Here on the Women’s Ministry blog I usually share with you resources and tools to help you as you serve in ministry. However, sometimes the best thing we can do is to close the apps, silence our phones, and put our gadgets away.
The very tools and applications that promise simplicity can sometimes create more clutter than peace.
This afternoon I’m taking time to evaluate the clutter in my life – and specifically the clutter on my phone. Here are a few questions I’m asking myself. Will you join me?
What notifications do you truly need?
Imagine working at your desk, and just as you begin your day, a coworker taps you on the shoulder. She shows you a picture of her family, which you’re happy to see. She leaves, and a few minutes later she comes back in your office and tells you about what she saw on the news. She leaves and you get back to work until she interrupts again to tell you about her evening plans. You enjoy your friend and like her updates, but with her constant interruption, you aren’t able to get anything done!
Alerts on our phones are like that persistent co-worker who just wants to chat. While you might enjoy the notifications and the information, is the information worth the constant interruption? Consider the alerts that interrupt you throughout your day. Can you turn off news and weather alerts? Do you really need email notifications? Can you silence GroupMe and prevent social media notifications from popping up throughout the day? What other interruptions can you minimize?
What applications do you truly need?
My favorite candy is chocolate covered orange peels. Have you ever had them? Oh goodness. They are so good that I cannot buy them, or I eat them all! It’s just too tempting. Having social media applications on my phone is like setting my favorite chocolate in front of me and saying don’t eat!
We don’t want to be distracted by social media, but when we have constant access to it – be it on our phones or computers – we can find ourselves distracted. With social media glued to our hands in the form of our phones, it’s as if social media is always asking for more attention.
After reading an article about the “Distraction Free Iphone,” I deleted Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from my phone. If needed, I can open the webpages in my browser, but the extra effort makes me aware of how I don’t really need to be on Facebook. I had no idea how much time I wasted scrolling through the same old posts – instead of actually texting and calling friends and family directly.
Removing the applications from my phone is like hiding the chocolate! When I don’t see it, it’s so much easier to say no! Take a few minutes and consider what notifications and applications you need on your phone.
We can stretch our time, boost our energy, and increase our focus by minimizing distractions. This newfound time, energy, and focus can then be poured back into our ministry. If you don’t want to eat the chocolate – hide it!
Question: Do you get distracted by your phone? How do you minimize distractions?
Have you ever wished memorizing Scripture could be as easy as memorizing your favorite song? I know I have! I pick up the lyrics to country songs much quicker than I am able to memorize Scripture. Many times I think I’ve finally memorized a passage, and then the next day, I have to start all over again. Can you relate?
Studies show that we are able to memorize words set to songs more quickly, and we retain those words longer than those we simply memorize. So, how about we sing Scripture?
Now, thanks to the Indelible Project, we can do just that – we can memorize Scripture by singing it! Indelible means “making marks that cannot be removed.” When we memorize Scripture, we hide the Word of God in our hearts – and that’s a mark that cannot be moved.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly…” Col. 3:16.
Question: What helps you memorize Scripture?
This weekend I spent several hours – actually more like 5 – in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. Delayed flights on Sunday nights can really be the worst. Thankfully, I found myself a quiet restaurant, pulled out my computer, and was able to get some work done. I was able to make the most of the delay.
In the past, however, those 5 hours would have been painful! I could never seem to find those quiet, restaurants in the airport. I would settle for pre-packaged lunches to-go and then settle in for hours at crowded gates. Maybe you’ve done so too.
After one too many failed attempts at finding a good place to eat and rest, I started relying on the iFly Airport Guide app. The app describes itself as a guide for the “informed traveler.” And really, being informed is what makes all the difference when traveling.
The app can be accessed offline, so while I’m still in the air I look through the easy to navigate airport maps to find restaurants, restrooms, and of course, coffee! Instead of walking in confused circles in the airport, I’m able to quickly find what I’m looking for. Especially during short layovers, this app saves coveted time. And, it definitely makes for a happier traveler! The app has details ranging down to the distance to your gate – no need to break a sweat unless you need to, right?
The iFly Pro version takes the “informed traveler” to a whole new level with real-time flight tracking information, gate locations, and provides a user-friendly way to manage your itineraries.
Download the free version of iFly here, and save yourself some energy next time you fly.
Question: What are your favorite travel apps?
A few months ago, we talked about what to do with the email we receive. Bombarded with many emails a day, it’s important to assign an action to each one. But, what about emails that require someone else to act? How do you write emails that are easy for other people to address?
1.) Why am I writing this?
2.) What exactly do I want the result of this message to be?
People get dozens of emails a day, and if we have a succinct answer to these questions, we’ll be able to effectively communicate what actions we need the recipient to take.
Here are a few tips for writing an effective email:
Write a great subject line.
The subject line of your email is the most important part. Based on this short phrase, the recipient will choose to either open your email now, wait until later, or not at all. Consider beginning your messages with action-oriented words. These words jump directly to the purpose of the email.
