How to Increase Your Productivity: Teach Children to be Clean & Manage Your Emails Better by Steve Cioccolanti


One of my most popular posts was “7 Apps to Go Paperless & Organize Your Life“. Questions about how I work, write books, prepare video messages are not easy to answer. My attempts usually seem to me insufficient. Rather than waiting to give one comprehensive answer now, I will just share some more quick tips for your productivity.

To be productive for the Lord, you have to unclutter your life. Order creates pleasure; disorder creates pain. You can start with the physical disorder. Paper was once a big clutter but now most tech savvy people have gone paperless. Welcome the app revolution.

Move on to your environment. When you see your bedroom, study room, office or garden is messy, your mind feels messy. You can unclutter your mind by tidying your house and garden. I tell our children, “Leave a place better than when you first found it.” My wife is very good at teaching our kids to be disciplined and clean. It starts with the parents’ expectation.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesu, giving thanks to God the Father through him…Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:17,23

Some parents don’t expect kids to be clean, put away stuff, and do chores as unto the Lord, so kids sink to the level of their expectation. My wife and I expect kids to be neat, they will feel good about themselves when they are, so they rise to the level of our faith in them.

But it’s not merely “do as we say, not as we do”. They also have a good example. The first thing my wife does every day when she rises up is vacuum the bedroom, worship and read the Bible. There are no stacks of mails on any table or dishes piled up overnight. It’s not keeping visible things clean for other’s eyes, it’s for her own heart. She likes clean. There are no overstuffed closets or drawers full of unidentifiable objects.

Since I became Christian, I sorted all my books by topic on my bookshelves and filed my sermon notes alphabetically. Yet I have been inspired by her to build cabinets for various eye sores in the garage and pretty up our garden. The kids see all this and copy us. Some may complain that is unrealistic or unachievable, but look at the complainers’ life, they are probably not as productive as they could be for Jesus.

It’s true kids will create some mess, thats’ OK. But you can assign a place and time where mess is allowed, then expect a clean up after the indoor storm has passed. You can keep little kids from eating, drinking, crumbing and spilling in the car until they can handle special treats. Be reasonable as you raise your expectation to age appropriate levels. Each child is different. But parents cannot afford to be lazy in the end times. Our children’s future depends on our vigilance and diligence. Jesus said laziness will be an end time symptom He will find upon His return.

“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew…” (Matthew 25:26 NKJ). “You knew” is what Jesus said about Christians being lazy. Jesus will come back to reward the industrious and punish – of all things – the lazy. It’s time to change! Otherwise Jesus will issue this command, “Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:30 NKJ)

Moving on to your thoughts. Unfinished tasks and unreplied requests waiting for your attention create a kind of mental clutter that needs a good sweep. One of the biggest things most working people have to deal with every day is the nonstop arrival of new emails. They come from many sources and need different kinds of responses. Prioritize. Always start from the most important to the least:

  • I flag every important email that I and only I can attend to.
  • I delegate immediately any email that can be answered by someone else.
  • I trash or ignore spam, junk mail and the rest.
  • I don’t beat myself up if I miss some. If people think I ignored them, I apologize and tell them the truth: I value every communication but I may not be able to get to every email and social media message, especially from strangers. I mean no harm.

Over time, my list of flagged emails grew to gargantuan proportions. I needed to sort my flagged emails. Since I used Apple’s native Mac Mail, I tried sorting flagged mails in subfolders. This was more complicated than I wanted it to be. Mac Mail subfolders are attached to one email account, and I have multiple email accounts on various devices. It’s cumbersome to locate the right subfolder under the right account, then drag and drop to that location. I’ve missed a few times… those emails disappeared into the ether as far as I’m concerned!

I discovered a small feature that helped me tremendously. Mac Mail allows me to name up to 7 colored flags! This offers another way of sorting independent of subfolders, and that’s useful to me because some sorting will overlap with another category. I now immediately choose the color of my flag so emails from any account immediately get sorted to the 7 categories I want to keep track of. My categories will not be relevant to most people’s but for illustration I attach a screen shot. (They are in no particular order other than the order I happened to name them as I responded to groups of emails. I also change the names of the flags as need arises.)

I hope you found something enlightening and practical. Share your tips on how to increase productivity in the comments section.

This article is partially posted on Quora.

You can rate and review my books on Amazonand Goodreads, send screenshorts to and Discover Ministries will send you a free audio per review! Play nice; have fun!  ~ Pastor Steve Cioccolanti


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