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How to Avoid Email Bankruptcy: 5 Rules That Work

How to Avoid Email Bankruptcy: 5 Rules That Work
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    The Washington Post recently had an article on email bankruptcy that discussed a number of people who are giving up on email (or just deleting all their old messages) after being buried under the pile of messages. Merlin Mann responded by saying that even bankruptcy isn’t enough to save him:

    A one-time erasure of communication debt would give temporary relief, but the basic challenge remains; the net number of requests for my attention exceed my ability to provide that attention by at least an order of magnitude. And the disparity around my ability to thoughtfully respond to my pile may be ten or more times worse still. The scale is insanely out of whack.

    If you’re one of those people who is drowning in deluge of email, you have options. You don’t need to go as far as declaring email bankruptcy — and declaring yourself incompetent in dealing with the world of technology and business today.

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    We’re going to look at an approach that applies rules to your email processing to help you get out from under the pile, and to help you stay out, no matter how many messages you get a day. But first, let’s look at three principles that will guide us in this approach:


    Principle 1: You don’t need to respond to every email. If you get more than 50 a day (or even hundreds), you can’t possibly.

    Principle 2: Prioritize. If you can’t respond to every email, you must realize that you’ll have to prioritize in order to respond to the important ones. The rest will have to be prioritized too, and the lowest priority will just be given a glance.

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    Principle 3: You can’t do email all day. Admit this to yourself. You have other things to do, more important than email. So only do it at certain times of the day. One of the problems noted in the Post article is that people no longer feel like they’re done working for the day. Well, the only way to feel done for the day is to set a time limit, and when the limit is reached, you’re done. The rest you’ll have to get to tomorrow. Even in the rest of our work lives, we never finish every single task on our to-do list. We work until the 5 o’clock whistle blows, and we go home.

    Using those principles, let’s look at a system of rules to help deal with massive amounts of email:

    Rule 1: Separate the wheat from the chaff. We all know that there are certain emails that must be dealt with today, and others that can languish in a folder for a week and it wouldn’t kill us. So let’s set up some filters to deal with them (I’m using Gmail as an example, but most mail programs have similar filters or rules):

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    • Important. Create a filter with all of your important contacts (coworkers, colleagues, advertisers, business associates, mom, etc.) in the “from” field. Label these “important”. You could also have a keyword, such as “batgirl”, that you put in your filter for the “important” label. Then put that keyword in your signature, and anyone who responds to one of your emails gets labeled “important”. These will remain in your inbox, and you can check them 2-3 times a day.
    • Reports. This will vary from person to person, but I have a lot of “information” type emails that are not urgent but that I don’t want clogging up my inbox. Create a filter with the email addresses of all these types of emails (amazon.com, your blog stats services, your calendar notices, etc.) and label these “reports” and have them automatically archived. Now these won’t be in your inbox. You can check these once a day.
    • Others. This is all the rest. Create a filter with “important” and “reports” in the “doesn’t have” field, and have these emails labeled “other” and automatically archived. This will prevent your emails with the “important” or “reports” labels from being put into this “others” folder. Now your inbox should only have the “important” emails in it.

    Rule 2: All old emails go into “others“. This is the only way to get your inbox clear in the beginning — after this point, you’ll keep it clear. Even if you have emails from your important contacts, you need to get your head above water. Dump them all in the “others” folder and archive them out of your inbox. Your inbox should now be empty. Let’s keep it that way with the following rules.

    Rule 3: Set regular times to process email. You shouldn’t have your email notifier on all the time. Learn to hold yourself back from checking email 20 times a day. Do it in 2-3 sessions a day, at set times. Let’s say 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., if you get a lot of email, or 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. if you don’t. Even better: only once a day. Whenever you feel the pull to check email, stop yourself. Take a deep breath. Now get back to the task at hand.

    Rule 4: Scan through “others” and prioritize. The Others emails is really what makes you feel overwhelmed. Most of us can deal with the Important emails just fine, and scan through the Reports emails. But for the Others, we feel that we should be responding to them all, or we are incompetent or that people will feel we’re arrogant. Well, we need to own up to the fact that we cannot respond to them all (Principle 1). We have to live with the fact that some people are going to think we’re arrogant. Here’s how to deal with Others:

