Put a Stop to Your Inbox Managing Your Time

Don’t Know About You, But My Inbox Has Taken Control!

It’s Sunday night around 10:30 pm. I’m taking one last look at my inbox before the new week starts. “What??” I scream. “159 emails in my inbox? It can’t be!” But it was. It often is that and worse. And it’s out of control at my hand. I allow my inbox to control my time.

How do I let it happen? By subscribing to this newsletter and the next one. Each tells me they will make me a better writer. Don’t we all want to be better at our craft? But that’s not all I subscribe to. Tempt me with platform building, social media expertise, writing courses, how to topics for writers, and I’ll subscribe.

And there are the emails that come from places like WordPress (my platform here), BlueHost (my site host), Google+ and Google Business, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Hootsuite, MailerLite, and the list goes on. They all want to make me aware of improvements or upgrades to make their service better for me. And all of a sudden, I’m buried in unread emails.

What Do You to Regain Control of Your Inbox?

I turned to my friend Google to try to solve my problem. Perhaps a little reading (in my spare time!) on the subject of too many emails would help. What I learned is: Everybody has a system they want you to believe is the best system ever devised to keep your inbox empty. Okay, okay! Enough is enough! Everybody seems to have a solution to every problem.

Out of all the ideas Google coughed up, I decided I’m comfortable with the one I’m using currently. I’ll explain how it works below. But first, I want to say you need to be certain you want to make changes in your email handling before you start. Otherwise, it’s going to be a hard journey. Maybe some redoing and undoing, which could be more frustrating than what you experience now.

How I Manage My Inbox.

We have been Comcast customers for years now. Although we have our gripes and complaints, when they make a change we grumble and it serves us well anyway. One feature in the email service I appreciate is the ability to use colored flags. Below is a screenshot of my inbox showing several colored flags.

The flags you see denote the email’s status. Red means immediate attention required. The purple tags relate to book reviews coming up. Light blue is an indicator that this should be read before others when I have reading time. There are other colors in my “crayon box:” orange = urgent follow-up, and yellow = no urgency follow-up. Other colors are available but not in use.

When I sense my inbox is crowded and my “tenants” aren’t happy, I sort my emails by “color,” giving me an overview of what needs to receive my attention. If an email not flagged is more than 3 weeks old, I take a quick look and either delete it or file it away in one of my email folders (see above at left margin). Note the use of a hashtag (#) with the top folders under my folders. These folders represent emails I move routinely from inbox to folder without opening them.

This method works well for me. For it to work for you, your email provider must have a way for you to mark emails, such as the flags I use. If that is not the case, you’ll need to design another plan or use one from the links I provide below.

One of my biggest stumbling blocks.

Remember all those people I mentioned in the second paragraph above? The ones who have a better way to build a platform, want to teach you how to be a better writer, who have the latest greatest book on social media and how to manage it, and on and on.

It’s often tempting to subscribe to some of these people, especially when you’re in a low place and looking for an easy way to remedy a problem you’re having. After a while, you find yourself with this inbox stuffed like a turkey on Thanksgiving. Do yourself a favor. Get rid of the newsletters and emails that are not benefitting you as a writer. Use that “unsubscribe” link. If you’re not receiving information or material that enhances your writing life, save the action of deleting the email for another task.

Now to Some Potentially Helpful Links.

Declare Email Bankruptcy and Get a Fresh Start by Michael Hyatt

How to Manage Your Email for Inbox Zero by Gretchen Louise

How to Keep Your Inbox at Zero by Caitlin Muir

4 Tips to Better Manage Your Emails by Jacqueline Whitmore

Seven Ways to Manage Email So It Doesn’t Manage You by Jeff Weiner


Perhaps you have a method of keeping your inbox clean or managing so that it’s not managing you. If so, please share your methods with us in the comment section below.

