“Optional” folder – Gmail filter

I keep my email set up as simple as possible. I run all my email accounts through one inbox and then use archive and delete buttons as well as the search feature.  I also consistently unsubscribe from junk mail. Despite all this I’ve noticed that the few email subscriptions that I don’t want to unroll from (airfare watchdog, Harvard Business Review, Seth Godin, etc.) seem to be cluttering up my inbox and distracted me from my high leverage emails. Enter my new favorite gmail filter (props to Ari Meisel and his Less Doing, More Living book for the idea)…a filter that automatically takes all my subscribed services and puts them in an folder labeled “optional”. As in: “reading these emails is optional and you can do it whenever you want”.  I feel more relaxed already.

1) First create a folder wherever you would like all of these emails to be sent. Click the drop down box and click “add sublabel” and then name your folder. I named mine “Optional”

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2) From your inbox click on the little dropdown button on the search bar.

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3) Now add your filter information. In the Has the Words line enter unsubscribe. In the Doesn’t have line enter the letters RE FWD FW. This mean that it won’t filter emails that you are interacting with a somone about (i.e. forwarding or responding to) that has the word unsubscribe in it.

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4) In that same box click on Create filter with this search.

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5) Lastly, check the Skip the Inbox (Archive it) box, check the Apply the label button and then select your “Optional” folder

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That should do it. Now watch the stress melt away as all those “optional” emails get forwarded to an seperate folder and keep you focused on the real work you need to do.

***Need to remove these emails from your “optional folder” after you’ve finally read them? From your “optional” folder just click either remove label (if you would like keep them archived) or select delete to banish them forever.

Do More Better by Challies (Book Notes)

I’m a sucker for productivity books. I love thinking about how to optimize productivity systems to ease stress, get more done and do the best work I can. I picked up Do More Better by Tim Challies over Christmas vacation and I am wholeheartedly recommending it for creatives, executives and leaders. It’s a huge help for anyone who has more work than they have time and for anyone that has to manage their own schedule, tasks, and lots of content.


In the first part of Do More Better, Challies does a great job of reminding us why work matters and the ultimate goal of work. He also provides some practical exercises to audit your life and get a handle on all the areas of life you’re investing in as well. He also helps us create a sort of mission statement for each area. He forced me to literally write down all the areas of life I’m responsible…and it was enlightening.

The two areas I want to highlight today are more of the nitty gritty details, but they are skills that have helped me move to the next level toward a life lived by my priorities and marked by peace.

1) Challies walks through the basics of how he manages his schedule, tasks and content management. He does give a spectrum of tools that could work (including non-digital options) but he highlights his favorite and unpacks how he uses them.

  • Google Calendar for managing your schedule and coordinating with other important people in your life. I’m already a Google power user so this wasn’t new info for me.
  • Todoist for managing all your tasks. The key for this tool was matching the “projects” to the area of life. I’ve officially switched over from Asana over the last 3 weeks and I’ve loving it. Anytime I have a task I can add it easily and it goes to my Inbox for assigning to project later.
  • Evernote for managing content, notes, agenda and planning. I’ve been an Evernote user for a while, but really haven’t spent anytime learning the ins an outs. Understanding how to organize files (again matching area of responsibility in my life), email content directly to Evernote, as well as how the web browser extension works has been immensely helpful. Need to save receipts, ideas, etc. now it’s all saved nicely in one home and easily searchable.

2) The second thing that has been a gamechanger for me is the daily review and the weekly review.

  • For the Daily Review I followed Challies example and set up a reoccurring sequence of tasks that show up every morning (pray, clear task inbox, review calendar, prioritize task for the day, etc.) It only takes about 5 minutes, but it’s been a great exercise in forcing me to live by my priorities and not just the respond to the urgent.
  • The Weekly Review is a little bit longer. I’ve scheduled about 30 minutes every Friday afternoon to walk through the list of things Challies recommends. Again, I set up a reoccurring sequence of tasks that shows up on Friday afternoon in Todoist as well as block out the time in my calendar. They are things like clear email, clear Evernote inbox, review all projects, look at the next 30 days on the calendar.

