Two weeks ago, I wrote "Damn Inbox - I'm Not Doing Anything Until It's Empty" - and then I cleared it out.
Now the sucker is back up to 45 messages. How'd that happen?
I think here's what happened -
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.
Okay, so here we go. 11:20AM Vietnam time. Time to not do anything else until we're back to zero.
12:45PM: Down to 31 emails, wrote a short blog post based on one email. I think the trickiest thing is when a message is good, but it's not clear what to do with it. I introduced two smart guys I know, and they got into a GREAT conversation back and forth. They're sending really smart emails to each other, CC'ing me, asking good questions, sharing stories. I'm out of the conversation but all this wisdom is pouring into my inbox... great, huh? Well, unfortunately, it's not clear what to do with it. Just hit archive and forget it? Drop into the conversation (this one's actually beyond my expertise, I have nothing to add). Some of the insights are brilliant - should I copy them down into a notebook for my own review later, or reach out asking if they'd like to be excerpted for my blog? This is the challenge of the inbox, it's easy to not make that decision and put it off, and then the box swells to unmanageable levels. Got to make a decision right away, even if it's not perfect. I hit archive on that exchange - perhaps not the most optimized course of action, but it's an action. It's something. So that's good.
Internet's acting up a little now. I'm going out for a run and to get some food, I'll start jamming on this right when I come back.
3:10PM: I'm back, and online. Did a long, slow stretching session, went for a fast walk/run in the park, some breathing, some strength training focusing on shoulders and abs, had seafood curry, vegetables, salad with vinegar and oil, piece of bread, unsweetened iced green tea for lunch. Bought some brown bread and a tuna sandwich at the bakery on the way home. Getting right back into the inbox, no distractions.
4:50PM: I'm learning more by reflecting on why the inbox gets backed up as I do things... part of it was, I didn't know my travel plans beyond the next week or two, and that held me back from replying to a couple emails, thus filling up the inbox more. I'm down to 21 emails in box now (five or six more came in since I started writing, so it's even less than that in new emails). I roughly figured out my next month of travel plans, and tentatively figured out the next 2-3 months in order to set schedules and meet people. Interesting that a one of the reasons the inbox gets stuck is because I haven't made decisions or have information I don't know... maybe I can reply to people with something like, "I don't know my travel plans yet, but I'll know in two weeks after XYZ event happens, and I'll update you then." Then make a note on my calender to update people after that event.
Also, I'm all caught up with comments on the site - I replied to every comment that I wanted to give a long reply to now.
8PM: Inbox down to 17... one of the messages was a link to a documentary. I was going to watch the first few minutes to classify if I wanted to watch it or not, but it was good enough that I was worth watching through. A lot of times I think it's important to jump on something when you're in the right mood instead of adding it to the to-do list, and I'll still be able to empty my inbox before sleeping. I have a phone call coming up very shortly, then I'll clear the inbox down more before sleeping. Gotta get to bed relatively early, have a 7AM call tomorrow I've got to be sharp for. At least go to sleep by 2:30AM and get 4 hours of sleep plus some morning preparation time.
10:50PM: Had some phone calls. Down to 15 including a few more emails that came in. I'm done for the night. I'll clear to zero tomorrow.
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