How Donald Miller manages tasks

Here’s an interesting post from writer Donald Miller.

I think we can all feel his pain.

But in ministry, I’m not sure you have the option to ‘not respond’.

Miller writes:

“On a given day I’m asked to coffee twice, asked to review and endorse at least one manuscript, receive more than one-hundred emails and about twenty text messages. That’s per day. Per week, add in a few invitations to speak, a few friends coming to town, requests to talk on the phone and so on. I’d say I get between 500 to 1000 requests per week that claim to need a response.

I see each of these requests as a baseball coming at me from the pitchers mound.

And I decide NOT TO HIT THEM.

That’s right. I do the incredibly rude and offensive thing. I let them pass by.

Right now I have thousands of unreturned emails and hundreds of unopened text messages. It’s rude. It’s insanely rude. It’s not nice. In a culture that takes pride in people who get their inboxes to zero, I’m a complete loser.

And yet, year after year I get an enormous amount of work done.

The thing is, I see all those baseballs coming at me from the pitchers mound and instead of trying to hit them all, I choose one and I swing for a home run. Of the dozens of pitches thrown at me on a given day, I focus on one and I hit it. When I’m done, I pull the bat back and hit another.

After I hit a few pitches a day (a daily quota) I try to respond to some of the others, but I don’t worry about it if I can’t get to them all.

Here are the steps in my “two step process” to getting things done, broken down:

1. Pick your pitch: This means knowing, as opportunities are coming at you, which one you should hit. I hit the ones that have to do with furthering my calling as a writer. That means I write the blog, work on the new book, interview that guy who’s been elusive and so on. That’s the ball I want to hit consistently. The others are extra. If I have time, I have time, if not, it doesn’t matter cause that’s not my pitch.

2. Let the others go by: This is incredibly hard for some people to do. They feel like they are morally obligated to respond to everything. And maybe we are. Maybe in heaven Jesus will be mad because we didn’t return our emails. But I doubt it. I have nearly 200 unreturned text messages and several thousand unreturned emails. I take no pride in getting to zero because I’m not on the planet to get my inbox to zero. I’m on the planet for other reasons. I explain to people I can’t respond to all the requests and I go back to step one. I pick my pitch and try to hit it out of the park.

What do you think?

As a church leader, is it important to answer EVERY ONE of your emails? return EVERY ONE of your calls?  go out for coffee with EVERY ONE who wants your ear?

How do you say no?

When do you say no?

How do you guard your time and space?

Read more here…

Leave a comment…



  • Larry Shallenberger June 10, 2013 Reply

    It’s a different business. If I were paid to write books, I wouldn’t return emails or calls either.

  • @PaulSteinbrueck June 10, 2013 Reply

    There are other options available too. I recommend creating email templates which you can copy and paste to respond to common requests. And if your volume is high enough, another option is to get an assistant to screen and respond to email.

  • Fred June 10, 2013 Reply

    Pastor tell congregation now and then about how he is swamped with emails and phone calls, especially on Mondays after his sermon.

    Actually gets a few spam emails and maybe 3 or 4 max emails/calls from the congregation per week..

    Doesn’t reply to questions in email and when called on it says that we were having server problems

    Has the secretary screen his calls, is usually not available and actually slips out the back to avoid anyone who visits unannounced.

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