It is very easy to let the daily grind get on top of you. It’s something that we can lose control of so easily. Elizabeth says that she regularly sees her inbox creep from a manageable 100 emails to 600 or so in a very short period of time leading to stress and worry about whether something has been missed.
One of Elizabeth’s 2020 goals is to get down to zero inbox at the end of each day within a 4 week period. It might seem odd that this is still an issue after 15 years in practice but it has been for some time and a daily struggle and one that Elizabeth is no longer willing to put up with. This four week goal will involve allocating and attending to tasks regularly and ensuring that no email is left not actioned or unallocated at the end of the day.
So why is this a key goal for the first part of 2020?
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear sets out a straightforward four step process to reset and keep good habits. James talks about the satisfaction that comes from making progress and in particular having visual measures to provide clear evidence of progress. Visual measures both reinforce behaviour and provide that immediate sense of satisfaction.
James gives the example of a new employee to a bank, determined to make a certain number of sales calls each day. This young man moves a paperclip from one jar to the next to ensure that he achieved his goal of a certain number of sales calls per day and visually takes note of the progress.
Elizabeth’s goal is similar and very visual. That white space that comes from a completed inbox will give great satisfaction and a sense of achievement.
It goes hand-in-hand with another principle that we try to adopt wherever possible – a tidy desk at the end of the day and more importantly “tomorrow’s list today”. One of the steps in James’ process is to “make it easy”. Make your new habit easy to keep. Put your gym gear out the night before or your yoga gear and mat in the car.
While you are reading this, like the rest of us, you are probably at home in self-isolation due to Covid-19. These principles and those that you find amongst these pages are relevant and applicable now more than ever in circumstances where we are all working from home.
Reviewing or writing your task list for tomorrow will make tomorrows tasks easier. Tidying up your desk so that it is ready to go for work will make it easier to get started. Clearing your email on a daily basis will ensure that you are not stuck in the overwhelm of a crowded inbox and simply able to focus on tomorrows tasks when the day starts. From a mental health perspective you are actively taking steps to quarantine your work at work hopefully leading to less 3am worry sessions of things you might have missed or all the things on your to do list.
There are more advanced productivity tips regarding email that we’ll cover later but take the time to think about what one or two key steps you could take to make your tomorrow easier. Create a way to visually measure your progress – it can be as simple as a tick on your wall calendar.