My Value & Email Experiment

I used to think I needed to be included to feel valuable. This lead me down a path of reacting to others and only finding value based on others opinions of me and my effort. An odd place to start with a story about email, but I’ll get there.

The systems we work within can be tricky to identify or be aware of sometimes. I’ve spent many years in conventional organizations where we are told to respond to every email and take on any work that is sent to us. Granted, not every organization is this way, but many are. This expectation to take on everything paired with the need to be validated by others opinions is a no win game. The only way to feel good in that situation is to work extra hard to win others approval, get promoted, take on more work, and keep the cycle going. This easily leads to burnout. I suspect I am not the only one. If I am, disregard this post…

I feel that the problem with this system of value and approach to work is that it is sustained through social pressure. I’ve never had a boss that leaned over my cube and asked me to work nights or weekends, I just do it, because my coworkers do, and if I don’t, it will affect my standing in the tribe. I learned this many years ago, and had mostly forgotten that is the real reason I’d work extra hard for a company that doesn’t really care about me. To clarify, the people cared about me, but that only goes so far when businesses hit hard times.

I’ve seen this many times first hand. The moment I take charge of my time and priorities, start declining meetings I really didn’t need to be at, and ignoring emails that didn’t deserve my attention, the social dynamics in the organization took note and change in response to me. It was like I was in the Matrix and broke the rules. The system rebels. More on this at another time.

So, with that previous system in place, it is no surprise that I have been overwhelmed by emails. It also doesn’t help that every online product or service I sign up for sends me daily or weekly emails. It is just too noisy.

In the spirit of #FHWW, I’m changing my approach to personal email. I’m going on a diet. My goal is to only receive emails that I need to respond to and content that I specifically opt in to. The point is to be engaged in the things that need my attention, rather than following the flow of other streams.

Thinking more.. I wonder if there is a ratio or quality indicator to judge the average daily email count, emails sent, daily meetings, work completed, creative production, and time to regenerate. The result being a score that shows how balanced I am in my production, consumption, and regeneration based on the levels I find are most optimal for my health and sustained creative output.

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