Who says you have to be busy before you can be a poor email correspondent?
“You can do anything, but not everything.” — David Allen
I am in the fortunate position that I don’t have to deal with email to do my job. In fact, the inverse that is closer to the truth: the less time I spend doing email the better I can do my job.
Being “poor” at email isn’t a badge of honor for me. The reason I’m such a horrible email correspondent is that I choose not to spend much time in email. I’m not so busy that my email time suffers, it’s just that instead I choose to spend my time doing other things such as reading and writing for this site, managing the the administrative and financial logistics that accompany working for yourself, and spending as much time with my family as possible.
While I don’t get so much email that it would fill my whole day just to answer, I could easily spend 3-4 hours every day reading to and replying to the messages in my inbox. But it’s not just the correspondence portion of email that I chose to say no to — I’m also preemptively avoiding the decision-making and judgment-making requests that incoming emails ask of me.
Many of the emails I get are requests for my time, in one way or another. Either a request for an interview, an app review, to be a beta tester, etc. I would love to give my time and attention to these things. I read most of the emails in my inbox, and I know I’m missing some great opportunities and relationships. And, that’s just the way I’m letting it be — it’s an unfortunate consequence of my choice to be “poor” at email.
Can we all agree to just let go? To stop caring that we might miss something big, something important? Reality is, we are all missing something important in front of us every day, while we carefully scan our feeds, our feeds, our FEEDS, missing the suffering, the joy, the simple state of being all around us. Our families and friends, our neighbours, our complete strangers.
If I said yes to all the requests and opportunities and potential new relationships coming to my inbox then I’d have another full-time job, and I wouldn’t be able to write here anymore.
Reading this article in NY Mag (thanks, Ben!) I discovered that my approach to email is not unlike the co-founders of Google. I spend about 20-30 minutes a day in my email, and whatever I get to I get to. And whatever I don’t, unfortunately, goes unanswered. Because inbox zero is actually all about the outbox.
By “pre-deciding” that the majority of requests for my time and attention over email just go unanswered, it gives me a fighting chance at doing my best creative work every day.
Your story doesn’t have to be about email. I bet you a cup of coffee there is something you can decide to be poor at so you can be better at something else.