This advice probably doesn’t hold true all the time, but one way I’ve had success with this is just to answer one email. Maybe I’ll stop there. At least I did something. But more likely than not, hitting send on that one kicks off a mini sprint of answering lots of emails, because that first one is so satisfying.
Seeing Clinton’s emails was a whole new can of worms — quick emails to her staff, as well as longer, formal emails to other people. She had both a mastery of email and a complete bumbling lack of understanding of it. It was a hypnotic train wreck, and I wanted in. I want to be the kind of person who just replies with a single word, or forwards an email to my assistant to have them take care of it — how amazing would THAT be?
I like where she uses “Thanks, but this is a pass for me.” A short and quick way to brush something away without investing a single more mental energy point on it.
I’ve tried that with article pitches before, but I find in maybe 2/3 of cases it comes back with why? no feedback? which doubled my guilt about the terse response to begin with. Sometimes I care, sometimes I don’t. It’s my time, after all.
I can understand the desire to totally strike email from your life. I find most adult life fantasies are about a simpler life. You visit some small town on vacation and imagine yourself living there, taking in the views, having a late lunch, and practicing your breathing.
A life without email is like that. Your life has become so simple that emails just don’t matter that much. If you can pull that off, hey, hat tip, you’re living a simpler life.
Some of us have work colleges. Ignoring them is just irresponsible and unacceptable. Accountants that need answers to close books. Conferences that need to stay in touch for their world to run smoothly. People reporting bugs that need attention and their time respected.
That’s OK though. Like the title of this site: email is good. It’s how things get done. You don’t have to let it ruin your zone OR let it take over you life.
I use all three as well. Calendar is the winner for me in what takes top priority. Whatever is on there happens. Email is the winner for taking up time. I spend a lot of time there communicating and planning. Todo lists, for me, are a bit sloppy. They are just things I don’t want to forget about and I want items on the list to bug me until they are done.
What is missing for me, at the moment, is a more forced priority system.
You ever wait weeks for a response to an email, then it comes and you respond right away, then they respond right away again? Then you respond right away again, then you respond right away again?
I’m sure you have. Email isn’t a top-to-bottom stack. We respond to emails in a totally random order based on what is loaded into our brains at the moment. Some emails are just hard to answer because they require a bunch of secondary work first. Sometimes you need to brute force them. But once you have, the floodgates open and responding to the next one is easy.