I'm going to start by going off on a tangent...
Do you unlock your phone, take one look at the red circle and number on your inbox and break out in a cold sweat? Do you feel anxious, shaky and genuinely uncomfortable when you think about the number of emails sitting in your inbox?
Ugh, I’m getting that feeling just sitting here. As a recovering Inbox Anxiety Addict I am 100% with you. I remember being so overwhelmed with work at a new job I was doing, I ignored a series of emails from a client because I didn’t have the answers and didn’t want to get yelled at. It got to the point where they escalated and it sorta went postal. I was told I had a self confidence problem (I don’t, I had a ‘there’s too many fucking emails in my inbox and I’ve got too much to do, and I’m not coping’ problem).
So I’m with you, 1000%.
I’m a listener of things, I’m that annoying person who looks like she’s not paying the slightest bit of attention to something, but I really am. I see and hear all manner of things, and file them away, much like Tess McGill did in Working Girl. I then like to connect dots and work out if there’s something that I can do. One of my strengths is a strategic mind that’s very good at solving problems.
Before Christmas last year, I started to see a fair few people commenting on the size of their inbox. Specifically, their unread emails. With one person I follow on Instagram saying that the sheer number of unread emails was going to cause them undue anxiety and worry on Christmas Day. That kinda upset me, ok, more than kinda. Mainly because I’m of the opinion that the volume of unread emails in your inbox should not be causing you to feel like that. It’s a shitty thing, that I think has in part something to do with the culture of ‘Inbox Zero’ (designed by a man, ladies).
Every time I hear someone saying they’ve got Inbox Zero, with a smug authority, what I’m really hearing is “this is a competition and I’m better than you are for having nothing in my inbox”.
It has become an anxiety inducing competition that if we don’t get to it, we’ve somehow failed.
Given that it was designed by a man, in a business setting, who doesn’t have the crap that you have to deal with on a daily basis, trying to get to the mythical zero is like finding a unicorn.
I know, I know, you’re probably asking me right now if I’ve got inbox zero.
Let me explain. I have precisely no unread emails at the moment. But my inbox is not at zero. Far from it.
Do I have emails I absolutely ignore? hell yeah (normally from my accountant).
A months ago, I realised the constant pinging on my watch, or the alerts on my phone were causing me a considerable amount of anxiety. Like heart pounding in my chest kinda anxiety.
I had to sit down and ask myself some long hard questions about why it was causing this. I couldn’t come up with a single reason, other than I found it too overwhelming. Lots of pings, lots of noise (actual and emotional) and lots of stress.
So I had to ask myself, this:
“Emma, is anyone going to die if you don’t read that email or notification? Is anyone going to die if you don’t respond to that message, right now?”
I can tell you – the answer was no.
Unless you work in a profession where someone will die if you don’t respond, your lack of response to an email, message or alert, simply because someone demands it of you, will not kill them.
So I started taking some small but necessary steps to reduce the noise.
I will caveat right now that I didn’t have an overflowing inbox, but I was taking far too long when I was responding to emails. I think too much at times.
I am, absolutely, 100% going to share all my tips, tricks, hacks and solutions with you for managing these things.
Why the leap from inbox zero to FAQs?
The first in the series is going to be looking at FAQs – which I know seems a bit backwards, but there’s method in my madness.
Here’s the thing, if your inbox is overflowing because you run a business, I suspect your inbox makes up the following volumes:
To fix a leak you need to turn the mains off
If you’ve ever had to fix a leak you need to turn the mains water supply off, or your dripping pipe becomes a flooded house.
So you’re going to need to do the same when it comes to your email. That big fat 50% of annoying correspondence is where the rich seam of information lies that will help you to turn off the mains supply.
We’re going to need to go through that stack of correspondence to find the answers to all those questions that are being asked.
Once we’ve sorted out your FAQ closet, we can move onto the practical stuff, I promise!