Chipping Away at the excess in my life. Yesterday I was thinking about how sometimes it doesn't feel like what I do is enough. Today I was noticing again how I sometimes have too much in my life.
This week, it's too much to do, almost too many social events (too many if we want to keep up with the little girl), too many emails. Oh My. The emails.
I belong to several listservs and reminder-and-notification services. This means it it not unusual for me to get dozens of emails a day if not hour. It's not the tens and hundreds that can pile up in my husband's inbox (everyone gets copied on email discussion whether they need to or not). But it's still substantial.
Last Summer, I decided this could not go on! Following an idea from Leo of Zen Habits and the unclutterer, I shrunk my inbox down to nothing by pasting everything that had piled up into another folder. Then every day, I'd delete the ones I didn't need. That left me accumulating only a few emails per day.
Last month I came back from my trip and realized that once again, I had over a thousand emails simply sitting in my inbox. Now some of them, yes, I need to save for some reason, like gig notes or family correspondence. But what about everything else?!
Frankly, since I had the baby, I simply cannot read everything. I took myself off a couple of lists, and started freely deleting the rest. I actually do read or at least skim the neighborhood listserv, and the notifications from FB help keep me up with my friends across the region and country. Then there are people asking for info or offering me gigs or my mother asking me if I'll make it to an event. Still. 1150+ emails? No. This can't go on. It was to over 2000 at one point, and I shrunk it back by half.
My best practice for shrinking the pile of emails is to purge daily and weekly, monthly, or whatever it takes.
I look at my inbox and ask myself, "Of those things labeled "Today," what do I really need to keep? Any? None? Delete, delete, file, delete!" Then I move onto to those email labeled "Yesterday" and so on.
It's not perfect, but it's the best I can do, and by that I mean it's really the only thing I can do, short of archiving piles of crap, I mean, emails permanently. And what on earth makes me think I will go back and look at them again? Hahaha, no.
An interesting corollary is that I attempt the same strategies with my paper piles.
First I try to get rid of as much incoming as possible. I take myself off of mailing lists and refuse to give info to people who just want to send me more mail. Then I keep trying to file or act on the items that need it, and throw away the rest. And just like as with email, I sometimes I get so annoyed with my lack of progress that I dump a whole pile of stuff into a new box just to get it out of my sight. And it's no surprise, unfortunately, that a new pile just grows in its place! Then, ultimately, I have to keep at it, purging on a daily basis.
I won't even get into news services. I just don't subscribe any more. I cannot keep up with every last thing happening in the world.
It must be a curse of the modern world, though, that we are so connected and so in touch and thusly so overwhelmed with items demanding our attention. All I can think of is to ignore most of it and purge the rest. Every damn day.