That’s a taste of the book. Pick it up if you’re interested. It’s worth investing energy in how you get things done. This has been the simplest and most practical productivity book I’ve read.



Seven dimensions of vocational power

photo-1424298397478-4bd87a6a0f0cIn her book Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman highlights the 7 areas of vocational power she’s discovered. These could be useful in helping individuals evaluate their unique position and the opportunity to make a difference they have


1. Knowledge/expertise – You’ve accumulated specific knowledge and experience. Applying it to achieve the highest degree of excellence in his/her work. (One implication of this is that Christian workers should seek where possible to pursue professional development opportunities that increase their knowledge so they might make even greater contributions in their daily job.)

2. Platform – Some professions provide workers a unique voice, or opportunity to get a message out or highlight a specific opportunity.

3. Networks – Are you thoughtfully and carefully stewarding your relational networks for the purposes of shalom?

4. Influence – Consider what degree of influence you possess and how to use that influence creatively for good.

5. Position – Consider the degree of authority you have within an organization or community based on title or reputation. How can you use that position well.

6. Skills – Take an inventory of the skills you have and think creatively and prayerfully about how those might open up new avenues of service.

7. Reputation/fame – Some professionals achieve a high level of name recognition that can provide large following or strategic opportunities.

What’s Best Next

I like all things productivity and efficiency. I know I’m a nerd. One of my go-to books is Matt Permans book What’s Best Next. Matt also has a great blog.

I’ve loved this book. In fact a lot the principles I’ll be teaching in a seminar on Work and Life rythyms next week for college students.

A couple of thoughts from the book…

  • More important than efficiency is effectiveness —getting the right things done. Efficiency doesn’t matter if you are doing the wrong things in the first place.

  • Have peace of mind without having everything under control. Peace comes first because of our identity. We can find a sense of peace that comes independent of our ability to keep track of our work. The result of finding our peace of mind outside of ourselves frees us to serve more, not less. Act from peace not for peace.

  • Know what’s important and put it first. Don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities. 

  • Basing our peace of mind on our ability to control everything will never work.



MyCru app for spiritual growth

I’ve been working with a team as part of Cru’s Digital Strategies efforts to develop a tool that young people can use for spiritual growth and to help others grow. In it’s essence the vision is that every follower of Christ would have the resources in their pocket to help fuel spiritual growth and magnify the effect of face to face ministry.

Things I’m learning along the way:

  • Cru has a boatload of content
  • Cru has a boatload of content that isn’t necessarily a good fit for mobile consumption. Think .pdf’s.
  • Engagement and frequency of use is key. Mobile is primary.
  • The majority of content is prescriptive not descriptive.

Stuff I’m reading

  • The Lean Startup – to help me understand startup principles of iteration, testing, etc.
  • Hooked – to help me grasp the model of triggers, investments and user behavior

Questions yet to answer

  • What content do we start with that we can test?
  • What mobile frameworks will engage the best?
  • Will college and 20 somethings use/engage with a digital resource like this?

Stay tuned for more on the MyCru app

The Summer of Biographies

The summer of 2014 was officially the summer of biographies for me! How nerdy did that sentence sound?  I finished four biographies and all of them were profound. The human and historical drama’s were gripping.  They were incredibly thought provoking and I heartily recommend any of these for especially if you’re in a leadership role.

Bonhoeffer by Metaxes – This is now in my top 5 book list of all time. It blew me away. WWII, Europe, spy rings, underground seminaries and a man determined to actively follow Christ whatever it may cost him.

The Most Famous Man in America: The biography of Henry Ward Beecher by Debbie Applegate – The first megachurch, national known preacher in the United States. He ministered while the divisive issue of slavery was confronting our country. He also was plagued by moral failure and didn’t finish well.

Jobs by Walter Isaacson – The history of the development of Silicon Valley. A look at a relentless man, who on his way to perfection left turmoil in his wake but ultimately changed the world.  ***Fascinating to read this back to back with Bonhoeffer and think about the call to community and what really matters in life.

Truman by David McCullough – An unlikely president and a look at his leadership through the World Wars and the Cold War. This is 990 pages of one of the best accounts of American history that I’ve ever read. The man made incredibly difficult decisions that flowed out of deep character.

