Posts tagged Minimalism
Become an Inbox Zero Zen Master

There is something elusive and alluring about achieving the state of inbox zero (nothing in your email). Something minimalists would find as the perfect state of the email inbox - a blank white box. Most of us that have worked with email from the early days until now may think it's a state that can not be achieved and yet we seek it. We were trained by early email programs to create folders, keep every single email visible in some form because you might need it, or to create systems to keep it all straight. 

I'm here to tell you that you are released from complicated email filing systems thanks to upgrades in technology that we weren't really taking advantage of because we were trained in early days when the tech just wasn't as good. Because email now has search and threading you really don't need a complicated system for filing. I know. Revolutionary thinking.

More people complain of overwhelm in the workplace because of email than any other thing. If you do a Google search of "email overwhelm" 14,100,00 entries come up. The problem is more exasperating than too many meetings, long hours or difficult coworkers. We are inundated with hundreds of emails a day and are drowning in it. Most of us use email as a to-do system and are reacting to what is happening in our inbox and letting that guide our workday instead of planning out our time most effectively. Some might even know or feel like they are wasting time by constantly "managing" their email and not feeling at all productive.

What can we do about overflowing inboxes to get back our lives and feel a little zen at the same time?

Use - This tool "rolls up" email that you receive from retailers, newsletters from organizations and anything that you might like to have, but don't need to read regularly. It sends it to you in a neat little newsletter once a day and you can scroll through it to see if there is anything that you are interested in, click it and read it then. Bonus Tip: Twice a year go through your email lists and delete what you aren't reading anymore. They make that process really easy and you can further cull what isn't necessary for your inbox.

Set up some VIP's - I have a few people I receive email from that I want to see their email at the top of my inbox and right away. I have a rule set up in my email that stars those emails. Bonus Tip: Don't have more than 10 of these. VIP's are really special.

Set up SPAM rules - Set up a rule that moves some email directly into the trash. We all have some email from people that we can't unsubscribe from or reject outright because of social or political reasons. You know, the email you get from your left or right leaning aunt that has the meme's copied into it that makes your blood boil. She isn't going to stop sending them, but you don't need to read them. She never sends anything important and never will. Just set up a rule that marks her email as read and gets plopped into the trash. Your blood never has to boil again. Ahhh... a little zen.

The Sundown Rule - Deal with as much as you can as quickly as you can in your email. If an email has a request or can be accomplished in just a few minutes - just send the response before you shut down your email for the day. 

Flag It - If an email needs to be dealt with, but it is a little longer project flag it. If there is an email that you need to have as a resource flag that, too. These will drop them into a folder automatically - giving them more important than anything else. Be judicious in this because not everything is important. Flag your airline itinerary, but don't flag the shipping information for the shipment of dog treats you ordered. This is an opportunity to be quickly critical of what really is important in your life.

Archive - Here is where the magic happens - archive. The archive isn't deleting your email (which I totally think you should do to most email). It is putting it in one big folder that isn't your inbox. It is 100% searchable.  After you have done a task in your email - archive it. After you have read the information and no action is required - archive it. 

But what about finding an email. Here's the thing, it is all searchable. You can search using the sender's name, email, the subject matter, the attachments, the dates sent, the body of the email. You may have to weed through a few that are the same or similar, but if the email has pertinent information anywhere inside the email you will find it. I can find everything in seconds - even email that is years old. 

Achieving Zen Master Status - Instead of having it all in my inbox stressing me out with the visual and project clutter, I am presented with a fresh start each morning. I can plan my tasks from the flagged email and I can deal with what is fresh each day. Just seeing the empty inbox is a feeling of accomplishment which seems kind of silly, but for years brought anxiety to my work day. Nothing has been lost and I can feel a sense of peace that I can find what I'm looking for and achieve a clutter free space in my digital life. Go, grasshopper, use technology to master your inbox.

Photo by Ruthson Zimmerman on Unsplash

Happiness Hack: Grok Your Own Thing
Photo Credit:  @brigittetohm

Photo Credit: @brigittetohm

What is happiness? I believe it is liking where you are right now in this moment. I also think it’s something that you cultivate, how you interact in the world, and figuring out what makes it all click for yourself. I am a big lover of the fact that the Founding Fathers of our great nation decided that the Pursuit of Happiness is one of our rights. They were a bunch of pretty happy guys doing exactly what they wanted to do. They knew that they could have that here, in this new place, and that everyone should be so lucky to go find it. Granted, it took them a while to think that women, children, African Americans and Native Americans were worth of it… but I give them kudos for trying.

How Do I Pursue My Own Happiness?

Meditation: I do 15 – 20 minutes of some kind of meditation. It helps to start my day with the idea that I have the capacity to be happy, healthy, live without fear and be at ease in the world and that you do too. It’s a small thing, but it helps.

Simplicity: Our house, mostly because my husband would prefer to live in a Zen Monastery, is getting more and more free of clutter. I recently removed our couch and replaced it with two funky armchairs that are cozy enough that Franklin the Wonder Dog has abandoned the bed I made for him. I am quick to donate just about anything that I don’t use regularly and am keeping clutter to a minimum. It helps my peace of mind to have less stuff around and stuff doesn’t make me happy – it never has. I like quality things, things with personal meaning and empty spaces – that makes me happy.

Focusing: Really pairing down my life and business to what matters makes me happy. I am starting to really drive myself and my message around the idea that our own personal and professional development – what we value and how we act – is the trademark of our brand. Getting to that solid focus helps me feel calmer, more relaxed an ultimately happy. I’ve started, again, sending out a monthly email letter to my subscribers to drive that home. We are what we focus on and that helps drive my happy.

Saying Yes Even When I Don’t Know What the Hell I’m Doing: This last year I have said yes to doing Facebook Live videos every week without knowing anything about doing them. I put myself out there as an artist twice – once donating a piece to an auction that got purchased (squee!) and another in a collaboration youth/art project. I said yes to an overnight hike even when I didn’t have the right shoes, gear or any experience walking over a mile. I started a book club because a friend wanted one and the group has turned out to be amazing. It makes me happy to take risks – even small incremental ones.

Having Goals: Looking at my goals everyday helped me feel accomplished. And just like everyone else that does something I like getting to the finish line and giving myself a serious high five. I’ll do my whole goal planning the first week in January because, frankly, it works.

Being Mindfully Kind: I practice kindfulness. It’s mindfulness in action. I am not always a happy camper. In fact, I grind pretty judgmental, but I know that when I gather myself into a kinder mode I am happier. I practice this in every post I write, every email, every phone call, every interaction, every damned thing. It isn’t easy and I miss the mark more than I like, but when I hit that spot of true engagement where I listened to the person, was compassionate and had composure and clarity I feel like I won a million bucks. Happy happy camper.

The Key to Your Happiness

The key for all of us is finding out, for ourselves, what actually makes us happy. Not what your mom thinks, your boss, your best friend.. but you. You have to grok your own special sauce of happy to be actually happy. And in my world, it’s whatever works. I’m not here to judge you (and I promise I’m working on that). You do you and find your happy place.