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    • Scan. In your first email processing session of the day, quickly go through the Others emails, and decide if they should be deleted or responded to. In Gmail, I do this quickly by using the keyboard shortcuts: “#” to delete, “y” to archive, “o” to open. So I go through each email, read it, and either delete it or mark it for a response.
    • Prioritize. Which ones do your mark for a response? The ones that will have the most benefit for you. Sometimes an email could lead to a job offer, or advertising, or a collaboration that could pay off big time. Those are the ones you need to respond to. Sometimes it’s just a really interesting email that you’d like to respond to. If that’s the case, go ahead an mark it. But for many, you will simply have to read them and move on.
    • Canned response. If you feel you need to respond to most emails, you can set up a few canned responses using a text expansion program such as AutoHotKey. I would recommend you set up 5-10 different canned responses, instead of just one. One response to thank them for their positive feedback, another to turn down a request, etc. If you notice you give the same response a lot, enter it in AHK and set up a key combination. Then, by pressing just a few keys, you can have your canned responses out in a hurry, perhaps customizing them with a few personal words.
    • Mark for later. The ones that you decide are a higher priority, that need to be responded to, you should label “Respond”, and remove the “Others” label. This just takes a second. Then move on. Then in your later email processing session, go through the “Respond” folder and do a quick response.

    Rule 5: Set a timer, process quickly, and be done. You should set a timer for 15-30 minutes (depending on the volume of your email), so that you don’t end up doing it for more than an hour. Remember, when you’re done with your email session, you’re done. You can breathe easy and get to the rest tomorrow. Here’s how to process quickly and empty your inbox:

    • Process the important emails (the ones in your inbox) first, to empty. Respond quickly, or delete, or forward, or archive (for later reference), or write down any tasks that need to be done later on your to-do list. Don’t ever read an email and then leave it sitting in your inbox. If an email requires a longer response than you can do right now, mark it “Respond” and get to it later.
    • Scan through Reports and Others. Most of the Reports and Others emails don’t need a response or action. Just read them and either delete, forward or archive. Mark the ones that need a response “Respond” and get to it later.
    • Respond. Once you’ve gone through the Important emails in the Inbox, and scanned and marked the Reports and Others, all you should have left is Respond. For these, you might not get done today. That’s OK. Do as many as you can, quickly, and leave the rest for tomorrow. There’s no need to empty this folder. When the timer goes off, get out and be done.
    • Keyboard shortcuts. You really should memorize the important shortcuts. For Gmail, they are “r” for reply, “f” for forward, “#” for delete, “y” for archive, “o” for open. And really, those are the only actions you need. Once you get good with the keyboard shortcuts, processing should be a breeze.

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    Leo Babauta

    Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

    How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time The Gentle Art of Saying No Simple Productivity: 10 Ways to Do More by Focusing on the Essentials How to Pare Your To-do List Down to the Essentials

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    Published on October 7, 2019

    4 Types of Toxic People and How to Deal with Them

    4 Types of Toxic People and How to Deal with Them

    Can a person really be toxic? Well, a toxic person does not refer to those who are affected by the virus or toxic. To be precise, toxic people are those who are very unsupportive, abusive and unhealthy in nature. Their behavior is filled with venom and you will not feel any sort of gentle breeze in their words.

    In this article, you will learn how to spot out a toxic person, and what you can do to deal with them.

    Signs of Toxic People

    To make it more obvious, I have added some signs of toxic people below.

    Manipulative Behavior And Fabricated Mind

    Toxic people are unable to deal with the bitter truth firmly. If you are going to blurt out their fabrications with proof, they will try to change the whole matter with their manipulative behavior. They will titillate you with sensitive words or they will try to frighten you to get rid of the problems.

    Inhuman And Merciless in Nature

    We know that sharing our thoughts with friends will keep us in good mental state. But, if you are not getting fruitful outcomes, you have to understand that you are spending time with toxic friends.

    Toxic people do not know how to put themselves in other’s shoes. They just put on a mask of simplicity. But, in reality, they don’t have feelings for you. Therefore, you should stop sharing your valuable time with them as you will get nothing except annoyance and silence.

    Hypocrisy at Its Best in Their Nature

    Toxic people have a great hunger for respect, adoration, and fidelity. After dignifying them with these valuable elements, you will get nothing; you will be cheated, manipulated and criticized by them. And, if you are not willing to listen to them, you will be controlled by guilt-tripping.

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    Emotional Outburst And Pathological Excuses

    Toxic people always want to see themselves in the positive end. Therefore, to get their job done, they always have an emotional outburst and emotional excuse to make an impulsive impression upon you.

    We do mistakes and it is our duty to accept those mistakes. But, toxic people have their own rules, they have a tendency to present themselves rationally even after committing a mistake. If someone tries to expose themselves with facts, they show no embarrassment and use emotional excuses as a shield.

    Play with Your Emotion And Gradually Erode It

    Toxic people always try to condescend you with critical jokes and when you try to elicit your thoughts, they just burst out laughing. Teasing becomes an important element in your relationship with toxic person. They even give you backhanded compliments to belittle you.

    Thus, using their toxic mindset, they just gradually diminish your abilities as well as intelligence. And you will have nothing left in your hand other than putting up with these things to maintain the silence.

    Well, you probably might have not seen all these signs in one person as there are different types of toxic people roaming around you.

