I’ve used Email Triage many times since I bought it to cope with email overwhelm, before I was working directly with Productive Flourishing. On a practical basis, it’s been a life saver. In addition to the practical aspect, however, it helped me discover several ways of dealing with the emotional aspect of email processing, including the technique I’m going to describe below.
As you already know, a big part of dealing with email is dealing with anxiety. Email Triage did an incredible job of helping me with this — it’s very soothing! — but I noticed that even after I was done, I would still look at my “respond to these” emails and be very nervous about how (and how soon) to respond to them. I was receiving so many important messages on a regular basis that I was suddenly forced to prioritize some and make others wait, rather than being able to focus only on “the important emails” and “the not-so-important emails” — which made me feel anxious and nervous about how to decide what to handle first, even once I’d implemented Charlie’s suggestions.
What I discovered using this over time, however, was that there were two important categories of “response needed” emails for me: Wheelhouse emails, and Peripheral emails. Once I gone through the Email Triage process, I started to think of the remaining items in these two contexts:
- Wheelhouse email, for me, was email sent about projects that I knew involved my highest leverage points. They were sent from contacts who understood what I was best at, and they were associated with tasks that I knew I could do better than anyone else on the planet. The community marketing emails and real people interactions were my Wheelhouse emails; the high-level creative coordination where my partner at Ideaschema was handling the bulk of the artwork were also my Wheelhouse because I could handle that strategy and coordination extremely quickly and easily. And if the email was helping me to accomplish a major mission (or Pick Four goal), I knew it was in my Wheelhouse and it needed to happen first.
- Peripheral email — the rest of the important email in my inbox — was still very important, but not in quite the same way. These would be items that I knew took me a little more time, or weren’t my most efficient or preferred territory. They were areas where I had less overall impact and couldn’t accomplish things quite as quickly or easily. It might be a project I’d taken on before I realized where my leverage was, for instance, or something I enjoyed doing but didn’t specifically help me accomplish a meaningful goal.
While looking at these emails I would note the difference in my head, and I would say to myself, “These matter, but they have to wait a few minutes longer because my Wheelhouse is where my best impact comes from.”
The more impact I want to make in the world, the more I focus on my Wheelhouse emails. Then I come back to the Peripherals once I feel accomplished with the highest leverage items.
Outside the Inbox
This isn’t just about email, which I suspect you’ve guessed. I’ve begun to apply these two contexts to all the tasks I take on and all the opportunities I say ‘yes’ to. If I focus on my Wheelhouse, I’ll have the highest possible leverage for the time I spend. I can help the most people in the most effective ways, get the best projects shipped, hit my deadlines easily and experience the best results I’m capable of generating if I prioritize well.
In the end, you may even want to start saying ‘no’ to opportunities that feel Peripheral and focus on the best Wheelhouse ‘yeses’ you can get. As your time becomes more and more in demand, you may have no other choice! But for now, you know the difference — and the sooner you start implementing a system like this for yourself, the more quickly you’ll find yourself making the impact you’re hoping for.