3 Ways To Own Your Email

I don't know about you, but the overwhelming email culture in both the non-profit and business sector (so I hear from friends) is out of control. Three weeks ago, I became ill and spent two days away from my email prior to returning to work after a weekend. Though I knew for sure that I would have some unread email to filter through, I did not expect my total unread emails to reach what I considered a depressing 387 on a Monday morning. Granted some of these messages were from the previous week, but too much damage had been done in my short absence for my own comfort. After spending more than half of my day responding to these messages I did something I've never done before. I courageously declared email bankruptcy.  Highlighting all of the messages in my inbox that had not yet been filed I calmly and cautiously pressed delete and held my breath for a few seconds waiting for a helicopter to suddenly appear outside of the window and a tactical team to sweep into the office and detain me for violating some complicated unknown law regarding national security. It never happened... To my surprise my world did not suddenly come crashing down and I exhaled releasing one of the heaviest work related burdens I carry, email overload.

Feeling good I then took my war against excessive  email one step further. I posted a permanent automatic email response  message with three fundamentally radical ideas that I hope will spread like wildfire among my colleagues.

Do you find yourself sometimes being owned by your email? Well you don't have to suffer anymore. Turn the tables around and begin your personal journey toward owning your email with three suggestions for all of those dear friends and colleagues who just can't seem to avoid reaching out to you.

1) Abandon the body and use the subject line. Suggest that task related messages focus solely on the task. Tell your colleagues to skip the inquiries into the quality of your weekend and get straight to the point by simply stating what they want from you in the subject line of the email. They don't need to write anything in the body of the email itself. When possible suggest they be as short as possible and simply state "Send updated project plan."

2) Phone a friend. Unless you're a part of that microscopic segment of our nation's population who don't believe in modern technology and suspect cell phones are just another way for the government to keep tabs on us (which they are by the way), you have a phone and that phone allows you to have quick conversations that avoid the back and forth steps one usually has to take to facilitate a conversation over email.  Ask that when feasible your colleagues simply pick up the damn phone and give you a ring.

3) The 200 Character Challenge. Twitter gives us 140 characters. Be nice and throw in an extra 60 characters. When the message can't be summed up in a subject line, ask your colleagues to be as short as possible and send you "tweet like" emails. To accomplish this they may need to cut out some words and write incomplete/improper sentence (Ex: need to analyze data for upcoming meeting. would like your assistance. send times of availability.) Come on! This is our chance as adults to keep it simple and stick it to that mean, rigid English teacher we had in high school.

These steps are easy and while they may not cure the problems you see with your own email culture, I can assure you that my own experience tells me that they're a step in the right direction. Best of luck!

3 Ways That Minding Your Damn Business Can Change Your Life

As I was walking through my apartment last night, I was wrestling with the complexities of a friendship I'm currently managing. The details of the situation aren't at all significant so I'll save you some time and energy and jump to the point which is that this most recent complexity has made me reflect on past relationships (using this term in the most general sense, not exclusively romantic) and I discovered that in many ways the problems I've experienced—whether they've been insecurities, frustration, anxiety, anger, or regret—have often came about because I wasn't minding my damn business. Chances are if this aha moment (thanks Oprah) is true for me it's true for other people as well. So as I continue to reflect on what this all means for me, I thought I'd take a moment to share with you just how minding your damn business more often may change your life.

1. Gossip: You can pretend to be a saint if you want to, but let's be real. At some point in your life you too have participated in gossip. Either you were talking about someone behind their back or passing on a story you heard about someone. In some cases you yourself may have been the subject of gossip which, understandably so, put you in an awkward situation in which you felt obligated to address the issue/defend yourself. These circumstances typically bring about drama and distract us from the far more important things that are or could be happening in our lives. It seems that no matter what you do or where you go, someone will always have something to say about you so why waste your time worrying about and/or creating the nonsense? Next time you are the subject or facilitator of gossip, just think of the headache and potential heartbreak you could save yourself if you decide to take a rain check and mind your damn business.

2. Waiting for permission to heal: I'll given you a break from the honesty and ground this one in my own experience.  So I have been in a few relationships that didn't work out. Someone disappeared. They stopped calling. They suddenly weren't sure if they were ready for a relationship although I'm "amazing" and "brilliant" and "beautiful" and my favorite "You're everything that I have ever wanted. I'm just not sure I deserve you yet..." Can you believe this? Of course you can! You've heard it too! Oh wait, we're focusing on me. Oops. Right. So when these situations have emerged in the past, I've searched for an explanation. I wanted to know what happened. What did I do wrong? Was it something I said? Was there someone else? Well you know what? I never actually got any answers and instead of moving forward and healing, I harbored anger toward romance and often times when someone else came along tugging on my legs—even if gently—I wasn't willing to take a step forward because I was standing still waiting for closure to come. Guess what; It never showed up... Often times people don't give you an explanation because they don't believe they should have to or that you at least deserve one. Want closure and permission to heal from these situations? I have a tip. Mind your damn business. Why they didn't want you ain't none of your business.

3. If it isn't your life, don't live it: Here's a tough one. Love...it's a tricky bastard because when you love someone you give them a space in your life from which their actions and words can cause you pain and worry. Many of us have friends and family members for whom we care very deeply and occasionally someone will come into your life for whom you want the very best. Sometimes the problem is that what we want for others is more than what they want for themselves. So what do we do? We lose sleep. We sacrifice money, time, energy, care and sometimes even our well-being to ensure that we do all we can to convince them to live the life that we believe they deserve. But in trying to force our horses to drink the water to which we have led them, we typically hurt ourselves and in many cases we damage our relationships with those we love. By all means we should care for others, but when our care for them begins to diminish our care of ourselves we have to pause and ask ourselves if we are pouring our precious wine into a porous barrel and hoping each time that it will stay. Sometimes when you neglect your life because you're busy trying to live someone else's, you have to learn how to mind your damn business.

Can you imagine other ways in which minding your business might be helpful? If so, please share below! You never know who might benefit from your thoughts.