I have a love-hate relationship with email. I love the feeling of archiving email and having a clean inbox, but hate the feeling of having too many that need response. While writing this, I know there are at least 3 emails that I need to get to but can’t get my head around to. How often do you put off responding to certain emails because you know they’re going to take a while to get to?
Especially in the fast-paced, instant-gratification culture we live in in tech, it’s hard not to feel like everything needs you right now. Hell, I spend a lot of my time on calls with people saying they want new projects completed “yesterday”. We rush around and get those around us to move their schedules around to accommodate what we now deem most important, to find ourselves sitting on our hands a moment later. The constant start and stop can be mentally draining, and wreck productivity.
Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t things that are important. Did you just break your arm while exclaiming joy when seeing this email in your inbox, and accidentally hitting a concrete wall (sorry, by the way)? Yes, it is important that you get to a hospital right away. But do 99% of the things you deal with on a daily basis really have the importance you’re putting on them? Probably not.
One way I help myself cope with the “need” to get things out right away is through responding to emails quickly, even if it’s with a short “just wanted to let you know I saw this, and will get back to you tomorrow!” or “when do you need this by?” and the more important “why do you need it by then?”. The response I get to these emails is often “take your time!” or “I completely understand what a busy week can look like, don’t worry about it”. When I’m blocking something, often delegating responsibility or just popping on a quick call can help to not delay a response.
We need to get over ourselves and our self-importance: believe it or not, the people we’re applying so much importance to have other things going on that they need to deal with. You’re not their only focus. So, while you probably shouldn’t leave that email unresponded for more than a day or two, know that it’s okay
if you’re busy and need some extra time to get to an important email: just let them know. And maybe, just maybe
that paradigm shift will help you take control of your productivity as you move to manage perceptions and expectations
, and not set off the fire alarms each time.
PS: If you enjoyed this week’s issue, I’d really appreciate your support sharing it. Whether it’s a forward, a Twitter post, or getting my name on a soccer jersey, it would mean the world to me.