Inbox back up to 45. How many emails am I writing/replying to each day? It seems like a lot, but I'm not tracking explicitly. Hmm.
This is what I wrote on October 1st -
1. My email volume has been going up, and I haven’t adjusted to a new routine for it. Before I’d go into my inbox, clear a third of it when I had free time waiting for something, and then do that twice more in the day, and it’d be empty at the end of the day. Now, I’m going to need to set aside more time for it.
2. I’m answering/replying/writing a lot more emails, so it feels like it should be empty – but then I’m leaving one or two messages there that weren’t there at the end of the day. This is like spending more money than you’ve got coming in – it’s going to catch up with you sooner or later.
3. I had 2-3 days in the last two weeks where I had my day booked end to end and didn’t answer anything except ultra time-sensitive email. But that fills up the inbox pretty quickly if not cleared out.
I've got four more factors:
*Sometimes I offer to do something that'll take 1 to 5 hours for someone because my schedule is clear for the next two or three days, but then I don't get a reply until I've lost the train of thought or gotten more swamped.
*In a way, I'm still kind of lazy and undisciplined and not doing my inbox systematically. Not lazy/undisciplined compared to most people, but definitely compared to the standard I want to reach. This one is hard to admit, by the way.
*A lot of times I want to write a really good reply, and thus I want to give it a lot of time... so mail winds up sitting for too long, when a shorter reply fast would've been better. As a double whammy, this is often means the replies I care most about get delayed the most. Ridiculous.
*Sometimes I get asked about info I don't have yet (where I'm traveling next, for instance) - I should reply that I don't know, and make a note on my calendar to follow up in a week instead of letting the mail sit in the box.
The laziness/undisciplined ones suck to have to own up to, but it's the facts. Ideally, I would build the habit and willpower to not click on a message unless I'm ready to reply to it immediately. I still have to go into my inbox to check if people replied to reschedule or update meetings/conversations, and I have to go in there to search for things sometimes. But I shouldn't click if I'm not going to reply.
Finally, I should get down to zero once per day, every day. I got that from Ryan Waggoner who is generally an all-around smart and disciplined guy.
So, what's the solution?
Step 1 - Announce another public clearing of inbox.
Step 2 - Do the public clearing.
Step 3 - Commit to getting down to zero once daily.
Step 4 - Build better habits - only click when ready to answer.
Step 5 - Answer quickly with an "I don't know" or other info when I don't know, and add a note to my calendar to follow up.
Step 6 - Add more deadlines/calls to action/expiring offers to emails I write. I like to be helpful, but it ain't sustainable the current way. Like, "I can do this tomorrow, please let me know yes or no by 8AM if you want to do it together."
Maybe also start writing shorter, less flowery replies? I like to be,
"Hi there, blah blah niceness, important details, cheers, regards, Sebastian" - I should get more direct. Friendly but direct.
I anticipate getting more email going forwards, and I massively enjoy when people reach out to me. I feel blessed. But I gotta step my game up to handle all this without dropping the ball.
Commitment: I'm going to get under 15 messages by the end of today, and to zero tomorrow, and then go zero once per day after that.
Your input, feedback, tips, suggestions, and personal stories are very welcome and appreciated here.
It's 2:57PM local time in Saigon. I have some tea, some fruit, and I am in a comfortable spot. I will not leave this room until my inbox is empty.
I always keep it pretty low, but I got ~20,000 visitors over the last few weeks. Even answering more than half the email I was getting each day, my inbox is now built up to a staggering 73 messages, many of which require 5-10 minutes or more to process. (If they average 5 minutes each, I'll be here for the next six hours.)
I keep meaning to do this, but slagging it off. Hence, I make a public commitment. Burning the boats, as it were.
My general plan -
1. I have some Google Alerts built up - some of them got pretty long with links. I try to reach out to people to say thanks and hi and see who is linking here, so I've let these stack up. The first thing I'll do is copy them all down into another document, and then I can contact later or not.
Okay, I've almost got all my email inboxes almost empty now.
I get a ton of mail. I hired an assistant and automated some of it, and I still get a ton of mail. More than I can answer normally.
I'm gradually building more systems, both technology, decisionmaking, and people to process all of this, because I have opportunities worth a lot of cash, a lot of cool stuff, and a lot of ability to connect with interesting people sitting in my inbox. At any given time, there's probably 3-4 very interesting things buried in the dozens of mails I get.
And I also get a kick out of helping people. I like getting and answering questions when I can.
But then I realized, one particular type of questioning makes me cringe, and I dont want to write back to people that write like that.