I’m so thankful that last night I took care of some online spending that I’d been meaning to do…said no one ever, and yet here I am just shy of noon eating breakfast and getting the day started. Oh well, my dog’s teeth should never be whiter than they’ll be when the phalanx of tartar-busting, plaque-attacking, doggy dental infantry gets here via free two-day shipping.
The internet mercantile aside, because I’ve hated my job for so long what I realized in the incandescent aura of recent re-awakening is that I’ve made it a habit to push the start of the day back as far as I can. I’m a night owl anyway, so the timing works for me. You know the old adage about “asleep by 3 up by 10,” right? No. Because no one does this except me and even I don’t recommend it. It’s the only real power I had and also come directly out of the procrastination playbook…you can find it in the “dread” section.
When I recently got new direct leadership, I knew this was going to have to change because now I did actually have 9am meetings and “sleep through” is not a reply on the calendar invite. This issue became immediate exhaustion, not from lack of sleep but from email fatigue. Man, that email just never stops and when I stopped to observe my own behavior I could feel stress ramp up with each little ding to hit the inbox. For me it was knowing that each missive brought with it a potential problem that I’d never be able to solve. Always having kept a somewhat tidy inbox throughout my email life, I had thousands of emails pile up in my inbox. I found one flagged the other day from September 17, 2016. What?!? This became another source of stress–and unholy cycle of procrastinate farther and dread what I would return to.
The glow of re-awakening gave me just the hint of sanity I need about this. I’ve started saying “no” to the email box in the name of productivity. Whereas before, I’d hear the ding and drop everything to tend to god-knows-what, I just stopped doing that. It was an accident really. One day I forgot to turn notifications back on after a system update and the day was so peaceful. I felt whole. I was the master of my destiny. I made a good lunch. I got things done. Why? All because I didn’t have to worry about email. So, I made a few changes.
I readjusted my own expectation for response time from instantaneous to within 36 hours. I limited the number of times I checked my email from every moment on call to once every 3 or 4 hours or so. I decided just to completely not respond to emails received after 6pm or before 8am. Boom: boundaries.
Since doing that I’ve felt nothing but increased freedom. Frankly, the freedom is not from being a slave to answering but from being a slave to caring. 90% of my email is the equivalent of shuffling papers on a desk. That doesn’t deserve my time or attention and, somehow, was the main thing taking up my time and attention. I’ve freed myself from feeling obligated to acknowledge everything because…some problems you can and should solve yourself and don’t need my input. I’m not your digital maid, butler, or coffee-fetcher. Sometimes you should figure it out or just straight up do it yourself. Sometimes, you should stop bothering me.
This was a personal accountability measure I had to install in my own practices. As much as I rail about a lack of accountability at my job, I’m just as guilty. I’ve held no one to any kind of standard. I’ve let them invade my space and time and fill it with…packing peanuts. No more. Email is only the first step.