Stop the Insanity – Don’t Babysit Your Inbox

Stop the InsanityStop the insanity! Don’t babysit your inbox all day, every day or even all day at your desk. This is now my second or third productivity tip this week… because the things I’m doing are working. The stat or guesstimate that I believe I heard listening to the 4-hr Workweek (total lie of a system for 95% of entrepreneurs, but good outside-the-box thinking) appears to be correct in my life.

For every e-mail replied to, you get 1.7 responses back.

I had no idea that had any chance of being correct until I started checking my inbox twice per day on weekdays and once per day on the weekends. The feeling is somewhere between “flabbergasted” and “elated” each day I spend 5-20 minutes in my inbox. It’s taken a lot of willpower to stick to it since all of my mobile devices have two or three mail apps on the home pages. I should move them, yes? Today took almost no willpower to wake up at 6am and not check mail until after 1pm. I’m done already and the Gmail and Google Apps tabs are closed until tomorrow. I sent one e-mail, sent a reply, got a reply, and responded again in 20 minutes.

Remember that quote above?

it’s a rat wheel, I tell you

They don’t call it “the rat race” for nothing, people. Every day, people all over the globe get up and let other people inject other peoples’ priorities into their day almost immediately. Be honest: do you check your e-mail on your phone or tablet:

  • Before leaving your bedroom or en suite?
  • Before breakfast?
  • Before exercise?
  • Before spending time with other people?
  • As soon as you get to your desk?

Not only is that exercising poor boundaries, you’re handicapping your brain for the rest of the day. How many times are you going to bed and have the same “Item #1″ on your list staring at you as your head hits the pillow? I no longer go to bed with remorse that I didn’t touch a piece of code or go for my walk (because someone’s e-mail persuaded my sense of duty to go straight to my desk) or write some content. I started writing a book in February. Publisher and everything is ready. I just need to write.

How stupid have I been the past 6 months?

examine other people living the sort of life you’d like

About 2 years ago, I began wondering how people like Brian Gardner and Chris Brogan got so much done. They’re both writing, promoting their brands, being on social media, and Brian has always been available to bounce something off him even though he’s also training for Iron Man and re-designing his website every 4-8 weeks. I was over here drowning in easy stuff and I knew there was a system that some people use that I needed to learn.

So I went about the business of learning that system as best I could without pestering everyone in my network who was a few steps ahead of me. I got audiobooks, found sites to read dozens of articles, tried different apps, and did pick some peoples’ brains over lunch while I was in Austin for a WordPress conference.

Those people don’t let e-mail run their lives. None of them. I watched. They’re present where they are, not lost in thought because they have “thinking times” built into their schedule. Creativity also improved my productivity and have nearly doubled revenue this month as a result of working when I’m at my desk and playing when I’m not.

Funny thing, that is.

Are you willing to be radical to see if it changes your trajectory?

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  • Curtis McHale

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of ‘no’ mostly in the context of taking on new responsibilities and new clients.

    Really saying ‘no’ to checking your email (except on your terms) is the same idea though. Saying no means you free up your time to do the things that are important for real. It’s much harder to say no to that client email once you’ve read it but once you stop checking it’s so much easier.

    Even when I worked in house I never left my email open. I’d check just before lunch and just before the end of the day. Any other time I’d just turn my email off.

    • Jesse Petersen

      I whole-heartedly agree with your thoughts on the word “no,” Curtis. The other word this involves is: boundaries. We live in a society where nearly everyone has unhealthy boundaries and it destroys creativity, productivity, and peoples’ duty to carry their own loads (not others’ loads & not allowing others to help with true burdens).

      I wish I’d known more about this e-mail stuff when I had a cubicle job. We used e-mail instead of calls because it was documentation for CYA – everything was CYA. I always had Outlook on one monitor and my work on another. It commanded 50% of my attention unless I had documents open on both monitors to compare them.

      • Curtis McHale

        In my process of setting better boundaries I’ve just buried my email client on my phone and tablet. Way to easy to just tap it and see what’s up.

        I can’t totally remove them for the odd day I’m out and about all day and have to do email on my phone, but the fact that I have to search for it a few pages back should make me think hard before tapping.

        • Jesse Petersen

          That’s funny. I just did that same thing last night. It was hard for me to take my iPhone’s mail app off the dock until I realized I only click Mailbox app and Gmail anyway.

  • Nick Davis

    Couldn’t agree more and do pretty much the same. I find AwayFind also helps so I can listen out for a particular person or email at certain times without having to drop in on my inbox all the time too.

    • Jesse Petersen

      Yes, I tried that for a couple of years, but my personal tendencies was to continually look at my phone to see if I had an AwayFind message, so the result to my “being present” was the same as checking e-mail.

      Whatever works for you, do it.

      • Nick Davis

        Yeah, I know what you mean and it can do.

        What I’ve done was to go really deep on the AwayFind filters and make sure I only get a notification when it’s absolutely something I want to be interrupted with. If I don’t get a notification I’ll just avoid AwayFind completely.

        I geek out on this stuff a bit but I think it’s ultimately worth it once you get it balanced just the right way for you (and everyone is different of course).

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