    4 Types of Toxic People

    To understand it better, I’m mentioning the different types of toxic people here.

    1. Conversational Narcissist

    There are some toxic people who do not know how to give importance to others. They will talk about themselves but never ask you about your condition; they will only recall you when they need you or they are facing some sort of problems.

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    2. Emotional Vampires

    These vampires do not suck your blood but dissipate your emotion. They always talk negatively about everyone and compel you to think in the same pattern that they follow. They mask themselves in such a way in front of you that you gradually start giving importance to them. But, ultimately, you will not get any positive outcome from them.

    3. Monsters with Green eyes

    As discussed earlier, toxic people will give you backhanded compliments. Basically, these are called monsters with green eyes. These monsters feel happy when you feel sad. Therefore, they will always try to belittle your achievements, intelligence, and strengths. Along with it, they give compliments with some negativity in it.

    4. Black-Eyed Cats

    These cats always do mew-mew and try to control everything around them. They love to be pampered but, they do not like if someone goes against them.

    If you are in a relationship with such persons, you will be nagged until you are giving them complete satisfaction. In a nutshell, it must be said that you have to align yourself with them if you want to live with them. But, ultimately, you will lose your mental, conversational and emotional freedom.

    How to Deal with Toxic People

    Living with problems is more convenient than living with toxic people. But, toxic people are parasites and therefore, you will see these monsters rambling around you wherever you go.

    However, if you know how to deal with them, it would be very helpful for you and your life would be much easier to live. We have added some tips to assist you, just check these out.

    Get Rid of Intermittent Reinforcement

    We are very optimistic in nature and over the time, this optimism has reached to such a level that we can happily put up with the ‘close losses’ instead of trying to catch the ‘near wins’.

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    B.F Skinner once did an experiment with three rats. He put them in different cages attached with levers. The lever delivered food when it was pressed. In the 1st cage, the lever always delivered food when the rat pressed it. In case of the 2nd cage, food was never delivered by the lever even after pressing it, therefore, the rat understood the lesson and never tried to get food. But, in the third cage, the lever delivered food randomly and as a result, the rat was completely hooked and fixated. He constantly pushed it but didn’t get the food always.

    Well, this is called intermittent relationship and the same thing happens in human relationships where toxic people give you intermittent reinforcement and your heart gets pumped up with optimism. As a result, you will be hooked and your life will be fixated at some point with toxic people.

    You should learn to move on without them and live your life happily because random happiness cannot bring permanent relief.

    Never Make Too Many Allowances And Pardons

    Well, sympathetic attitude is very good and it is also a fact that sometimes toxic people suffer from genuine depression, physical as well as mental illness. But, you have to set a boundary and you cannot allow people to get away with anything so easily.

    If you make too many allowances as well as pardons, it would not be good for you in the long-term. Yes, there are some people who are facing extreme hardships and they are not even toxic in nature. But, all you can do is show some genuine compassion keeping yourself within the boundaries.

    Always Try to Ignore Their Toxic Traps

    Demotivational words are the primary weapon that they frequently use in their implications to detract you. Along with this, they throw words in such a way that you start feeling guilty. Well, you must understand that these are just toxic traps and you should not step on it.

    Always remember that you will have full access to freedom if you stop taking things personally. They not only do this with you but also with everyone. You just have to keep in mind that these toxic words are not based on truth but on their own mental reproduction. So, you just have to ignore this and focus on your work.

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    Show Them Your Beautiful Smile Not the Curves on Your Forehead

    Toxic people have an aptitude to attack mentally, mock disgracefully and diminish shamefully. But, you will not be affected if you don’t surrender yourself. Show them that you are not getting belittled or insulted.

    We all have our problems and we also know that we are capable of solving these problems. Therefore, the matter entirely depends upon us and if we don’t allow these vampires to enter into our life or play with our emotions, they cannot suck our happiness. So, I’d suggest you show your beautiful smile when they buzz around you.

    Don’t Suppress Yourself

    Toxic people will intimidate, bully, pass guilt, and forcefully take money from you to get their job done. They know very well that they are doing wrong and at the same time, they are acquainted with the concept that we are incapable of doing anything against them.

    Most of the time, we keep ourselves quiet until someone speaks up. And because of this suppressive mindset, we are gradually being dragged into their mind games.

    Well, we have to change this concept as it infuses courage into them. We need to obstruct them with firm minds and make them realize the negative consequences of their behavior.[1] If they are upsetting you, just tell them directly. Your direct statement might open a new gate of opportunity that will allow you to help them if they are suffering from genuine problems.

    So, why are you still tolerating these toxic people? Follow the tips mentioned above and deal with them in the right way.

    Featured photo credit: Devin Avery via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Tips for Grooming: Change Your Fixed Negative Belief

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