Email bankruptcy

Tim Ferriss says that modern man fears two things: getting fat and getting too many emails.

Work is all about emails. Now matter how much I try to create to-do lists based on what’s important instead of what’s urgent (i.e. sitting in my inbox), the email inbox still rules at least part of my day.

At home, it’s a little different. Over the past two years, I’ve dropped out of email. I don’t use my personal inbox.

But there’s a good reason for it: it’s way too cluttered. Most of what I receive in my personal email is junk: subscriptions I never wanted and updates from websites I never visit.

The problem of course is that all the good stuff – the emails from friends (or even my wife) – are mixed in with the junk. I found myself trying to sort through the items one at a time but wasn’t getting anywhere.

So I declared email bankruptcy.

I ran a few searches for emails I knew I wanted to keep. I archived everything that popped up in the search.

From there, checked the all button, which selects every email in my inbox, and hit delete. All 6,184 email disappeared.

They’ll stay in my deleted folder for the next 30 days. I’d be surprised, though, if I go hunting for even one email. It’s not like I’ve paid much attention to my inbox anyway. I’m not going to wake up in the middle of the night and remember an email from three months ago that I need to save.

And yet…

And yet it still took some courage to delete them all. What if I need one of them? What if I can’t find something and find out it was in my email along but can no longer retrieve it?

It’s all fear. Maybe some of it is legit. Maybe I did need one of them. Thing is, though, I’m not going to remember I needed it.

It makes more sense to pay attention to emails moving forward and catch what’s important than try to sort through everything that was in my inbox. It’s not like I was ever going to sort through all of them anyway.


One thing I’ve learned from work at Sonitrol

May 21 marked my two year anniversary of working at Sonitrol.

I’ve learned a lot over the past two years, but reflecting on it all, I think the one lesson I’d like to share is this: you have to tell people when you do things for them.

For instance…

  • If your boss asks you to do something, you have to tell your boss when it’s done.
  • If your boss asks you to repeat the same process each week/month/quarter/year, you have to tell your boss each time it’s done.
  • If you finish performing a service for a customer, you have to tell the customer you did it.
  • If you send something to a customer, you have to tell them when it’s in the mail and preferably when it will arrive.
  • If you do something for free, tell the customer each and every time.
  • If you do something for an employee, tell that employees.
  • If you make a decision for the company, tell the company.

It all feels pretty straight forward when it’s written down. For me, though, you’d be surprised how easy it is to…

  • Launch a product and forget to tell former customers who might come back because of it.
  • Waive part of a charge and not inform the customer, assuming they’ll appreciate it anyway.
  • Send an email and forget to copy your boss, your employees, your customer.

That’s one of the lessons I’m learning.

The art of being meaningful

I heard an excellent quote that’s worth repeating:

“I have no doubt you’ll be successful. But will it be meaningful?”

Seth Godin quoted it to conclude one of his presentations. I don’t recall who said it first.

This hit me where I’m at today. It’s the question of doing things right vs. doing the right things.

I think it’s Stephen Covey who explains this as the difference between managers and leaders. Managers get really good at doing things right. That’s their focus, the process, making the process efficient, doing it right.

Leaders, on the other hand, get really good at doing the right things. Their job is to point the effort at the right projects, to be effective.

I’ve been stuck as a manager lately. At work in particular, I feel like I’ve gotten good at doing things right, or at least that’s been my focus.

I need to take a step back – like a lot of us, I’d imagine – and make sure I’m doing the right things.

All the achievement in the world is meaningless if it’s aimed in the wrong direction.

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