Wednesday, February 3, 2016


My personal outlook is influenced by two lessons that I have learned.

#1 - I'm responsible for my life, and my feelings, right now.

#2 - If something bothers me then consider if I am willing to change. If I am not willing to change then get over it.

I'm still working through my endurance "hangover" from the 100-odd hours of training I did over in New Zealand. One of the effects of endorphin withdrawal is that I can feel dissatisfied with things. It is a common post-camp, or post-race, experience to feel dissatisfaction with some aspect of our lives.

I didn't do myself any favors as I picked of a few bad habits both at the camp, and after. It all stems from getting "too tired" and "too stressed". I can fall into the trap of tell myself "it's OK" and giving myself "treats" that are the EXACT recipe for screwing myself up further.

1 - it's OK to sleep in
2 - it's OK to overeat
3 - it's OK to eat sugar
4 - its OK to eat late-night

The pattern of high-stress then hoax-treats is a common one. It pops up in many of our lives.

Fortunately, I'm starting to freshen up enough so that I can rein myself in and head back to the equilibrium I had towards the end of the last year.

It's not all bad, though! Through my grumpiness, I have managed to spot a productivity suck in my life. One of the neat things about going off-the-grid for most of January was that I forgot about all the little things that can seem like big things in my daily life.

Gaining that distance from my life, gave me a unique opportunity to see what/who I value as well as what I don't really care about. When we are in-the-trenches of our daily lives, often we are focusing on reacting to whatever is coming towards us. I have done a good job at shaping the last ten years but... it is a constant process to trim back my commitments and create room to guide myself.

Do you miss email when you are off-line?
I don't.

What I miss is interacting with my friends, family, clients and readers. However, I didn't miss my process of email - that was getting me down.

Anyhow, I needed to do something about the amount of time that I was spending on email. Over the last year, I had gradually created a situation where more and more of my time was being sucked up by playing tennis in my Inbox. I miss having weekly blocks of unstructured time. Something had to change.

Here's what I did.

Quantify - I wanted to quantify what it took to clear my inbox, completely, daily. That let me see the actual time commitment that I was dealing with.

Catching up from my January break took one week of sitting in the basement. Compared to three weeks of cyber-freedom... I thought that was a good deal.

Thursday I took my email down to zero -- I replied to every single message I had. SIX HOURS
Friday I took my email down to zero again -- SIX HOURS
Saturday I took my email down to zero again -- FIVE HOURS

...I then went to Inbox Zero and read up on some additional tips.

Thoughts on the journey so far - I'm sure many of you know this already. Use the comments function to offer your ideas!

New Messages - my psychology is such that I experience real satisfaction from "finishing" a task. Because email never ends, it is psychologically draining. On the days above where I emptied my inbox, there were probably 40-60 messages on my server by the time I was done. I didn't pull them in. Huge relief. I slept better. Weird but true.

Don't auto-check and don't check just because you are bored. Thinking about it, this tip applies to eating as well. I've done both types of eating.

Help People Help You - as I mentioned above, I am a read/write guy. In order to think well, I like to have the key information visible in front of me. With my clients, I help them create documents that enable us to track key information over time. I'm also willing to ask them to send me their key information over-and-over again.

Batch Process - you will find that some folks generate a high volume of messages. I want the interaction. However, I want the interaction to be efficient. So somebody has to gather the thoughts -- either the sender, or the receiver. I know that I can be better at doing this at my own end. I had a coach threaten to disown me if I ever got a Blackberry... I got an iPhone, we're still friends... I must be improving!

On Saturday, I realized that I don't want to spend 4-6 hours daily, for the next decade, answering email. That's over 10,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell and Peter Drucker would likely have me doing something a bit more useful than that...

Even if I want to spend that much time... I might as well become world-class at email. I wonder if I've already spent 10,000 hours inside my inbox... that's embarrassing not to have improved more! Glad I quantified the time cost.

The three tips that I pulled from the inbox-zero site that have helped me so far:

A - give each message the time the message deserves, separate the person from the message

B - I have five choices when an email arrives: reply immediately; archive; delete; move to respond folder; move to action folder. Respond means that I'll need to think a bit then reply. Action means that I'll need to do something for the sender.

Respond/Action are dealt with during scheduled "work" blocks in my week. I don't die of a thousand cuts across the day.

C - do not live in your inbox. I've been living in my inbox for the last 18 months. I need to get out more!

The site is worth checking out. The author is quite keen on liberal use of the delete key. I'm having a bit of a block there -- I suppose because reading is how I learn about the world AND I don't want to delete folks that are reaching out to me.

My next step is sitting down and writing out who the most important people/steps are for creating the life I want to have in the next decade. Those people (and perhaps their emails) are the ones where I want to give a little extra effort. That process came out of my annual review of Drucker's article on Managing One's Self.

I suppose getting a bit grumpy post-Epic may prove to be highly useful. Writing this blog is a public way of helping me stay the course.


Click to share on< Twitter and Facebook
      Tweet This!