“REQUEST: Send volunteer list.”
“HELP: Bring chairs to multipurpose room for unloading.”
“REMINDER: We will meet at 8PM tonight to prepare for the conference.”
Don’t hide the point of the message.
When we write, we either:
1.) Provide Information
2.) Request Information
3.) Request Action
In the topic sentence, clarify which of these three types of messages you are writing. Give just enough context to get started.
For example, note how the first sentence of this email states the purpose: “The multipurpose room is actually not available until 8PM on March 9. Please update the schedule and send to all volunteers so we may prep for the conference.”
If you write a great topic sentence, consider how much additional context is needed. You’d be surprised. Follow a rule of one topic per email message. It will keep things actionable. If too many topics are covered in a single email, tasks are oftentimes lost.
Following these best practices helps us be efficient communicators and more effective leaders. By clarifying our purpose in writing, being actionable, brief, and direct, the likelihood of response and compliance increases greatly! And of course, always feel free to send a friendly followup email if you haven’t received a response in a few days.
See more great tips on writing sensible email messages here.
Question: What helps you write effective emails?
Using social media seems so simple on the surface. Post content, others see it, and that’s all there is to it, right?
Actually, it’s not always that simple. Some of our actions when posting hinder the effectiveness of our presence online.
Some of our posts are never seen by our intended audience, while others are seen so often that our audience feels overwhelmed and annoyed. If our goal with each post is to inform and encourage, then it’s crucial we ensure our audience not only sees the posts in their feed, but also reads and finds the posts edifying.
The key is to share posts the right way and at the right time.
Buffer.com – a productivity blog – shares “7 of the Biggest Counterintuitive Social Media Mistakes You May be Making.” Are you making any of the big mistakes?
One common mistake is publishing content as soon as it is written. The time of day you write a new blog post or finish a group invite isn’t necessarily the time of day your audience is online. To receive the greatest response, share posts when others are online. This time varies depending on your audience. For example, I have found most people click links to my personal blog between 7-9 AM. Note when your posts receive the highest response, and share during those times.
Read the rest of the article here to see if you’re maximizing your exposure online.
Question: What mistakes have you made?
It’s that time of year when students all across the nation head back to school. Kindergarteners pose for the First Day of School photo on the front porch, and students are anxious to see their friends again.
While I don’t miss the tardy bell or school lunches, I do miss that feeling of starting fresh. The first day of school always launches students into the new year with energy and excitement. New teachers, new lunch boxes, and new school supplies shout “fresh start!”
Sometimes in ministry, we crave that same reset, too. We yearn to step back from the to-do lists and remember why we are serving in ministry. Sometimes the burden of daily tasks weighs heavily, and inwardly, we wonder where our passion went.
Even though there’s not a built-in fresh start to many of our jobs, one of the ways to cast a vision for the year is to write a Life Plan. A Life Plan is more than a to-do list; it considers the larger picture of our goals, passions, and considers all aspects of our lives – family, ministry, occupation, etc.
Author and Speaker Michael Hyatt outlines the process of writing a life plan. He shares 3 reasons to have a life plan:
- It will give you clarity about where your life is headed.
- It will keep you in balance when things get crazy.
- It will give you peace of mind, knowing you are addressing those aspects of your life that matter most.
Question: Do you ever long for a fresh start? How do you maintain perspective?
At the heart of every blogger is the desire to see blog readership grow. It’s rewarding to see visits increase and feedback rise. Growing readership is affirmation that our blog is meeting a need, and it’s that extra push that keeps us writing.
A quick internet search yields plenty of resources on how to grow your readership. For example, effectively using social media and hosting giveaways direct attention to your posts and invite new readers to your site.
However, while acquiring new readers is attractive, we must not lose sight of the readers we already have.
ProBlogger is a site “dedicated to helping other bloggers learn the skills of blogging, share their own experiences and promote the blogging medium.” Founder Darren Rowse says the key to growing your blog is not what you might think. Focus on growing your blog must never overshadow focus on your current readers. He writes,
Love the readers you already have. A lot of bloggers get quite obsessed with finding new readers – to the point that they ignore the ones they already have. Yes – do try to find new readers but spend time each day showing your current readers that you value them too and you’ll find that they will help you grow your blog.
The latest marketing tools promise to help reach new readers. However, bloggers already have a highly effective and skilled marketing team working for his or her blog. This built-in team can easily multiply pageviews in a day by simply sharing posts on Facebook or Twitter. They have access to readers bloggers haven’t even met, and they carry influence bloggers don’t have.
Who is this marketing team? Your current readers.
Your current readers already find your content engaging, and they have a world of non-readers they can reach – their Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
As you continue to grow your readership, maintain focus on your current readers. What posts do they enjoy? Which posts do they show most? When do they comment? Our readers are our greatest asset.
Question: How do you “love the readers you already have?”
