In today’s world there is more and more that leads to overwhelm: we are accessible 24/7 through our mobile phones and email. Not only that, we have come to treat most (or all) of our emails and phone calls as ‘must respond’ items. Because we can access them on all of our mobile devices, it has also an immediate effect, which, if you’re like me, stores as “I need to” or “I still have to” thoughts.
This leads to overwhelm. Modern day overwhelm. Here is the way out:
Take Control of Your Inbox
Be in Charge of Your Mobile Phone
Remember the days when you received mail in the good old days, which required you to walk to the front door, for most outside the house, opened the letter box which was filled only once per weekday and, if like me, were looking forward to many personal real letters and some bills? Then there was some unsolicited mail, which in most cases was stopped by applying a sticker to your letterbox.
Nowadays you receive mail at any hour of any day, requested or not. If you have a good spam filter, it sorts with more or less accuracy the unsolicited mail. It still doesn’t help those who find your email address on your website and add you to their mailing list without your permission.
Take Action Now: Inbox Control
- Depending on your mail volume schedule daily or weekly time to work on your inbox. Make this a fixed time with a beginning and end. For example Saturday, 11am for 30 minutes, if your volume is low or weekdays, 9am for 60 (or 90) minutes. After a couple of weeks you will be able to tell whether the time allocated is enough, if not, revise your plan.
- Stick to those times and stop once the time is up. (To begin with, you might need to plan some ‘spring clean’ time to get rid of old, not yet sorted or responded email.)
- Read emails and sort them into folders, which suit your structure. Depending on your email system, there are also options to add tags or flags, if you want to answer some emails later.
- Respond to those emails that require an urgent and important response. Those emails, which are important, but not urgent, can be answered another time. Unimportant emails, which do not need an answer, can be deleted immediately.
- Depending on your email system, you can add ‘rules’ that sort emails automatically upon coming in. You might, for example, receive a newsletter from a company that does not require your immediate response. In this case, create a folder and add a rule to have the email automatically be placed into that folder.
- Go through each email and ask yourself: Is this mail I want to continue to receive? If yes, fine. If no, unsubscribe if it’s from a mailing service. Write a personal message, if it’s from a person sending out regular emails. For example:
Thank you so much for sending me your information. I am trying to streamline my inbox and make sure I get less regular emails. Would you therefore please remove my address from your distribution list?
Wishing you all the best with your endeavors!
Best regards, Nathalie
Your Mobile Phone
Same story as with email: In the not so distant past there was one phone per household and you were only accessible when at home. Now you have your phone with you at all times and in all places and people expect you to be accessible no matter what.
Take Action Now: Mobile Phone
- You decide when it’s on and when it’s on silent and when it’s off. Yes, off.
- Consider a device-free space in your bedroom; it’s better for your health.
- Think about when you want to be accessible and for whom. Put your phone on the charger at a certain time at night and turn it either on silent or off.
- Have personal clarity on whether the phone is on in social situations, meetings, mealtime, rest time, and whether you want this to be interrupted by every pop-up message or phone call. Communicate this with your partner or friend, for example: “I will put my phone away when having lunch/dinner with my friends and family” or “I need to have to be available for my babysitter as my daughter is sick so I will keep the phone on during this meeting”. Stick to your plans.
- Answering service yes or no? If it serves you then have it on, if not, turn it off. If something is important, they will call back. This means you don’t have to spend time listening to your messages and call people back.
- Notification – Most important change you can make about your notifications. Make sure that you only have those notifications turned on, that you really need.
Let me know about your experiences and what has or hasn’t worked for you in the comment section.