week #9 in an experimental year (aka the battle between Ben & Anne)…

One of my rituals for each new year is to choose a word for the coming year.  My word for 2011 is EXPERIMENT. To support my EXPERIMENTAL focus, I commit to post the results of a new experiment each Sunday of this year.

Many of my friends are masterful at managing their incoming mail – both snail & electronic.  My friend Wanda swears she only touches snail mail once – ONCE!  That amazes me.   She and my other pals inspired me to expand my ongoing quest to live a more organized life into my own mail handling intentions

This week my focus was on e.mail.   Every day of this week, I emptied my Inbox every single time I checked my e.mail.

That might not seem like a big deal to many of you.  Believe me, it WAS for me.   Over the years, I’ve developed my own quirky method of managing e.mail.   I normally receive 150-200 non-spam e.mails a day.   So I normally scan/read/label/save/trash/archive/flag for later/respond each day.   One day a week, I’ll go back and cull through the flagged mail and then start over.  My Inbox was never EMPTY though.

That changed this week.  I began by spending a few hours completely emptying my Inbox.  This was a frightening and exhilarating experience.   I kept hearing these two voices:

  • one kept droning, “What if you can’t find it when you need it?” (he sounded a lot like Ben Stein’s teacher character from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off);
  • the other reminded me, “Hey, you’re thinking this through.  Is the world gong to end if something ends up in the wrong place?”(she sounded a lot like I imagine one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott sounding).

In the end, Anne won out.   From the moment I sat back and stared – AMAZED – by the site of an empty Inbox, I was hooked.   I felt free.  I felt accomplished.  I felt like I was better honoring the people who’d sent me e.mails.  I felt like I was better honoring myself.  I swear, I think I heard butterflies fluttering around the room.

In short, it was a feeling I wanted again – often.

So I’ve stuck to it.  And ya know what, it’s gotten easier and even MORE fun.  Ben hasn’t shown-up in days.  Neither has Anne, for that matter.  It’s just feeling more natural to me.

THIS is an experiment that’s changed my life – in a very good way.

How do you manage your e.mail?

Have any simple-seeming experiments changed your life lately?


9 thoughts on “week #9 in an experimental year (aka the battle between Ben & Anne)…

  1. That Ferris Bueller guy would be screaming at me if I tried to empty my inbox! Yesterday I spent more than an hour culling about a hundred non spammy ones. Now I’ve got 99 and I accept the Lisa challenge (even though you threw no gauntlet down)! Off to empty!

  2. I, too, got rid of/filed over 100 last night. It felt good, but the inbox isn’t empty. That feels risky and exciting when I really think about it. I’ll keep workin’ on it. Thanks for the prod, Lisa.
    How DID you get organized?
    And please don’t tell me one day at a time.

  3. this is a daily battle for me!!! I get to an empty inbox about every quarter! I SOOOO need to do it daily . I had already designated today as a day to deal with email from home…. you will be my inspiration…. you are my role model….. this blog entry is now my accountablity partner. I’ll let you all know how I do…..and if you don’t hear from me, it probably means I drowned in my own emails!!! 🙂

  4. Your experiment challenge is getting the better of me today. I have been dealing with my email inbox for over three hours today and I’m still drowning.

    I am SOOO trying to listen to the “touch it once” advice, but it is hard…….

  5. Accountability is such an important thing.Thanks to your experiment, I emptied out my inbox of over 600 emails! I’m down to it containing under 70 at the moment and I plan to have those out of there by 5pm tomorrow. Working toward an empy email inbox at the end of the work day from here on out! I’m in this experiment with you!!!!

  6. wOw! just when i was thinking THIS was an experiment that NO one could relate to…

    Gloria, Allison & Robin, sending you LOUD cheers in your own e.mail mgt adventure.

    MUST send extra cheers to Judi. sure hope you’ve gotten to enjoy SOME of this glorious day in the midst of your mission.

    THANKS for chiming in!
    don’t worry ya’ll, i won’t e.mail you for updates 🙂

  7. I usually have about 5 – 6 old emails sitting in my inbox. Those are ones of encouragement or “feel good”. I enjoy reading them over and over. There are a couple there for reminders of things that I need to do.

    I accidentally deleted my inbox about a year ago and just felt lost! Of course, it filled back up rapidly, but I had lost some of the special notes I wanted to keep!


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