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The road to email hell is a slippery slope

composition mode in Scrivener
Have you been having a rough relationship with your email lately? Maybe you know how you should be dealing with it but are “conveniently” forgetting what you know? You’ve got company–I realized this morning that I’ve been bad.

I do my writing in a program called Scrivener. It has a feature called “full screen composition mode” that blocks everything on your screen except for the document you’re currently writing. This clever selective blocking encourages you, the brilliant person at the keyboard, to focus your brilliance Right Here On This Page, and not get sidetracked by other programs, email notifications etc.

As I was closing up shop last night, on a whim, I pulled up this screen in anticipation of the morning, knowing that writing comes first. (Normally I shut down the computer completely every night but there were some windows open in the web browser–foreshadowing alert–that I hadn’t checked out yet and didn’t want to lose.)

This morning, as I approached the laptop + keyboard, I was feeling antsy to know if I’d gotten a response to an email sent the day before. My Bossy Brain was revving up to jump in to Get Stuff Done mode and was anticipating all the surely-fascinating info awaiting in the inbox.

Rule #1: Write First!Does this pattern sound familiar? It’s a common enough.

AND it’s borderline sacrilege for me. Why? Because my routine is 1) Write, 2) Email. In that order.

I do this for an important reason: if I don’t begin with writing, I have a really, really hard time getting to it later because my head is in Get Stuff Done mode which is speedy and completely not conducive to the more contemplative mind set of writing.

So when the laptop woke up from its night in sleep mode, the full screen composition mode in Scrivener was patiently waiting. Ouch! major finger wag right in my face. “Oh yeah,” I thought sheepishly, “Write first, then email.”

The slippery slopeWith that, a rush of awareness dawned: I’d been on the slippery slope to email hell for the last week.

A quick review of the last few days revealed that my email habits had been eroding big time.

The three biggest offenders were:

  1. Using email as procrastination from My Work
    I flashed on several instances in which I let email consume my focus when it should’ve been on the next step of the Natural Professional Program. Creating this Program has been challenging, I might even concede to call it “downright hard”. The path of least resistance happily veers around it. AND… this is My Work. Making progress on it is The One Thing that allows me peace at the end of the day and graces me with the sense that I am aligned with my Life Purpose.
  2. Inadvertently starting a new inefficient habit
    I saw that I’d been telling myself that I was being “efficient” by clicking on interesting links in an email (to pop open in the web browser “for later reading”) and then deleting the email.This brilliant technique (deferring completion) resulted in some 15 windows open in my web browser that

    • I then had to keep flipping around to get to the one window I actually needed.
    • Since I didn’t want to lose these “important” gems, I didn’t shut down my computer.
    • My stress level was rising from the weight of unfinished actions as I hadn’t gotten to the open windows after a few days.
  3. The #1 Rule Breaker of them all: Browsing
    addicted!Several instances found me skimming through my email inbox looking for personal and interesting emails and skipping over ones that looked not-so-fun… BUSTED. Super busted.Browsing emails is the ultimate time waster.When you skim through emails without making decisions about them, you end up wasting time and energy by repeatedly reading them, wading through trying to find one in a sea of many, and endlessly scrolling for cherry picking.

Individually, each of these were distracting enough, but all three together?? Ouch!! Achille’s Heel, hit again.

As for many people, confidence is part of my Achille’s Heel. Every time I piddle around in my email inbox or otherwise waste time instead of doing My Important Work adds another drop to the bucket of “I’ll never finish this” which leads to “I’m not good enough” and on down that nasty spiral pit.

Now that is dangerous–on so many levels. It leaves you feeling dejected. It prevents Good Work from reaching the world.

Systems and structure are designed to protect your Achille’s Heel.

Doh! Even when you know that a good habit is intended to support your Important Work, how many times have you begun a new habit and later realized that you’ve all but left it by the wayside?

Maybe it was too complex to keep up with and therefore not worth the effort?

Or… maybe while you were still in the process of establishing the habit you heard a quiet murmuring alert from within, “Hey? hello? Uh, email comes after your Important Work, right?” but then brushed it off thinking: “That voice was so quiet, it must not be that important.”

Shush that voiceActually, there probably weren’t even words with this so-called “alert” from deep within. It was likely just a faint feeling that grabbed about 13% of your awareness for that tiny split second before your bossy brain tramped right over it.

And really, when talking about non-life-threatening stuff like email, that little warning probably isn’t ever going to get all that loud.

But you felt it, didn’t you? Whether you followed its advice or not, you heard that voice looking out for you. Because even though you weren’t thinking about your “I’ll never finish this” bucket, there was a part of you that hadn’t forgotten and didn’t want you to go there.

Maybe you don’t hear that tambourine,
or the tree leaves clapping time.
Close the ears on your head,
that listen mostly to lies and cynical jokes.
There are other things to see, and hear.
Music. Dance.
A brilliant city inside your soul!


That voice will always be on your side.
Will always be there rooting for your best interests.
Will get louder the more you listen to it.

Lucky for us, it keeps trying to reach us, no matter what. So even though I’ve been ignoring it this past week when it came to my Email Zapping habits, I finally heeded it this morning. Yay!

I done it! (sic)If ignoring this voice is the slippery slope to a hellish downward spiral, then listening and good habits are the train tracks running happily along the ridge of the mountain. If you know that habits, come on back to them. Then listen to those friendly reminders from within trying to help you stick with them.

And if you don’t know good habits and want to learn them, put your email below and I’ll let you know when I’m going to lead the next Annihilate Email Agony course:

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