My inbox has been a bit of a mess lately. In fact, it’s been a lot of a mess. I get so much e-mail everyday that I hardly glance at most of them – I simply scan through to see if there’s any e-mail from someone I actually know in real life and leave everything else to collect.
And once it started collecting… well it was easy to let it keep collecting and not attempt to sort it out.
I got up to 1,300 e-mails which is easy to ignore when you’re using Gmail’s Priority Inbox – and even there I had about 45 unread “priority” e-mails.
I decided to tackle my inbox today as a ‘productive’ action – I’ve had to stay in sick today and I’d been feeling listless from not being able to do anything productive – when I try to concentrate earlier today I tired myself out in about half an hour and had to take a nap! But cleaning out the inbox doesn’t take too much concentration…
…one thing I did decide to do to cut down on the mess however was to start unsubscribing from lists. This was pretty easy for the corporate ones – Amazon, EBuyer, Sainsbury’s, PopCap and Opodo all went (well, as soon as I could find their ‘unsubscribe’ link – some of which were much harder than the others to find). It was a bit harder to get rid of Groupon – but to be honest I never read those either. But then I got to the Charity/Good Causes ones: Oxfam, AllOut, Avaaz, Compassion in World Farming, Care International, Libel Reform, Hope not Hate… to be honest I hardly read any of them but at the same time I would feel guilty unsubscribing from any of them. Then intention is always to read every single one but the reality is my eyes look at the sheer amount of unread e-mails and glaze over.
So I came to the conclusion that I will have to prioritise – I’ve decided to toss the ones I probably joined for a single campaign and then never read again and keep the ones that I actually care about on a day-to-day basis. But even that was difficult. Is it worth keeping BOTH Oxfam and Care International? I don’t really care about Libel Reform on a day to day basis but if I stop to think about it, it’s a really important issue that could set precedents internationally and will help the democratic process… and etc etc etc with all the other good causes!
Then I realised this is actually the problem with how I live my life. I realised recently that I’m very good at filling up my free time – with online courses, a resolution to be fluent in a new language in 18 months, a new programming project. I want all of these things, of course – to be able to access new opportunities with a new language, to understand more aspects of this world by learning game theory and model thinking, to be a multi-millionaire with the next viral mobile phone app. And I want more, some very specific mores, but I haven’t yet found the free-time to plug up yet.
But all of this destruction of my free time is stressing me out. I hate feeling unproductive but I also hate the feeling of things hanging over my head. I also hate feeling that I’m not getting as much as I would like to out of the online courses because I’m rushing through them and feeling like I “don’t have time” for things. It’s a sad revelation for me, but maybe it’s time to start prioritising. I may be able to get to do all of these things I want to do in the time that I want to do them, but I don’t want to just do them for the sake of doing them. It’ll be wonderful to have that sense of accomplishment at the end, but I don’t want to be stressed out for the next couple of years in order to achieve that.
Luckily, both my online courses end this week. I’m of course behind on both of them, but once I’m done with them I should probably avoid the compulsion to put something else in that free time gap and start examining my priorities.
If you’ve read down to here, I’m sorry if this blog post didn’t really tie together so nicely – did I mention I’m sick? But it would be nice if you could give some general thoughts or answer some questions. Like, how do you prioritise your charities in terms of time/mone/e-mail subscriptions? How do you prioritise the things you want to achieve in your life?