Instead of accepting my inbox as the status quo, today I started to think about why it isn't empty.
My email usually isn't empty.
*Partially due to not having quite perfect discipline on the kinds of processes (a la David Allen's Getting Things Done) that reliably get through email*Partially through getting a large volume of email*Partially through not having better systems in place*Partially through not having cultivated faster decisionmaking (though, I'm pretty fast)*Partially because having email in the inbox is just the default state, albeit a very slightly unpleasant one.
All of those I'm aware of. But perhaps one more -- I hadn't really sat and reflected on why have this email specifically in my inbox.
When I was a kid, my parents would tell me to do something reasonable like clean my room. I'd probably do it, or at least make a token effort. Sometimes I wouldn't do it, and my mom would do it for me. Or maybe I'd be out at school and she'd be sick of me having a messy room, so she'd just clean it without asking me to do it first. In school I'd be assigned stuff to do. Usually I'd do it, but when I didn't, there weren't really any consequences. I'd get worse grades, but the impact of one assignment on a grade always seemed so tiny, and I never really cared about grades beyond not getting in trouble with my parents.
I got used to the idea that if I was supposed to do something, but didn't do it, it didn't really matter. Maybe someone else would just do it for me, or maybe the problem would just go away. There are probably a million different reasons that people procrastinate, but this was probably the biggest one for me. It wasn't that I thought that I would prefer to do something later-- it's that I sort of subconsciously thought that if I didn't do it now, maybe I'd never have to do it.
In real life, though, this isn't how things work. If I don't do something right now that needs to get done, then I'm going to need to do it later.
I remember the first time I came face to face with this. Two thousand three was the first year I made a significant amount of money gambling online. I think it may have also been the first year my parents stopped filing taxes for me. They told me to take care of my taxes and even told me how to take care of them. April fifteenth came around, and I kept thinking about how I should realy get to those taxes, knowing I wasn't actually going to do them. On the sixteenth, taxes felt just like a missed assignment. Too late to do anything about it now!