Friday, 2 March 2012

Minimalism - inbox and stuff

I am a slave to email. It is my communication medium of choice for both receiving and sending. Unlike a phone call, email less unintrusive because I can read it when I'm not busy with something else (yes, I can ignore my phone, but I don't during the day). It is also a format I can keep as a reference or to mull over. And, unlike a phone call, it is there in black and white, not in-one-side-and-out-the-other like phone calls.

I'm compulsive about email and so I read 'em all and I answer 'em all. I especially like to answer all of the day's emails before I go to bed because if I don't, they disappear under the new day's messages.

Last week or so, on The Minimalists blog, I read a post about inbox minimalism, which appeals because I'm constantly battling to keep my inbox under control. I've got filters and an extensive filing structure (this is the problem with being freelance - many different projects) and I aim to delete as I go but before I know it my general inbox leaps from 300 messages to, recently, over 900!

I also like to hang on to Sent Items for a while because I often refer to these. For the past couple of months my approach at the beginning of each month is to delete a month of old sent emails - from four to six months back. Boom - that's 1000 emails cleaned just like that every month.

On Wednesday night I did a BIG email clean out. I trashed dozens of folders from old projects and clients; this was probably good 4000 emails. It is like clearing cupboards - very, very satisfying and cleansing. I've also added a few more filters and I've been unsubscribing from mailers for weeks. How come I don't subscribe to anything and yet I unsubscribe from two to five lists a day!?

I'm not sure what to do about my email while I'm away in Thailand. Sure, I use an autoreply but already on the flight home I begin having palpitations about having to catch up when I get back. Marketing guru Seth Godin addressed this some time ago in this post '8 things I wish everyone knew about email' where he mentions a chap who uses an autoreply that says, "I'm on vacation until x/x/2010. When I get back, I'm going to delete all the email that arrived while I was gone, so if this note is important, please send it to me again after that date". Perhaps it is time for me to try it and this does make sense because most emails are time-relevant so most that come in when I'm away will not longer be valid by the time I get back...

I like the whole minimalist concept because I don't like being surrounded by stuff, especially items that I don't use often (or not at all). But I keep collecting things around me. I've got banners lying in the front door entrance (they arrived last week for the orienteering schools league - luckily they go on Monday) and a pile of cones (also for the league; these go to schools) and magazines (I'm just not getting to them so they're piling up) and all kinds of other things for various projects. I'm in a big-time trashing phase, which is great for my karma. This weekend is going to be a fun one.

These 'The Minimalists' blog guys, I like their concepts and they have a lot of good tips to achieving this state of 'nothingness' nirvana. But, these guys are not adventure racers with gear for multiple disciplines. I'd like to see them dealing with headlamps, mandatory equipment, backpacks, paddles, PFD, bike stuff...

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