Have you ever found yourself waffling on a decision, unable to choose between a multitude of options?
You’re asked which criteria is the most important to you, and you can’t decide between them.
Call it indecisive but you’re also falling into one big mental trap. And its probably sapping your creativity along with it. Not to mention your ability to get things done. Let me teach you how to break this pattern.
Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I have to respond to ALL of these messages because they are ALL important.”
Or, I have to serve every customer, because “every customer is important.”
Or, I need to call ALL of my friends because “all of my friends are important.”
If everything is important, nothing is important.
When we say that something is “important,” we are saying that it has more worth, more value, carries more weight then the other things you are comparing it to.
When we can’t let go of anything, it all just piles up and creates a mess in our lives.
The same is true for email, and you’d be surprised how many people are losing precious hours in their inbox.
So if every message in your inbox is of critical importance requiring a response, then none of the messages in your inbox are important. They are all on the same level. No one is more worthy of your time and attention than the next.
When I help clients get their email under control, I perform what I call a “clutter bust” (courtesy of Brooks Palmer) on their inbox.
And what I’m faced with 9 out of 10 times is an inbox with hundreds or thousands of messages in it. Sheepishly, the client says “I don’t know what I should keep or delete, so I never move anything out of my inbox” (no wonder they can never find anything).
They are suffering from “everything is important” syndrome.
A salesman called me last week trying to sell his development services. He told me, “I’ve been pitching this work since the late 90′s, when people were still trying to figure out email.”
I told him, people are still trying to figure out email. And failing. The result is that we all get more of it, respond to more of it, and get even more in return.
And this email chaos spreads to the rest of their lives. On a deep psychological level, it promotes the inability to let go of things that are unimportant.
In other words, we lose our ability to prioritize. But more disastrously, when everything is important nothing that is actually important gets done.
I invite you to look in your inbox, address book, facebook notifications page, closet, or wherever items pile up. Really ask yourself, what is truly important here?
You may be surprised with your answer.
The cure is to force yourself to make a choice. File some papers. Donate some old clothes. Delete some emails.
Taking action is contagious, and once you start deciding what stays and what goes, it becomes easier. Where you used to let messages sit in your inbox for a day or two to decide what to do with it, you take action the first time you read it.
When you move the unimportant out of plain sight you can focus on what really matters.
Note from Jonathan: This post was written by Ethan Waldman, who just released a guide to getting your inbox to zero, and keeping it there. It goes off the market tomorrow at midnight. If you want to take advantage of it, and finally get your email under control, I highly recommend that you join his course.
When you do, please email me your receipt at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you Reclaim Your Dreams as a bonus.
photo courtesy of pdenker
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