 

 

 

7 Things I’ve Learned About Myself from Social Media

Last spring I, along with others, took a Lenten break from social media. When I returned, I wanted to know more about my presence on social media, including my blog. That’s when I turned to Frances Caballo and engaged her to check my social media sites as well as my website.
The results of Frances’s assessment provided good information, both positive and some not so positive. Eager to see what I could do with her suggestions, I moved ahead full tilt. And as reported in this post, I noticed some rising numbers and growth changes.

Frances even provided a schematic or schedule for posting to the social media sites I use. I have worked hard at prescheduling using Buffer and Hoot Suite. Of course, before you start scheduling, there is the step called curation, which also takes time. After curating and prescheduling, I felt an overwhelming strike against my writing time. Not only against my writing time but against my ability to keep up with certain blogs where I believe my community contacts are strong.

As a result, I’ve learned some things about myself. Most of them I already knew; some of them I didn’t realize until now.

Flickr via Sagle
Flickr via Sagle

1. I don’t like numbers, and I dislike counting them even less. I never liked math in any form growing up. I still don’t care for math which leads me to my newest discovery about self: it’s all about numbers. Not only do I not like numbers, I like analyzing and counting them even less.

I have heard all the arguments about numbers of followers, social analytics, and platform building. But I’m not sure I agree totally with their arguments. It seems those who enjoy social media and do well at it, and therefore accumulate the necessary numbers for a proper platform, are number lovers and counters. They enjoy the thrill of the chase. Everyone seems in the big race to see who can get the most followers, friends, likes, shares, and on and on and on. None of this holds any great interest for me.

I want to spend my days writing, not counting and analyzing numbers.

2. I’m an introvert who does not like crowds any better online than at a social gathering. Yes, I am an introvert. I’m happily married to an introvert. The good news is I can make myself “perform” at a social gathering doing the mix and mingle dance, but I don’t like it. My husband says I’m better at this than he is. On social media, the party or gathering includes people who follow you who have no profile info posted, the ones who want to sell you Twitter followers, SEO and marketing experts, software application outlets, and the beat goes on. I equate these to the dinner hour marketing phone calls we receive. I prefer to spend any time I have beyond writing communicating with those writers and readers I’ve come to know blog-to-blog outside the confines and requirements of social media. Lately, I feel I have lost touch with these fellow writers. And yes, spending time with them means I’m safely hidden away in my writing corner at home with my laptop and my kitty.

Dragonfly Coffee House
Dragonfly Coffee House

3. Lest you worry about me socially, I do have a few writing friends I gather with personally here in Portland and workshops I enjoy attending. Through the time social media extracts from my days, I had less time to spend with these people. I quickly learned I preferred being with these few than with the masses on social media. Sometimes it’s over lunch, over coffee, or browsing one of our great bookstores in Portland. We talk writing, share our work, and even give time over to fostering friendship between us. It’s the way I like to do business and friendship.

4. Some of the time I spend on social media detracts from my continuing education in the art of writing, and I consider ongoing education prime to my efforts. With the writing community available to me here and just down I-5 South, I have so many opportunities. It is often difficult to choose which one to take advantage of first. There are multiple Meetup Groups for writers in Portland, as well as Willamette Writers and Oregon Writers Colony, with Indigo Editing and PDX Writers offering workshops and classes, and people like Gigi Rosenberg, author and artist coach, who have found Portland to be the place they want to craft and teach (more about Gigi in #5 below). With all these entities offering so much, how can I spend time on social media and not increase my knowledge of my craft? Personally, I can’t, and I won’t.

5. A short time ago Gigi Rosenberg wrote an eye-opening and inspiring blog post, Be Your Own CEO. This post made an impact on my feelings about how I spend my days. In the post, Gigi talks about one of the assignments she gives when coaching artists. The assignment comes in two parts as you’ll see when reading her post. I decided to work through the assignment, knowing already what the answer would be.  Mine is the same as Gigi’s. And this is what she had to say:

For me, the one thing is to finish this revision of my memoir. Everything else in my life needs to support that one mission. Because I am the CEO of Me, Inc., and what I say, goes. …

Everything else is going to revolve around that one thing I want. Because I want it and I’m the boss of what I want.

