Have you ever read the children’s story The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone?
It is an entertaining story, starring Grover from Sesame Street. Grover knows there is a monster at the end of the book, and he tries everything he can to keep you from turning each page because he does not want to face the monster at the end of the book.
As entrepreneurs, I feel like we face that same dilemma when it comes to our days. We are ready to wind down and be done at the end of the day, but there is a monster that is waiting for us: a monster named your inbox.
How many days have you been in a focused state, knocking out task after task, thinking that you have accomplished so much - just to close out of what you are working on, take a deep breath, get ready to close up shop, then stop and think, “I’ll check my email really quick before I shut down.” Then there it is - a MONSTER of an inbox that has filled up with a whole new list of emails that piled up while you were working. By that time, you are just too tired! You are ready to be done for the day, so you MIGHT handpick through and grab the most important ones to add to your list for tomorrow or maybe even respond to them immediately. The rest are going to sit there until you have more time or mental capacity to address them. The problem is there NEVER seems to be a good time to address them.
This is exactly why I have clients come to me with 20,000 or 60,000 or more unread messages in their inboxes. It is not as uncommon as you think, and you have nothing to be ashamed of if this describes you. I used to look at my mom’s email account and see 6500 unread messages. I would joke with her and ask how she could possibly sit with that many emails and not do something about them. She would say “YOU can do something about them if they bother you so badly.”
This was YEARS before I became a VA, and now here I am doing that exact thing. And you know what? I actually enjoy it. Don’t roll your eyes at me, we all are a little weird in some way or another. I love the sense of accomplishment that comes with seeing an inbox go from 60,000 to a manageable size in a short amount of time. The problem is that not everyone enjoys it, and those of us who do simply do not have enough hours in the day to get to everyone.
Instead of waiting for someone to have availability, I want to offer you a few tips you can quickly implement. These tips will help you reduce your inbox size, and your overwhelm and help defeat that monster at the end of your day.
Ready to Do Battle With Your Monster of an Inbox?
I am the self-proclaimed Queen of Unsubscribing.
My belief about my inbox is the same as my belief about my phone. It is for my convenience only and not everyone else’s. My inbox and my phone are each a continuation of my own personal space and there is absolutely nothing wrong with deleting, blocking, or unsubscribing, as I see fit. I need them to serve a specific and well-defined purpose of communication and organization. If something begins to clutter them, it is not allowed to stay.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to get messages, memes, adorable pictures, and invitations (especially to a good tea party with a grandchild) but I can only cherish those messages if they are not getting lost in the chaos. Not to mention the need to keep track of important documents necessary to meet a deadline or even from a potential client reaching out to connect.
Chaos is the enemy of peace and productivity.
So as the self-proclaimed Queen of Unsubscribing, I bestow upon you the freedom to claim back your peace and vanquish the monster of your inbox!
Interestingly enough, in The Monster at The End of This Book, the monster ends up being adorable, lovable Grover himself. Just as the book ended up not nearly as scary as Grover expected it to be, your inbox is a manageable monster that doesn't have to overwhelm you. You CAN love your inbox again.
Ten years. One whole decade of my life was spent working in a manufacturing plant as a Maintenance Assistant. Think mechanics, electricians, spare parts, messy storage areas, lots of tools, greasy floors, etc. If you have ever had a love/hate relationship with anything you will understand where I'm coming from when I say "This was the best job I ever had that drove me bonkers at the same time."
Maybe you are also working in a manufacturing plant with lots of spare parts inventory required to keep the plant running or maybe the only tool you utilize on a regular basis is a cell phone. Either way, there are basic reasons why decluttering and organizing are important in both worlds. In honor of my 10 years in manufacturing I've listed 10 lessons I learned along that way of why a functional organizing system is imperative!
1. Self Reliance. I learned early on that if everyone in the department/office knows the system and can easily find what they need there would be much less unnecessary interruptions to my day. My productivity increased dramatically when our organization systems were functional and used properly.
