Avoid, embrace the email situation.

Next up in my Avoid, Embrace project: the email situation.

Step one: write about something I have been avoiding.

My email is now not a tool but a situation. I have ActiveInbox chugging along, filing things away merrily so that I have Inbox Zero. This is nice.

What is not nice is the 132 emails that need some sort of attention on my part. (That number increased to 137 just since I started writing this. Yikes.) I look at these emails in their pretty little categories that make sense, but I don’t do anything with them.

Clearly, the first ones I need to tackle are my Flagged items. I flag email sparingly; it usually means that if I do not do this as soon as possible today, something Very Bad will happen. There is only one thing here today, and I can get it done this afternoon. Good! Yay!

The next category is the generic Action, or things I need to do something about, be it read closely, respond, or create a to-do on my list. Right now, there are ten items. This is where I get bogged down. I look at the list and I do not see anything I can do within two minutes (a GTD trick). So I go somewhere else.

Then there are seven Waiting On items. These don’t require me to do anything yet, but could turn into Action items at any moment. They make me uneasy, just sitting there all unfinished-like.

The big bad is the Someday category, with 120 items. I sense I am putting things in Someday I should either just throw away (hello, forwarded Maxine comics, do you really need me to reply “haha” to you) or deal with sooner in Action. And I have just confirmed that over half of these are forwards.

Step two: embrace the thing I have been avoiding.

The trick to this Avoid, Embrace is not just to power through these but to put a plan in place for dealing with them in the future. My improvements are as follows:

  1. Add the “Time” element to Action items. ActiveInbox already deals with time labels, and this way I do not have to think about how long things take when I am ready to do them.
  2. Delete forwards. I hate to be such a jerk about them, but realizing that they inhabit over half my “Someday” folder was a wake-up call. I am filing them away to be polite, and that doesn’t do anything but stress me out later.
  3. Only set meaningful deadlines. This is true for my to-do list, as well: if I create a deadline, it must be meaningful, and then I will stick to it. “Someday” will be my “maybe I will do this action later” instead of me putting weird, unreasonable deadlines on Action items.

That is enough for now. I will report back on my results!

2 thoughts on “Avoid, embrace the email situation.

  1. Oh — I'm curious to see how this works for you. I've started trying to attach time estimates to my to do list, but I'm still mired in email, not processing it right (and I adore the Inbox Zero philosophy…I'm just not being effective at it AT ALL right now…), and am still setting arbitrary and ridiculous deadlines for my action items. It's just not working.


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