Now, I know what you’re saying: That’s pretty selfish. Not really. We all want something, and most often we want it badly. So badly we are willing to do almost anything to get it. Why shouldn’t a writer, musician, artist, aspiring doctor or lawyer, other professionals, star athletes not do the same?

6. None of the above have mentioned my life outside of writing.  In order to cram everything into a 24-hour period with 5-6 hours of sleep each night, I have ignored my husband, necessary work on our small businesses, cleaning our home, cooking at my best level for two meals each day, making proper time for personal devotionals and prayers, forsaken my music participation with my husband, and for the most part have given up my love of needlework (quilting and knitting). Cutting out these things meant I had enough time for social media, the blog, and some of the book. Nothing about that seems quite fair, at least to me. There should be an hour or two each day to enjoy another creative outlet. And I’m going to do just that. Let’s not forget we should all be committed to our health and physical well-being, and I’ll admit I’ve been neglectful of mine of late.

7. The decision is made, and no one can change it. I am going to spend the bulk of my waking hours writing–my memoir, short creative nonfiction, blog posts. Also, I will take back my domestic duties (which I enjoy) and clean my home, do the laundry, and cook decent meals and in good weather help Farmer Meyer with the outdoor work. I intend to make sure nothing is left undone about the two small businesses Bob and I run. Church and daily prayer and devotion will take a greater priority. This is what I want to do, and I choose to do it.

Via QuotesCover
Via QuotesCover

I know there will be naysayers about the time needed for social media. Others will debate whether or not a person has to count numbers or not. Some will argue that I’ll never sell a single book without platform based in a grand social media presence. Even more will disagree with the time I spent on social media providing enough time to pick back up the chores at home and the things I do for others. And there may be some who will find something to say I haven’t even thought about yet.

They are entitled to their opinions. That’s why we choose to do all we can to keep this country free. However, as we used to say when we were kids, “Nobody is the boss of me!”

No, I’m the boss in this office, and I get to choose what priorities I set. I’m also allowed to choose which tasks I don’t need or want to do, especially if I find them hindering my best efforts in my chosen creative outlet, writing.

I hope you’ll find a moment to join in discussion and conversation below.

Planning Ahead for 2015 While Building in Flexibility

If you read my last post on January 1, you know what happened to my 2014 goals. When I sat down to set out my goals for 2015, I kept in mind what last year did to my plans. I kept focused on what I committed to in that same post on January 1. My goals for 2015 are simpler and shorter than last year’s, beginning with a focus on the mandate I set for myself of facing frustrations and interruptions with flexibility.

Photo by ScottieT812 
Photo by ScottieT812 

While I will never meet the physical flexibility seen here, I realize I need more attention to flexibility during my daily scheduling.

Goals for 2015 include:

Goal #1:

As mentioned above, more flexibility in dealing with daily demands and schedules. I have more than writing to attend to each day: family relationships, preparing meals, household chores, laundry, errands, exercise, and professional reading.

In order to get these all done, I need to realize I cannot commit every day 100% to writing. In 2015, I intend to select one day from Monday through Friday and devote it to my book. The schedule will be kept free of distractions.

Goal #2: Thanks to the artists and writers cooperative where I had registered for a writing class held September-November, I will be able to restart that class in April. Surgery and recovery interrupted my attendance, and the group was fair in extending a large part of my registration fees to join back up in January or April. I chose April to ensure I was fully healed. Returning and finishing this class is important to me.

Goal #3: Work diligently at building platform as I anticipate completing, publishing and marketing my memoir. My newsletter has gained some momentum but not what I’d like to have seen so I need to educate myself on how to increase readership. I’m also leaning more toward using Twitter as my primary social media outlet, and I’ll need to come up to speed there. Sitting on a shelf nearby is the idea for another eBook for my newsletter subscribers, but that is not a definite goal for 2015.

