By Conference Minister Diane Weible
I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity. I love buying notebooks and the latest and greatest software that is going to help me get organized and empty my inbox and create a to do list that makes sense and can be cleared each day. I have a planner page for planning my day. I have tips and tricks that I am testing to make sure I don’t forget to email someone or don’t get so caught up in answering email that I forget to do something I promised someone I would get done.
And, I realize it is all kind of exhausting. An empty inbox is like shoveling the proverbial sidewalk while it is snowing. As soon as I get it emptied, it will fill up again. The best I can do is manage it. (I should’ve posted a disclaimer before you started reading that this is a peek inside my brain!)
Then, it hit me. I know what my problem is. Whether I am copied on an email or it is sent directly to me, I want to make sure the person on the other end knows that I have received it. I feel obligated to respond, even if it’s nothing more than to say, “thanks!” Someone pointed that out to me not too long ago and ever since then I have been more careful about those responses. Not only does it not contribute to the conversation, but it adds another email to that person’s inbox, which they may or may not appreciate.
Sometimes I try to answer in an email that which would be much better handled with a quick phone call. I signed up for the Calendly app so that people can click a link in my signature line and set up an appointment to talk to me. I haven’t yet encouraged anyone to do that because I’m still working on understanding when it is better to answer a question by phone BEFORE I write that long email.
A colleague of mine once told me that he never writes an email that is longer than five sentences. If it takes more than five sentences to write, it is better to pick up the phone.
I feel guilty that I hardly ever go on Facebook anymore but my relationship with FB has become complicated.
Why am I telling you all of this? I am definitely not seeking more tips or suggestions for how to manage my email or my to do list. I’m still wading through all the ones I came up with for myself. I have Slack and Boomerang and Marco Polo and Calendly and a bunch more I haven’t even yet tried.
I am sharing all of this with you because something dawned on me yesterday. I am working so hard to get everything done that I am missing out on what really matters—being present in the moment. It’s not about getting something done but about being present as you are doing it. The end result can be very affirming but so can the doing.
All this means is that I may not answer every email and sometimes I may ask you to give me a call so we can discuss. Sometimes, I hope you know my heart enough to know that if you are waiting on an answer and I have not yet responded, it is not because I am ignoring you. It’s possible that I was expecting someone else was going to respond so I did not. It also may be that I am watching a hummingbird or taking a walk in the forest or having a conversation with God or one of our siblings in Christ. I hope that you will not hesitate to reach out and remind me that you are waiting.
The truth is, our 21st century communication tools can provide wonderful opportunities for connection and productivity without overwhelming us. I want to be present with you in the ways that we both need because that is what community is all about. I also want to invite you to consider the ways you can seek opportunities for silence and presence. It really is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.