Working From Home, Tip #8: Email and Social Media

Email and social media is a never-ending game. When writing Unleashing Your Creativity, I felt so snowed under by email. I discovered it was like playing Whack-A-Mole: I could keep swinging the hammer all day long and never really accomplish anything. I’d work a while, then ‘take a break’ and check my email. Then I’d get caught up in a rabbit hole of replies, responses, projects and unsolicited spam. Instead of recharging and clearing my head, I’d end up more frustrated and creatively wiped out. Then I’d trudge back to working on my book, scattered and less creative than before. Ugh.

So, I changed the rules. Unless I’m waiting for a specific email response to something, I only check email twice per day now.

Social media is the same way. Unless I’m doing research or business-related activities I only set aside certain times of the day to ‘just see’ what’s going on on social media.

And let’s be honest, if you wanna keep your mental health in check, some of you need to severely limit the time you’re spending trolling social media. With so much political and racial upheaval going on, you might need to take a break for a while and get your mind right.

(Or, at the very least, make sure the types of social media conversations you’re having are positive, inspirational ones like the Impactivist Group.

I think of email and social media as ‘playing Whack-A-Mole because it just never stops. No matter how many emails you delete, they keep on coming. Every time you respond to one, it’s like it’s an invitation for the recipient to send you another one. So I only check it once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. Rarely will I check it multiple times during the day unless I’m looking for something specific to a deadline or a project.

Reality Check: A lot of people check email and social when they don’t know what else to do. Amirite? Or amirite?

The beautiful things I’ve learned about email specifically are these:

  1. It’s never an emergency. No matter how persuasively it’s written it is or how it makes you feel, it’s not. If it were, you’d have gotten a phone call or a knock on the door.
  2. Don’t ever read it unless I’m going to deal with it. Either take action on it, respond to it, delegate it, or delete it. Don’t waste energy pretending to deal with it over and over until you finally hit the delete button. Do it and move on.
  3. If I set aside 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening to ONLY focus on emails, I can keep my inbox under control and not play Whack-A-Mole. I can get my life back.

Bonus Tip: Since there are no real emergency emails, when I used to receive something out of the blue from a colleague or business partner that says, “Hey, Tom! I need X…. and I have to have it by noon”, or something similar, it generally made me feel anxious. Stressed. Even resentful at times. So, I adapted this response from mentor and coach Brendon Bruchard, and simply copy-and-paste it from a document on file, and send it guilt free. It simply says:

Dear ________.

Thank you so much for your request. As you can imagine, I receive lots of requests each month and the tasks or projects I’m currently involved in this week were scheduled weeks or months ago. I’m sure you understand that I have to do my best to honor those commitments that were made long before your request today.

Can you give me the absolute drop-dead deadline on this? Like, the day in which, if you don’t have it, we will all lose our jobs, our children will starve in the street, the world will descend into economic chaos and zombies will take over our city? Please let me know that date, and I’ll be happy to see if there’s a way I can honor your request.

Thank you so much!

With gratitude

Tom

I’m not even kidding.

And I’ve even gotten some replies back that say something like, “Oh… lol! It’s cool, man. I know you’re busy. How about by the 15th?”

And at that point, I’m excited to help because I can deliver my best without losing control of my life. And I’m not playing a losing game of Whack-A-Mole.

P.S. Feel free to copy and paste my email into your own as an experiment. What’s the worst that could happen??

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