, FL. I have a job working at church with Tomy as the Life Groups Assistant. I love the people I work with. We found a beautiful condo to live in a mile away from the church. We are making new friends. We have FaceTime dates with our Family. We’ve already had friends stay over at our place (open offer to anyone who needs a FL vaca).

There are too many blessings to count. Never has my God failed me. There have been frustrations, pain, tears, and things not going how I wanted them to, but God is God and we are in His hands.

I miss Oklahoma, but I love Florida.