Goal #4: With completion of the class addressed above, I hope to have finished the second draft of my memoir. It is my further hope that I will be able to work with my class instructor in finalizing that draft and readying it for editing and later publication. However, this is not a deadline item and will never be as there are too many changes that can occur in the editorial and marketing process.

Goal #5: In 2015, I want to increase my participation in this writing community I so thoroughly enjoy. My ability to get around and read every blog post has fallen by the wayside, and I’m looking to find a better method for reading and commenting on others’ work. I also want to continue my efforts in supporting other writers by reviewing their memoirs here and other genre on Goodreads and Amazon.

These are all the 2015 goals I intend to set out in black and white. As I said in my last post, there is only one me in each day I’m given and only so much time in that one day to work at the things calling my name. To attempt more would be the closest thing to implosion of a human I can think of at the moment.

I leave you with a quote from William Edgar Stafford, Poet Laureate of Oregon from 1975-1990:

I embrace emerging experience. I participate in discovery. I am a butterfly. I am not a butterfly collector. I want the experience of the butterfly.

Stafford’s words speak to the way I want to live 2015: emerging, discovering, experiencing.

How will 2015 play out for you? Have you set goals, made resolutions, or cast a list of to do’s in stone yet? Share how you’re forecasting your new year.

5 Ways to Create Balance Between Your Writing Life and the Rest of Your Life

In the last issue of my newsletter, I included a post on achieving balance between your writing life and the crush of holiday festivities and responsibilities. But what about other times? Don’t writers need balance in their lives during the rest of the year?
The answer is YES! The larger question, however, may lie deep in the “how to” part of the balancing equation.

Via Flickr; photo by Dorina Böczögő
Via Flickr; photo by Dorina Böczögő

Much like the gymnast in this image achieving balance is no easy task. For the gymnast, it means hours of training, concentration on each move, and maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle. This adds up to total commitment on her part.

To stay healthy in body and mind, our gymnast likely still has a life outside gymnastics. So her commitment is to balance both in the gym and away from it.

Here are a few ways that we as writers can create balance in our lives like our focused gymnast friend:

  • Begin now reviewing your accomplishments in 2014. Follow that up with establishing your goals for 2015.
  • Once  you have your goals established, fill in an editorial calendar with blog posts, podcasts, guest posts and interviews, and whatever applies to your writing.
  • As part of your editorial calendar, be sure to leave some time open for social networking, i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. This time should also include reading and commenting on blog posts by those you follow regularly.
  • Now it’s important to insert time for working out, going to the gym, taking a walk with the dog, yoga, whatever you use to relax and get your mind and body in a state of contemplation for writing.
  • Don’t forget to plug in some time for your family or friends. This is all important for you as much as it is for them. You can’t be a writing hermit forever, although those days when you can it feels really good, doesn’t it?

I can hear what you’re saying: “She has no idea what I have to do every day.” “When am I going to get the grocery shopping done?” “What about the laundry and taking the kids to after school activities?” And more!

I know what you’re saying. I used to work full-time and more, am a mother and wife, participated in volunteer activities, and ran the ever popular athletic bus route. And I know the sense of pressure the every day demands of life can bring to your already packed schedule.

Nothing is written in stone, i.e. concrete.
Nothing is written in stone, i.e. concrete.

Nothing I suggest here is written in stone. These are just that … suggestions. Massage them, manipulate them, keep what you can use, and toss the rest. Add your own ideas. What I have offered is how I manage my time and calendaring.

For example, as I’ll be sharing in a post coming up in a few days, I set a goal for myself that by the end of December 2014 (only a few days away), I would have finished my memoir manuscript. I cannot mark that off my goals or to do list as completed. Why?

In December 2013, my husband injured his back and was completely disabled until surgery in March 2014. At the same time, I was suffering from a respiratory issue, and life around home got miserably behind.

I had to clear my calendar, push things out, forget about deadlines and guest posts, etc. I had only one focus and that was taking care of my husband, myself and our home.

Adjustments can and often are made to anything we set up. Do not think that any calendar, goal list, or deadline is always firm.

Remember ~ 

Via Google Images
Via Google Images