Life Lessons To Be Learned From Our Inbox
This is a guest post from Amanda Snow of 36broadway.
I was recently struck by the realization of how attached and committed I am to my inbox. I treat it as my child, like a digital extension of my being. I drag, I drop, I sort, I flag. I’m meticulous and focused. Everything has its place. And when it’s disorderly, I panic.
It should be no surprise the center of our digital world is e-mail. In fact, the entire world revolves around e-mail. Everything and everyone you interact with can touch or be touched by this method of communication.
Can you think of an area of your life that does not or cannot be connected to your inbox?
Take a moment to think about it….
Personal: Where do you receive coupons for your favorite store? ‘Archive’ your favorite sites or places on the web? Or correspond with your doctor? Even store passwords? Your e-mail account handles thousands of priorities that would normally be via phone, snail-mail, or file folders.
Business: Hello work e-mail account! Think about how many in-person meetings or phone conversations you now handle with e-mail.
Family/Friends: How do you congratulate your cousin after she has a baby? Make weekend plans with friends? Your e-mail is your modern day address book and day planner.
Social: Admit it, the highlight of your day is finding out who’s following you on Twitter or commenting on your Facebook status. It’s addicting! Both of these sites and many social networking sites would not exist if no one had an inbox to link with.
It’s amazing how much attention and diligence we give to our secondary selves, while often times neglecting our most important, primary self.
If only we could be so thorough and attentive in our lives outside our digital persona. Since we spend so much time connecting, creating, and organizing in our inboxes, wouldn’t it also be fantastic if we could get something from it?
The good news is, we can. It’s possible to apply some of the simple but effective principles we use each day to maintain our inboxes to our own lives. And it’s easy!
Categorize. Organize. Classify.
Whatever you call it, the orderly system we apply to our email can be applied to life. You don’t find your personal folder mingling with your work folder, right? Giving timely, undivided attention to each area of our lives can help us feel less frazzled and actually be more productive.
Clear out the clutter.
How lenient are you when it comes to keeping or deleting emails? Do you hoard every single message, or only keep what’s absolutely necessary?
I’m more delete-happy than ever since I’ve realized my world won’t crumble just because I blew something away that I may end up needing.
We are all guilty of holding on to things that no longer provide any current or near-future value in our lives. Are you not letting go of something you got a great deal on 5 years ago because it’s truly useful, or because of the perceived value?
It’s important to re-think your motives for hanging on to stuff. We have a tendency to hold on to things because we think without them we lose our past or part of our identity, when in fact they are just filling our physical and mental space with clutter. Loosening up and purging all that extra ‘stuff’ is a surprisingly easy way to find balance and some much-needed refreshment in life.
It’s always there.
E-mails in our inbox don’t expire, they don’t change, and they don’t go away if we don’t address them in a certain time period. This is also true about priorities in life. When we let ourselves get too caught up in the small details, we’re setting ourselves up for anxiety and burnout. There will always be deadlines, people who need things, and laundry to fold. When we take the ‘it-has-to-be-done-now’ pressure off ourselves, things feel more manageable.
You and your inbox both have a limit.
Only your inbox is much better about letting it be known when it’s reached. Living moment to moment, day to day, and year to year as ‘yes’ people who simply do it all can have a detrimental impact on balance in our life and actually make us less helpful. (Read more about the Hustle Bustle Burnout.)
Think about it: You have a networking event after work but the kid’s driver bailed and they need to be picked up right away. If you did both of these things and tried to make it work, instead of choosing just one, you’d cut the event short, potentially pass up great business opportunities and also risk the chance of the kids waiting alone in the dark. Neither of these situations are ideal nor put us in the best light possible. This actually makes our lives less efficient, as we are taking time in the future to recoup the benefits we could have achieved in that one night.
Alternatively, had you simply called up your significant other to take a ride and grab the kids, this stressful situation could have been avoided all together.
Many times we can do more when we are actually doing less.
Our lives will always feel like they’re moving at the speed of light. Technology is only going to get faster meaning there will be even more to-do’s and life pressures to handle.
By starting to become aware of ways you manage one area that may work in others, you may actually find that you become more efficient than ever.
What are other ways we can learn from our digital selves?