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Handling email with distinction: Distaste rather Dread

Among the core beliefs of the General Semantics arm of the Human Potentials Movement, our lives can be enhanced by being able to apply more distinctions to our experience. The result of my Seeking Causes of my Non-Zero Inbox was to differentiate between those “stuck in my inbox” emails that only legitimately caused of distaste rather than dread.

Armed with that distinction, I sought to conquer the merely distasteful email and along with them the camaflouged emails that were just hidden unseen among the emails that I was avoiding.

To get an idea of what I was up against, I took a 15-minute work sampling. In 15-minutes, I was able to handle 9 messages.

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The first two held links to hour-long videos that were potentially relevant to one of my projects but that I didn’t want to watch and probably never would.

The third contained a collection of recreational videos that I would probably enjoy, but am unlikely to ever find time for.

The fourth was an audio podcast of significance that I will probably never get around to listening to.

These can as easily live on my notion page of videos & audios that I am probably not going to get around to watching as they can live in my email. Unwatched is unwatched.

The fifth, sixth and seventh were about unhandled advisory paperwork for different companies that I mentor. Checking on the paperwork is now my to-do list.

The eighth is about calendaring and there isn’t anything useful that can be done until a month from now. This one is more in the feeling lost/confused than either dread or distaste.

The ninth is a long complicated 10-week old status report from a startup that I advise. It didn’t have clear action items and is assuredly too old to act on now. Can’t do anything more on it than send a request for an update.

I was surprised by how painless this was once I started doing it. Afterward, I went forward with a plan to resolve all the emails that were not legitimately dread inspiring.

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Over the course of the following week, I handled 200 of the 300 “stuck messages.” There were a handful of dread-inspiring emails that I have pushed off into the future. The only new category of non-dread-inspiring emails I encountered were messages where I simply don’t know how to respond. Another year in my inbox won’t make me any better at that, so I either sent a “fluff” reply or simply deleted them.

Another week and this should be resolved.

Perhaps I will be inspired to prevent it from ever getting like this again.

Perhaps I will be inspired to make a similar attempt on the legacy to-do list.

And, then again, perhaps not.

Written by Russell Brand

Russell has started three successful companies, one of which helped agencies of the federal government become very early adopters of open source software, long before that term was coined. His first project saved The American taxpayer 250 million dollars. In his work within federal agency, he was often called, “the arbiter of truth,” facilitating historically hostile groups and factions to effectively work together towards common goals

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