How many email accounts do you have? My guess is at least 3. A work one, and probably a couple of personal ones.
And how many emails do you get per day, across all those inboxes? I’m betting the answer is in the dozens at the very least. Quite possibly hundreds.
Yeah, me too. Fun, isn’t it?
I have thousands of unread emails across my various email inboxes. I’m pretty good at keeping up with my work email inbox, although it does sometimes begin to pile up. But my personal ones? Ugh. Just the thought of that little envelope icon with a red four-figure number on it makes me cringe. Actually, it makes me feel numb, heavy and panicky at the same time. So of course, instead of dealing with it, I scroll Facebook endlessly and read a bunch of recaps of The Bachelor. Sound familiar?
Every couple of months or so I get the energy to do a really big declutter and make some serious inroads in the reading, deleting and filing process, but I never quite get to that coveted inbox zero. The closest I’ve gotten it to is about 700 unread (that probably tells you something about the number that were there to begin with…what can I say, I have subscribed to a lot of email newsletters). Every time I declutter, I vow to myself that I’ll at least maintain this number and keep on top of the emails as they come in.
Ha! That doesn’t happen. I think because I have just spent hours and hours working on it, I just feel completely burnt out and overwhelmed by the rest of the task still to do. Then I procrastinate and procrastinate until the number has built up into the thousands again and I finally bring myself to do another email-clearing spree. But this time I’m going to try a new tactic.
How do you eat an elephant?
Overwhelm and procrastination are good buddies. Overwhelm usually is the result of looking at things from the big picture. Now, I like to see things big picture, but sometimes you can’t see the trees for the forest. Then, because the task just feels SO BIG, you put it off and off and off. You have frequent thoughts of ‘it’s too big to start right now’, ‘I don’t have enough time to do absolutely all of it today so I won’t do any’, or the old ‘there’s so much to do and I don’t even know where to begin’ chestnut.
One bite at a time!
The secret to get huge, overwhelming tasks done is to break them down into smaller and smaller steps. Start looking not just for the trees in the forest, but for the branches, twigs and leaves too. So in the case of my email inbox, instead of thinking about tackling the whole inbox at once, I will focus on just one email at a time. Even more than that, I will first start with deciding if I am reading it or deleting it. And then if I’m reading it, after I’ve read it am I filing it or deleting it?
By breaking the task down into smaller and smaller chunks, it feels much more achievable. I take the pressure off myself to try to complete the whole inbox, and just tell myself I’ll aim for 10 minutes per day. If I get through 10 emails in that time, awesome. If I only get through 1, that’s ok too. Progress is progress, no matter how small.
Any progress is better than no progress!
So, for the next 30 days I’m going to devote myself to clearing emails for 10 minutes every single day. I’m only going to focus on one of my personal email accounts. I currently have 1708 unread emails in that inbox. I don’t feel pressured to reduce them all in the next month. I just want to devote myself to a daily habit of decluttering. Ask me what that number is in a month!
Do you have a big, scary, overwhelming task you’ve been procrastinating? Why not try my strategy of just a few minutes a day with no pressure of an outcome, and see how much better you feel!
P.S. This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 7