Rockwood Knocks

I’m grateful for the chance I had to mobilize more than 500 people to help serve and bless our city recently.   It was humbling to be a part of what God is up to in Rockwood by partnering with a number of churches and organizations who labor in ministry here in the city. What a joy to see God at work and see people lives changed that day. I have a lot of hope for one of the most difficult neighborhoods in Portland.

We knocked on close to 4000 doors. We completed about 900 surveys. We had 500 spiritual conversations and saw 11 people place their faith in Christ. We handed off almost a hundred contacts to local churches to follow up. Oh, and we picked up hundreds of pounds of garbage.

Watch this video for a great summary of Rockwood Knocks. You’ll hear directly from my friend Brad Ketch of the Rockwood Community Development Corporation who I worked directly with in planning this event.


One of the most ambitious undertakings I’ve done in ministry

Rockwood Knocks logoImagine almost 600 college students and Cru staff pouring out of public transportation, flooding one of the most challenging neighborhoods in Portland and engaging 6000 families (in 4 hours) with the love of Christ!

Every year our staff team is tasked with mobilizing students and staff at our regional Cru Conference to proclaim and demonstrate the love of Christ to our city. This year we’ve connected with the Palau organization and the Rockwood Community Development Center to serve the long-term community organizations and churches in the Rockwood neighborhood of Portland. This neighborhood is well known for having some of the highest unemployment, poverty, drug, alcohol and crime levels in our city. It also is incredibly diverse.

Our team is working with our partners to mobilize our students and staff to knock on at least 6000 doors to gather critical information about the needs of the neighborhood in order to serve the long term organizations as well as engage the residents with the love of Christ along the way.

Logistically, this is one of the crazier things I’ve done on staff with Cru (i.e. getting the city to provide extra light rail trains to transport us all, etc.).  Along the way it’s become apparent that the Lord is at work in the effort. Will you please join us in praying for this time as hundreds of gospel conversations flood this neighborhood during the conference on Sunday, December 29th.

Is digital real ministry?

This is part of a series on my thoughts from the Indigitous Conference. The topic was creating, sharing and inspiring digital strategies to help reach North America with the message of Jesus.

One of my initial questions in hearing about this digital strategies effort within a subset of Cru was to ask the question, “what’s the end goal?”  Are we heading in the right direction of  making disciples or are we simply excited to gain more likes and followers in our digital kingdom? I am motivated by seeing lives changed and people encounter Jesus, not by my Klout score…which is a measly 57 if you’re interested.

For a long time my dabbling, experimenting and documenting digital strategies in campus ministry has felt like I’m a fish swimming upstream. It’s not that our organization doesn’t believe there is ministry opportunities to be had in the digital realm, but perhaps we (myself included) fail to understand what the right opportunities are and lack the technical skill to take advantage.

I’m hopeful that the organizational culture is changing dramatically within my organization. Right now staff pioneers are leading the charge all over the world and in various pockets in the United States to pioneer a new understanding of digital strategies for campus ministry. People are using tools we’ve never had to engage people that we’ve never had access to before with the message of Jesus. We are finally starting to get a grasp on the idea that digital strategies can fuel what our local ministries are trying to accomplish.

On thing is clear though, as Ken Cochrum (founder of Indigitous) mentioned over and over again, it’s all about making disciples. (Here’s a slideshow of the values of Indigitous).

The direction is set. Now we just need some creativity and strategy to harness all the tools available to us to engage in the ministry of making disciples. Anyone want to help?

I want to hear from you. What’s your experience with digital strategies for ministry? Are you excited or hesitant?

Digital strategies for campus ministry?

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“Indigitous gathered strategists, creatives, and coders at The Tannery  in Waterloo, Canada for the sake of sharing, inspiring, and creating digital strategies  to help reach North America.”

Last week I spent 3 days in Waterloo, Ontario at the first ever Indigitous conference. It was an energizing time of learning, dreaming and creating. I’m so thankful to have gone and I’m more convinced than ever that campus ministry requires intentional thought in the area of digital strategies to maximize their efforts.

More to come on my takeaways over the next couple of days.

Here’s a good summary of the content that was explored.