Friday, September 03, 2010

Cheering for a Big Fat Zero!

Anyone remember back more than a year ago when I said I was going to try and get my email inbox to zero? Even I thought it was going to be a stretch. And I was right, it was a stretch. But here's the thing - without stretching, we can't grow.

I've been reading a lot lately on ways to promote contentment in your life. The latest is Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity by Keri Wyatt Kent. In it she talks about the need to stretch beyond our current abilities in order to grow (and in that growth, I think we experience a sense of contentment). Our muscles grow stronger by being pushed just beyond their limits. Same with our emotional capacity. Kent defines quite well how this really applies to every area of our lives. So in my case, it was a stretch to aim for zero email messages in my inbox.

Guess what? I got there today. That's right, I was able to respond to the two messages left from yesterday and that left me with none. And like Kent suggests, the stretch has caused me to grow. It has caused me to change one of my procrastinator habits of letting messages sit until I feel good and ready to respond to them. When your inbox is slowly creeping toward empty, there's less volume to support the excuse that "there's too much to do it now". In fact, the quest to get that inbox depleted worked as a sort of carrot dangling before me. I was willing to stay in my seat and work hard at typing a good response now, rather than waiting.

I've also grown in my ability to make decisions more rapidly, at least in this area. For indecisive me, that's a big step. I now decide on a response, send it, then file or delete. It's much easier to sort through dozens of emails efficiently when you can do that.

So will I keep it at zero? No. I don't think I can do that on a day-to-day basis. But in the past few months (other than during vacation), it's rarely crept above 25. And now that it's at zero, I'm guessing I can keep it even lower than that. My goal from here on out is to zero it out by Friday each week.

Now I've got to set myself another stretch goal. Hmmm...any suggestions?