Yesterday I processed all three of my email inboxes. Every Saturday, I process my email until I am at Inbox Zero. I respond to the emails that require a response and archive those that I need to retain. I turn any email that requires me to do something into a task in my task manager.
Now I am staring at 17 new emails, all of which require me to read them, review them, and make a decision as to what action I need to take. In addition to the 17 emails, I have four projects that require my attention today, and there are hundreds of tasks still in my task manager.
Looking at the number of emails, the number of projects in the number of tasks that you have to complete will give you a sense of overwhelm. There is not enough time in the day to do everything that you want to do, need to do or would like to do. So you have to make decisions.
Where Overwhelm Begins
The problem with collecting all of these tasks, whether they come in the form of email or some other form, is that they all appear to be equal. All of them require your time, even though some may take one minute and some may take weeks.
It can feel rude to ignore the email sitting in your inbox. There is a human being on the other end that has communicated some need to you, and you want to be polite and professional and respond. There is a human being on the other end of every task you need to complete, and you can feel the pressure of another person waiting for you to deliver some outcome.
People hand you tasks without your consent. They can show up in your inbox. They can show up in your voicemail. They can show up in Facebook Messenger. They can even show up as a direct message in Twitter. I have even opened Skype to find messages waiting for me there. And then there are notifications on your smartphone.
What Is Most Strategic?
You have limited time and energy. You have unlimited tasks and responsibilities, and you have unlimited distractions. Because you have constraints, you have to make choices. You have to decide for yourself what is most to strategic? What is the most important thing that you need to do now to reach your goals?
It can feel like you are productive, and it can feel like you are eliminating a sense of overwhelm when you spend time working on all the tasks that have shown up in your life, many of which you did not consent to accept. ( Like when someone sends you an email asking you a question. You want to respond to them, but you did not agree to answer the question, let alone when).
All of your tasks are not equal. Some are more important than others. Some are way more important than others. This fact means that you cannot treat all tasks as equal.
Some Things Are Going To Be Left Undone
I won’t have another opportunity to get to Inbox Zero until Wednesday this week. There are going to be messages with tasks attached to them that sit in my inbox until that time. I will scan my inbox a couple times a day to make sure I don’t miss anything urgent and important, but some of it must wait.
I’ve written this here before, but it bears repeating: “Saying yes to small things means that you are saying no to bigger things.” Unfortunately, most of us feel less resistance to taking care of the small things and more resistance to the time-consuming, meaningful work that we should be doing.
Even though it’s difficult, you have to learn to leave some things undone so that you can do what’s most important.
What percentage of your time are you spending on tasks that are not strategic and move you no closer to your goals?
How much of your time are you blocking for what is most important to you, the meaningful work you were put here to do?
Comment to send me your thoughts, stories, and ideas. Unless, of course, you want to reject this request and spend your time doing something really important. If you know someone who is mired down in small things, forward them this email and ask them to join us here each Sunday by signing up at www.thesalesblog.com/newsletter.
By the way, you’ll get rid of the sense of overwhelm you feel by doing the big things. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment instead.
Do good and meaningful work this week, and I’ll see you here next week.
P.S. The 2016 Virtual Sales Kickoff is scheduled for January 20, 2016. Look for an email this week inviting you and the people you work with to join us!