Email – the dreaded inbox – can be a source of stress for many.
You wake up and the first thing you do is see what you need to respond to.
Obviously, that's not a great way to own your own time and attention. I was caught doing this myself, leaving emails unread so that they became "to-do's" on my list.
The problem with that of course is that the world begins to assign your to-do's for you.
I've been slowly digesting Cal Newport's book A World Without Email. The basic premise is that business is about running successful processes – and that poor processes produce poor results. Collaboration tools like email do not enforce quality processes for employees, and there is a way out.
I've gone through a transition in how I see my inbox. Incorporating some of Cal's view, with a bit of my own.
Now my inbox feels like a gift, not a curse.
Today we struggle not from lack of opportunities, but from the glut of information we must parse into opportunities.
Because of all of the roles we play in our lives, it appears that *any* information *might* be valuable.
Therefore we tend towards entropy, subscribing to more than is necessary.
Our previous commitments to potential value continue to stack up, until we fall behind.
Inbox Overload = Identity Crisis
With so much information to parse out… how do you stay grounded in what it is that you truly want? What really matters for who are we trying to be, again?
All of us are in dialogue with the world around us. There are certain conversations, ideas, and spaces that we are drawn to and excited by.
Take a moment and think about which conversations give you the most energy:
Are you interested in Art history, or electronic music? Are you looking to level up your skillset in a particular field or area? Are you drawn to spiritual discussions or politics?
Our inboxes are a potential meeting space for people and conversations we seek to have.
When you begin to see your inbox as a space to send and receive signals about the world, you realize that it is up to us to produce, participate in, and receive the types of conversations that are most aligned with who we wish to become.
The goal then is to begin training the world on that conversation. To have more of that conversation flow through to us. To begin filtering and sorting what comes in through our inbox to help us be more in conversation with those people and opportunities we wish to connect with.
Here are a few suggestions for starting to shape your inbox up to help with this:
Filter Through Your Priority
Place the messages that come in within the context of your existing priorities, not the other way around.
For example: If your priority is to write a book, but you receive a message about hosting a workshop.
This may not be a door you want to open today, and so you politely can decline. It doesn’t fit your existing priority.
Or, say; Say, “You know what, I'm writing a book, can I host the workshop on this topic?"
Adapt what comes in, to what you already are focused on.
For those messages that simply don’t align, archive them happily.
We do not need to open these messages or respond to them. When our inbox is overloaded we can simply archive and start again.
I promise you… it will fill back up. We don’t need to have a mindset of scarcity about something that is abundant and overflowing.
Transition Opportunities Out of Your Inbox
I clear my inbox by organizing all messages into appropriate spaces for follow-up. The message is only the first step. By moving messages OUT of email as soon as possible, you bring them into more intentional spaces.
Introduction move into the Calendar. Project collaborations move into my Notion spaces. Articles to read are saved to Pocket to read later.
Like murky pond waters – You don’t want things to pile up in your inbox, and instead, you want to move them along and flow into a space where you can be more proactive and productive.
Using email as another tool that supports us in our goals turns the messages into gifts.
When we notice how opportunities flow through our inbox, we see that it’s up to us to filter and transition what comes in to help us be more productive with what matters most to us.
As always, let me know how I can help
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