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?