Bursts of Color

By Geoff Donaker

Bursts of Color - Email & Calendar Bankruptcy

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Bursts of Color - Email & Calendar Bankruptcy
By Geoff Donaker • Issue #68 • View online
There are many good life hacks and productivity tools out there. David Allen’s Getting Things Done summarizes lots of them in an easily digestible way. He starts with this analogy:
The short-term memory part of your mind - the part that tends to hold all of the incomplete, undecided and unorganized “stuff” - functions much like RAM in a personal computer. As with RAM, there’s limited capacity; there’s only so much “stuff” you can store in there and still have your brain function at a high level.
The key is to to get all that stuff out of your head, and into a task list or other system that works for you.

Inbox Zero
I’m not sure if it was David Allen or someone else who first gave me this framework for thinking about inbound messages:
Your task list is the list of things that you think are important to do. Your email inbox is a list of tasks that other people are trying to assign you.
We’ve all heard about inbox zero, though definitions vary a bit. I aim for the literal version: once a day, I try to fully clear my email inbox. Note that this does not imply responding to every message or dealing with every action item. It simply means skimming through the list and removing all new messages from the inbox by:
  1. Deleting and/or spam-labeling a lot of it
  2. Responding to things that can be done in <2 minutes
  3. Adding relevant “to dos” to my task list
  4. Archiving everything else
Email Bankruptcy
When the inbox occasionally gets overwhelmed with hundreds or thousands of messages, I’m a big fan of declaring email bankruptcy and just moving on. I am never going to respond to messages from three weeks ago anyhow, so why cause stress and use mental RAM repeatedly staring at them? Some people advocate actually deleting messages and/or replying-all to all senders. I prefer the simpler, quieter and less permanent version: simply select all messages and archive them. They’re still there and available to search, but not in your face.
Calendar Bankruptcy
If your calendar has become full of recurring meetings, you may wish to consider declaring “calendar bankruptcy,” which is what it sounds like. The New Year can be a great time to start over with a clean calendar and then add back only those meetings and 1:1s that still make sense given your priorities and org structure in 2022. By doing this all at once, it takes some of the sting out of removing any particular meeting, since recipients know they are not being singled out. You may be pleasantly surprised to find a yourself with a much more enjoyable and purposeful schedule come January.
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Geoff Donaker

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