Creating Margin: Post#2 – Meetings

bored-employees-in-presentation-1940x900_29877I was asked recently how I created daily margin, or space within my day to fit so many things I’m working on.  There are a few things that I’ve learned along my executive management career that help create margin to stay connected with individuals and allowing myself to tackle new challenges that come along.

Meetings have the ability to ramp up your productivity, or to kill an entire productive day.  Here are some tips in how you create margin in your day by managing your meetings differently.

  1. Schedule them for an hour, but run them until they are done – Most of us use an electronic calendar and when we schedule meetings with others we generally get the choice of a default 30 minute meeting or an hour meeting.  Most of my meetings I schedule 1 hour, HOWEVER the vast majority of my meetings never last the hour.  They end early, sometimes 30 minutes early, which means I now have margin!  Just because you’ve scheduled an hour for a meeting doesn’t mean you need to sit there and fill that hour up.   If you get fully productivity for the entire hour – AWESOME, but if you are done working through the list in 40 minutes then you both get 20 minutes of margin (that’s 40 productive minutes free!!!).
  2. Create an agenda PRIOR to the meeting  – It doesn’t need to be a formal agenda, but put down a list of topics that you need to cover.  Without developing a plan of what you are going to talk about it is almost guaranteed that you will talk for the amount of time you scheduled your meeting for.  Hit the easy items first and then the items that will go longer, or the “big” agenda item keep for last.
  3. Develop an action list of what happens after the meeting – The goal of a meeting shouldn’t be another meeting, it should be to get work done.  If you are assigning tasks to one another, then ask WHO is going to do that task and ask WHEN it will be done.  The more specificity you have in a meeting on tasks, the less meetings you will need for follow-up.
  4. Document decisions that are relevant – You don’t need to take “minutes”, but with the amount of decisions that are made on a daily basis it is hard to remember everything.  Document the key decisions so you can reference them later (instead of scheduling another meeting).
  5. Finish with asking “What needs to be communicated” – When decisions are made frequently you need to communicate those decisions to others.  Asking specifically who is going to communicate what from the meeting will help reduce the amount of follow-up meetings to communicate information.  Lack of information flow creates more meetings.



Creating Daily Margin: Post #1 – Email

email-laptop-computer-marketing-ss-1920I was asked recently how I created daily margin, or space within my day to fit so many things I’m working on.  There are a few things that I’ve learned along my executive management career that help create margin to stay connected with individuals and allowing myself to tackle new challenges that come along.

While you may not think email is an enemy of margin, for some it is your #1 enemy.

Email can be a time killing and mask as productivity when, really, it frequently creates more inefficiency than it helps.  When I was in executive management in the marketplace I found myself receiving hundreds of emails a day and finding my way through that mess helped me to craft a strategy with email that has helped with creating daily margin.  Your productivity is inversely related to the number of emails you receive and send…. (in my opinion)

Here are my tips on managing email to increase margin :

  1. Think of email like wild mating rabbits – Email multiplies itself.  For every email you send you get more than one in return.  If it is quicker than 5 minutes to walk over to the person and ask them face to face DO THAT.  I received an email today from someone in another state who was introducing me to a new team and process that I would be helping with.  Instead of replying I called him back and we talked for 25 minutes.  I could have replied to his email, which would have generated another reply, etc. etc… that 25 minutes would have absolutely been spent on email across DAYS replying back and forth.  Was it urgent enough for a call – NO WAY – but it was so much better than killing 5 or 10 minutes here or there over multiple days. When we finished the call he said “Wow it was great just to get through this right away with a call.”
  2. Keep your replies small – When I get an email that demands a reply I normally respond in less than one paragraph.  If you go more than a paragraph you usually should have talked face to face or called.  Too much text creates the opportunity for emotional context to be missed and relational mess to be created.  Have you ever read an email only to assume that the emotion behind it was one way, but come to find out they really didn’t intend it to come across that way?  Context cannot be expressed in a 12 point font.
  3. Email should be INFORMATION SHARING, not a todo list – Email is best utilized when you are sharing information for review, passing along files for others, preparing for future meetings, etc.  Using email as a running todo list can be a very bad idea because it just breeds more email (see #1 above).  If you need a todo list buy one – don’t use email for that.
  4. Blind copy everyone or no one – If you are sending out an email to a large group of people use the blind copy feature so someone doesn’t REPLY ALL to everyone.  You should never use blind copy to copy someone on communication in a secret way – that is just rude.
  5. Use Reply All with extreme prejudice – There’s nothing more frustrating that getting multiple reply all’s from people and the reply’s have no information that is helpful to you.  Ask yourself – does everyone need to know what I’m about to send, or just a few people?
  6. Never use a group email to inquire a time to meet – Use busy search, use an online meeting time finder like, or make a few phone calls.  Getting 4 replies to an email with 4 different times everyone could meet is terrible.
  7. Never send an angry email….EVER – If you want emotion to come across, then meet them face to face or call them.  Emotional emails are unproductive and AMPLIFY frustration.  Additionally do you want your emotion to be digitally recorded forever? (probably not)


