|Calling all perfectionists, control lovers, uber-achievers, and organization aficionados! Doesn’t the thought of a well-orchestrated and seamlessly executed zero inbox sound dreamy? Even imagining it fills me with a concerning amount of joy, as if I were walking the halls of the Container Store. Here’s how I see zero |
I’ve lived most of my life pursing the zero inbox. Not only literally, of course. Zero
One obvious flaw in my early-days, naivete is that capacity is finite. Duh, Valia. I overcame this hurdle by simply working more. Substituting any leftover space for play with more work. Easy. Follow this path and some days it works and other days the cost becomes what you’d expect: exhaustion, burnout, malaise, disenchantment… fill in your favorite depletion terminology.
There is a much more subtle (and costly) side effect of zero inbox living. You never get to what’s most important. For those who live this way, you know that there is a quantity vs. quality game. Since the goal of the game is to get to zero, you often gravitate to the really easy things first. Why? Because you can check more volume off of your literal or metaphorical to-do list, silly! It’s much easier to complete “order dish soap from Amazon” or “make vet appointment for Henry” than it is to complete “restructure staff responsibilities” or “create script for speaker reel”. The first two give me a sense of accomplishment (albeit false) while the second two give me agita.
Let’s continue. It’s one thing for me to spend a few extra minutes or hours each day cleaning
I was speaking to someone on my staff last week and, as always, we happily agreed: “Let’s go through the easy logistics things first.” Zero inbox 101. Crossing off many things quickly = false but very compelling sense of accomplishment. And as usual, we ended our call rushed, incomplete, and setting aside an additional meeting to get to the important things. And guess how we started the “important things” meeting? You guessed, it… “Let’s go through a few quick things first.” (For our clients who are laughing – yes, we teach what we need to learn most! I can teach you urgent vs. important till the cows come home, but it’s a different story behind my own screen!).
So, we agreed. I told her I would write a newsletter about it this week so that we can publicly declare a commitment to honor what’s more important – not only by
Some of you may be thinking – yes, Valia, you’re talking about prioritization 101. I’m not. I’m talking about something deeper. Shifting from needing perfection and organization to falling in love with messiness and disorder. I’m talking about finding meaning in progress versus perfection. I’m talking about recognizing that 5 minutes or 60 minutes or 3 weeks are not, in fact, created equal. I’m talking about choosing to perhaps leave a few emails or to-dos forever unanswered because that is the most important thing.
“Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things”.– Peter Drucker
|From Theory to Action|
If you don’t qualify as a perfectionist, control lover, uber-achiever, or organization aficionado – I’m giving you the week off from homework. If you do qualify, however, here’s your challenge. When you find yourself itching to tackle quantity over importance – STOP IMMEDIATELY. Be careful because this habit is sneaky. It might be as covert as “I’ll just tidy up my desk first” or as overt as “I need to get through these two things before I work on …”. Don’t start rationalizing because then you know you’re under the spell of the habit. Just STOP IMMEDIATELY.
After you stop, BREATHE. Look around, take a stretch, grab a sip of water. Then, once clear, ASK yourself: “What’s the most important thing I need to focus on right now?” Most likely, ordering soap from Amazon will not be at the top of the list. If you can connect your most important thing with a top value or business priority or outcome that you’re driving – this will multiply the effect. Then DO – one simple thing towards that most important thing. STOP, BREATHE, ASK, DO. STOP, BREATHE, ASK, DO. That’s it – now STOP reading this, BREATHE, and ASK: “What’s the most important thing I need to focus on right now in order to activate more personal leadership in my life?” So long, Zero.
Zero Inbox Illusion
June 6, 2019