Over the next few weeks, Gmail is changing its look . The update will automatically sort incoming mail into 5 categories – Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums. At first glance, this change is welcomed! I know directing Facebook emails to the Social tab, keeping work emails in the Primary tab, and directing those sometimes-overwhelming promotions to their own tab will simplify my inbox.
However, Gmail’s new look has implications for how we send emails. Whereas emails you previously sent landed in the recipient’s inbox, emails sent by bulk-email providers will land in the Promotion tab.
For example, if you send out a newsletter to your ministry, routine updates to your mailing list, or devotions to your women’s team, your email may get lumped in with a string of other advertisements in the Promotions tab.
These changes have the potential to keep your emails from being seen – let alone actually read. However, a few strategic changes in your approach can make all the difference. Copyblogger.com outlines 7 ways to ensure your email is still read by your recipients.
Perhaps the most powerful advice is to “Create Anticipated Content” -
The content that you send your audience every day needs to deserve their attention.
It needs to be useful. It needs to be interesting. It needs to be so good that they’re looking around for it if they don’t immediately see it in their Primary in-box.
The Promotions tab is going to make it very clear if your audience has tuned you out, either because you stopped making a commitment to first-rate content, or because your promotion-to-usefulness ratio got out of balance.
Find the rest of the article here. The 7 steps will guide you through writing and delivering emails that are read by your intended recipients – and not left unopened in a forgotten tab!
Also, if you’re a Gmail user and emails you enjoy land in the Promotions tab, simply drag them to your Primary inbox. It’s that simple!
Question: What types of emails do you send to your ministry?
Travel is changing. I remember traveling with my family as a child, especially the times my dad would pull over and get out his trusty old car map. Booking a hotel was always quite the ordeal. Before we even left home, we’d call the operator to find a hotel along the route. Traveling with a family was practically a full-time job!
GPS’s and smart phones have transformed the way we navigate the road, and thankfully, booking a hotel is a bit easier too. In the past, we could easily rely on the “big travel sites” like Expedia or Orbitz to find the best deal. However, trying a few new searches may yield better prices and unique experiences.
Here are 3 sites to consider next time you hit the road –
Do you have flexibility on location? Consider Priceline Negotiator. Choose a city, the date, preferred hotel rating, and then “negotiate” by submitting a dollar amount you will pay. Negotiator will then either accept or deny your bid. This app is particularly helpful on extended travel. Need a hotel just for the evening as you pass through a small town? Use the smart phone app to book on the road. You can book rooms the same day until 11 PM.
Exchange the hotel chain for a one-of-a-kind travel experience by staying in local homes. Airbnb is a marketplace for individuals to list unused spaces for travelers to rent. Think of it as an individualized bed and breakfast. “From apartments and rooms to treehouses and boats; stay in unique spaces in 192 countries” and 33,000 cities.
Eliminate risk by staying in a hotel chain. Room Key is a “simplified hotel search” and only shows results from seven trusted chains – Best Western, Choice Hotels (Comfort Inn, Quality Inn), Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental (Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo), Marriott, and Wyndham (Howard Johnson, Ramada, Days Inn, Super 8). If you prefer the reliability of a hotel chain, Room Key is an easy way to compare rates.
Question: What tips do you have for booking hotels?
It’s travel season. Time to pack up the car, load up the family, and hit the road. While traveling is fun, it can sometimes throw unexpected curveballs in our scheduled plans. While we can’t prevent all curveballs, we can avoid some by optimizing our phones for travel. Here are 3 ideas to get started:
Download Google Maps.
If you’re an Iphone user, you may have noticed last fall a change in the Maps app on your phone. Apple went from using Google Maps to its own navigation system called Apple Maps. You may have also noticed that Maps isn’t always up to par compared the previous Google Maps. The new system has address inaccuracies and in my personal experience, I’ve had difficulty updating it.
While Apple works out the kinks, you can save time and the stress of being lost by downloading Google Maps directly from the app store. This application has a GPS feature as well as the tested accuracies of Google Map’s long history.
Conserve your phone battery.
Before leaving on your trip, optimize your settings so that your battery will last longer. Here are a few ways to save your charge.
- Turn off wifi. Your phone is constantly searching for a wifi signal. There’s likely not any wifi connections on the road, so turning off wifi is one of the most important settings to change.
- Turn down the brightness.
- Fetch data less frequently. Instead of having your phone check for email every 10 minutes, have it check every hour.
For a full list of battery-saving settings, visit Apple’s page here.
Charge your phone on the go.
My phone has this horrible habit of being dead when I need it most. You’ve been there too, right?
Especially when traveling, your phone becomes invaluable to your traveling ease, yet it can be hard to find a place or time to charge it.
If you’re an Andoid user, consider buying an extra battery. You can find them on Amazon for just a few dollars. Just simply swap out the dead battery when needed.
Iphone users can purchase a portable battery charger or what is called a battery extender. These attachments can be charged before you leave town, dropped into your purse, and then attached to your phone when your battery is running low.
Question: How do you get your phone ready for travel?
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