On Friday, I spent a day sewing with Julie (more on this in another post) and I left my computer turned off and my phone was dead, so I had no electronic interference for about 10 hours, which is enormous when you’re as addicted to the internet as I am.
But as I drove back home I felt the weight of email and possible phone calls descend upon me. So by the time I arrive home, although I was really proud of what I had accomplished, I was also feeling dread at turning on my phone and computer. I tackled the computer first. I had a bunch of new email, although a lot of it was spam. Mostly, I read and flagged things without actually DOING anything besides checking to see that I had email. The phone was easier to handle – two voice mails and two texts from my mother who was worrying since my phone is never off, even when I’m sleeping. (Sorry, Mom! I’m okay. I didn’t get into a car accident.) I called her back right away so that she wouldn’t be up half the night. (Turns out that she was out with a friend and they were having a GRAND old time, so I guess she wasn’t losing any sleep even though I might have been in a hospital, for all she knew!)
It felt good that nothing crucial had come up, but as I looked in my inbox, I was still feeling completely overwhelmed. But it was 9:30p on a Friday night and I’ve been telling myself and Susie that I would step away from the work so that I didn’t get burnt out. But when I woke up, I still felt my email looming over my head.
When I took this job, I knew that there would be an enormous amount of email. I had once borrowed Susie’s laptop to work on something and saw something like 87 emails come in in the span of a half hour. I work from home, so email comes with the territory. I’m no stranger to emails. At my last job I had a lot of email coming in as well. But it was all easily categorized. I filtered it into folders automatically and dealt with it as I needed to.
But here many emails might touch on a number of categories. I might be speaking with the graphic designer about one project, but also talk about another project. And emails between Susie and myself might have one subject header that quickly devolves into any number of things, usually entirely unrelated as we bop back and forth between topics and task items.
And with shipping things, I have tons of notifications coming. Which I do actually want. I need to know that the sample knitter’s yarn arrived where it was supposed to. And I have a spreadsheet to keep track of that, so I need to transfer the information into an easily digestible form. So all those emails have tasks related to them.
Right now, even though I have a number of folders, almost all my emails in my inbox are flagged. How do I tell what’s important? Where’s the priority? There are so many deadlines that overlap and I always need to work on multiple projects in a day. How do I manage my time?
I happened to stumble across inboxzero.com the other day and this morning I sat down to watch his video presentation to find out how I could better organize my email because my tried-and-true email system was not cutting it in this new job. And about when I realized that it was going to be an hour long, I grabbed my knitting. And now? Well, by the end of the video, I already archived everything in my inbox that was more than two weeks old. I felt much more on top of my inbox around then, so anything older than that probably doesn’t need a response. And I got rid of most of my folders.
I’ve been processing my inbox with my five verbs: Delete anything I no longer need (archive it if I fret I might someday need it), Respond to any of the quick stuff, Defer anything that needs more work than I can/want to do at this moment, and Do anything that I can.
After an hour, I’ve processed through Tuesday. I’ve got a lot of work to do still, and there’s a lot in my “defer” folder, but I’m getting toward Zero Inbox and that makes me feel much more empowered about the situation.
Now, though, it’s time to find something else to do. It is the weekend after all and I’ve worked more than a full-time week as it is. Time to find a little balance and rejuvenation. (That’s another uphill battle!) How do you deal with emails?