Communicating Depth – Know Your Context


One of the areas in which I am always fascinated is communication and how to improve my own communication style and the communication style of the teams I work with.  This fascination leads me to listen to great communicators throughout history to find the nuances that make them the best communicators, as well as trying learn from different, maybe odd, sources.  One of the more obscure sources I ran across recently is Malcom Gladwell in his popular podcast Revisionist History.  Malcom takes on some obscure reporting and makes it incredibly relevant to various topics throughout history and while listening to Episode 6 of Season 2 (linked here) something captured me about communicating “depth”.

Have you ever heard feedback from someone that sounded something like “I wish the teaching were deeper”?


If you have ever communicated in front of large numbers of people for any time, you may hear feedback that relates to the depth of your teaching.  Teaching today, especially in the modern church, demands in-depth relevant facts.  If you skim across the surface on a topic you can be perceived as shallow and not being “deep enough”.  I’m fascinated when I hear feedback regarding depth because I believe there are nuances in the words we use that indicate depth or shallowness, but I also found something in Gladwell’s podcast that can be helpful.

Gladwell interviewed Bobby Braddock who had written “more sad songs than almost anyone else” in country music.  What Gladwell found is that through the words of the sad songs that Bobby wrote the depth was incredible.  Song lyrics were communicating emotional nuances and deep stories.  Comparing those words to pop music today Gladwell found that country songs in general provide a more rich and in depth context of the topics they are singing about.  Comparatively current pop music lyrics tend to be shallow and flashy.  Deep story lines are generally not shared in pop culture music.  What Gladwell surmised is that country musicians came from the regions that they were singing about and that the more in depth the song lyrics the more context and history the song writer had in the region they were singing about.  They were signing to an audience that they knew well – that they did life with.

Gladwell did some digging and found the same depth in hard core rap lyrics out of LA, the Bronx and other very specific regions.  You can communicate more deeply and intricately when you are communicating in a context that you are incredibly familiar with.  

If you are hearing feedback that your weekly messages are lacking in depth, or someone just wishes you would “go deeper” you should ask yourself how well you know your audience.  Are you trying to communicate to too large of an audience which can be perceived as shallow, or are you communicating to a group of people that you know so much about that you can’t help but share stories and depth that touches the heart?

Multisite: If I wanted to watch on a screen I’d just watch from my TV at home

multisite-video-messagesAt thousands of multi-site churches around the world the message is played via video instead of being provided live and in person.  This has been a source of many questions from the investment to make it as life-like and “live” as possible to questions from individuals wondering what the experience will be like.  Overwhelmingly the most frequent concern from individuals considering a video message or location relates to something like “Why would I come watch a video message when I can watch a message from home?  I’d prefer it to be live and in person”.  Here are my responses:

Church is a collective “us” and a individual “you” – If you define your church experience by who is teaching, how they are teaching or if it video vs. live then your definition of church might be misguided.  Church isn’t a building, it’s not a speaker, it’s not the lead pastor or the teaching team.  Church is YOU and US.  We need your gifts to be awakened and used in the kingdom as much as you need great teaching on Jesus Christ.  Consider the letters that the apostle Paul wrote churches that desperately want to hear the message of Christ and longed to have Paul visit but never saw him.  They relied on stories passed on between believers.  They relied on letters to be read in front of groups from Paul for encouragement.  I’m certain that there were comments that people would rather see Paul live than just get a letter from him, but by all accounts those letters made an huge impact in the community. (Romans 1:13)

Community is difficult to participate in from your living room – Part of getting together in a larger community is to share together our gifts, our concerns and to be built up together.  While I love to hear great speakers and only  have access to them via the Internet and watch them from the comfort of my own home I can also state that it is impossible to enjoy the benefits of “community” from my couch.  Hebrews 10:24-25 encourages us “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Leaders are born in video locations – I usually reserve this statement for individuals who have an option to go to the live teaching or visit a video location.  A large church can enable and empower incredible leaders.  Teams are put together to provide worship, hospitality, cleaning and maintenance.  While large churches desire everyone to be involved and ignite their gifts, what we have found is providing video locations provides a MULTIPLICATION effect that allows even more people to get engaged in the kingdom with their gifts.  When we started our three video locations our entire worship team tripled.  The amount of individuals in groups and participating substantially increased.  Individuals who were desiring to be engaged in the kingdom but were not in the large church context blossomed and started to lead in dramatic ways at smaller video locations.

Video locations are likely not for everyone, but the impact is undeniable.  Paul in the early days of Christianity likely had to deal with many of the same frustrations about not being able to be everywhere preaching and teaching live, but the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is alive today through many different delivery methods.  From live teaching to video teaching and beyond.