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Precious Moments

Precious Moments

Change is more about letting go of old ideas than finding new ones. Most of the time, people are sufficiently happy with the way things are, so they feel no need to change. Life may not be perfect, but it’s good enough; the effort and uncertainty change brings look too great to be worth it. That’s why the moments when you’re open to change are precious. Miss them and your growth goes on indefinite hold.

Robert Thurman, scholar and friend of The Dalai Lama, describes such times as “teachable moments”: Moments when you recognize consciously that your previous ways of thinking and coping aren’t adequate for what’s in front of you; when life serves up something you can’t handle properly with the tools you’ve used before.

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Most of the time, your habits, ingrained social conditioning and long-term values have your mind tightly barricaded against any possibility of significant change. Yet when events are just right (or just wrong, depending on your viewpoint), that doorway to your innermost mind is forced open for a little while. Of course, all those habits and past conditioning immediately set up a howl of protest and start closing it again, even if the result must be a choice or action that won’t turn out well. They prefer to keep the status quo and never mind the pain. Still, for a few, precious hours or days, they aren’t in control and your mind is receptive to fresh ways of seeing the world.

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Here are some ways to take full advantage of these precious moments:

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  • Let yourself consider the opposite to your normal way of thinking. Even if it’s not the answer, it will allow you to see past your habitual mind-sets. For example, if you usually like to plan carefully before acting, imagine what might happen if you just took the first, most obvious decision and allowed things to develop from there.
  • Let your imagination to run wild. Create mental pictures. Play with analogies and metaphors for the situation. Challenge your mind with thoughts like: “Suppose I was 20 years younger (or 20 years older, or the opposite gender, or had unlimited money, or decided to re-locate to Mexico), what might I do then?”
  • Combine and recombine options into all sorts of novel combinations. Don’t worry whether they’re feasible or practical. Just allow your mind to play. Then pick a few options and see how you might make them work.
  • Don’t allow the idea of failure to enter your mind. There are no failures; only actions that didn’t turn out as you anticipated. Take them and track exactly what happened, using that knowledge to produce still more alternatives — this time, backed up by actual experience.
  • Above all, do something. Anything is better than nothing. Any action will lead to a result you can learn from, even if it doesn’t work out exactly as you wanted.

Precious moments of open-mindedness are worth more than gold or diamonds. Never waste them. Use every one to learn something to help you develop. There’s a name for the rare people who make this a way of life. We call them geniuses.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero

What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero

Ah, Inbox Zero. An achievement that so many of us long for. It’s elusive. It’s a productivity benchmark. It’s an ongoing battle.

It’s also unnecessary.

Don’t get me wrong, the way Inbox Zero was initially termed is incredibly valuable. Merlin Mann coined the phrase years ago and what he has defined it as goes well beyond the term itself.[1]

Yet people have created their own definition of Inbox Zero. They’re not using it with the intent that Mann suggested. Instead, it’s become about having nothing left in immediate view. It’s become about getting your email inbox to zero messages or having an empty inbox on your desk that was once filled with papers. It’s become about removing visual clutter.

But it’s not about that. Not at all.

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Here’s what inbox zero actually is, as defined by Mann:

“It’s about how to reclaim your email, your atten­tion, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many mes­sages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.” – Merlin Mann

The Fake Inbox Zero

The sense of fulfillment one gets from clearing out everything in your inbox is temporary at best, disappointing at worst. Often we find that we’re shooting for Inbox Zero just so that we can say that we’ve got “everything done that needed to be done”. That’s simply not the case.

Certainly, by removing all of your things that sit in your inbox means that they are either taken care of or are well on their way to being taken care of. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is often applied to clearing out your inbox. But unless you’ve actually done something with the stuff, it’s either not worth having in your inbox in the first place or is still sitting in your “mental inbox”.

You have to do something with the stuff, and for many people, that is a hard thing to do. That’s why Inbox Zero – as defined by Mann – is not achieved as often as many people would like to believe. It’s this “watered down” concept of Inbox Zero that is completed instead. You’ve got no email in your inbox and you’ve got no paper on your desk’s inbox. So that must mean you’re at Inbox Zero.

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Until the next email arrives or the next document comes your way. Then you work to get rid of those as quickly as possible so that you can get back to Inbox Zero: The Lesser again. If it’s something that can be dealt with quickly, then you get there. But if they require more time, then soon you’ve got more stuff in your inboxes. So you switch up tasks to get to the things that don’t require as much time or attention so that you can get closer to this stripped down variation of Inbox Zero.

However, until you deal with the bigger items, you don’t quite get there. Some people feel as if they’ve let themselves (or others) down if they don’t get there. And that, quite frankly, is silly. That’s why this particular version of Inbox Zero doesn’t work.

The Ultimate Way to Get to Inbox Zero

So what’s the ultimate way to get to Inbox Zero?

Have zero inboxes.

The inbox is meant to be a stop along the way to your final destination. It’s the place where stuff sits until you’re ready to put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it.

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So why not skip the inbox altogether? Why not put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it? Because that requires immediate action. It means you need to give the item some thought and attention.

You need to step back and look at it rather than file it. That’s why we have a catch-all inbox, both for email and for analog items. It allows us to only look at these things when we’re ready to do so.

The funny thing is that we can decide when we’re ready to without actually looking at the inbox beforehand. We can look at things on our own watch rather than when we are alerted to or feel the need to.

There is no reason why you need an inbox at all to store things for longer than it sits there before you see it. None. It’s a choice. And the choice you should be making is how to deal with things when you first see them, rather than when to deal with things you haven’t looked at yet.

Stop Faking It

Seeing things in your inboxes is simply using your sight. Looking at things in your inbox when you first see them is using insight.

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Stop checking email more than twice per day. Turn off your alerts. Put your desk’s inbox somewhere that it can be accessed by others and only accessed by you when you’re ready to deal with what’s in it. Don’t put it on your desk – that’s productivity poison.

If you want to get to Inbox Zero — the real Inbox Zero — then get rid of those stops along the way. You’ll find that by doing that, you’ll be getting more of the stuff you really want done finished much faster, rather than see them moving along at the speed of not much more than zero.

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Featured photo credit: Web Hosting via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merlin Mann: Inbox Zero

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