2. Reliability. When you can see what you have and what you need there is much less opportunity for lost production time. This is not just for a manufacturing plant. Do you run an at-home small business? If you have a customer that calls you and asks if they can get that perfect shade of lipstick for the surprise trip their husband planned don't you need to be able to quickly see your inventory? That sale will go to the next girl on the list if you have to take two hours searching through product to know for sure. What if you THINK you have it on hand but, as it turns out, you don't? The customer feels they can't trust you in a pinch and will replace you with a more dependable contact.
3. PEACE OF MIND. This one is huge for me. When my organization systems were being used properly I knew I could trust them. I knew that I was on top of what I needed to be doing and that when someone came to me I could easily answer their question, find the item they needed, or point them in the right direction. When I was not taking care of my systems properly, I would be in a state of chaos, stress, and self condemnation knowing that the chances were slim that I could be of a help to anyone....and as someone whose title included the word 'assistant' I needed to be able to assist efficiently.
4. Cost Savings. How many times have you ordered staples because you couldn't find the ones you know good and well you ordered a month ago? Now imagine that box of staples cost thousands of dollars and that stapler is the most important piece of machinery you have and you get an idea of the importance of knowing where exactly those staples are at a moments notice. Maybe you have important items that cost thousands of dollars that you need to organize; or maybe you have 100 items that cost just $10 each. Either way, if you can't find what you need when you need it you will end up purchasing the item again and cut into your profit margin.
5. Time Savings. We have all heard that "time is money" but is that all it is? The older I get the more I realize that time is much more important to me than just money. It is time with the people I love doing the things I love even if some days that is nothing at all. Even if I spend my free time doing nothing of what someone else would consider significant, I certainly don't want to spend it looking for that missing part or working overtime because I was pulled in a thousand different directions during my work week because no one could handle their tasks on their own.
6. Freedom for Ideas/Creativity. If your mind is so overwhelmed with the clutter and chaos surrounding you it will never be truly free to focus on the ideas that actually make you money or feed your creativity. Every customer I have had, thus far, as mentioned that they now have new ideas they want to tackle because they are free from worrying about the clutter that had been hanging over their head for so long.
7. Cleanliness. I say it over and over "being organized is NOT the same as being clean". I LOVE to organize. I DO NOT love to clean. I find this to be true with so many other people as well. Then there are those who are the complete opposite - they love to clean but hate to organize. No matter which category you fall into we all have a similar problem: it is tough to do one well when the other is still lingering. Getting organized makes cleaning so much easier because you are no longer sweeping around 'stuff' or dusting junk. You will spend much less time cleaning and more time on money making tasks.
8. Professionalism. Hindsight is 20/20 and I wish I had cared about this more in the past. I can walk into a space and determine pretty quickly if I trust you to handle my business or not and I believe most of us are that way. We all know creatives who may have a workspace draped with all the wonderful things that their art is comprised of and that is ok. It is what feeds their soul. But, when it comes time to charge me for the piece I ordered or meet a deadline I want to know that business is being handled and I can depend on you. (This is where hiring outside help can be beneficial. We can't all be good at everything all the time).
9. Individuality. So many time we see standardization and systems as 'the man trying to make us all the same'. I see it differently. You see, when the stress it taken out of the environment by organizing items, schedules, etc. then everyone has the freedom to showcase their individual talents. When the whole team is not running around putting out fires all day then you will actually begin to see uniqueness shine through. One person has a knack for teaching others while one thrives off of creating schedules. Maybe you get to see that one person has an eye for details while one can look at a project and see the bigger picture. It is fascinating what you can learn about yourself and others when you aren't arguing over the mess, looking for important documents, or blaming each other for jobs not getting done.
10. NO EXCUSES/ACCOUNTABILITY. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I have watched through the years as the buck is passed from one person to the next, one department to the next until the circle got so muddled that everyone either threw their hands up in frustration or the issue was forgotten until the next time it flared up. STEP OFF THE CRAZY WHEEL. Quit letting others control your time, energy, and income. If you have coworkers or employees who are constantly passing the buck, chances are you have an unorganized workspace where accountability is difficult because there is always the excuse of "I couldn't find it" or "I didn't know I was supposed to do that" or "I never got that email" and on and on. Having clear expectations and functional systems helps prevent these situations AND helps clearly recognize those who are refusing to participate.
Side note: What if you are the only one running the show and making it all happen? The same basic principles apply. We make excuses for ourselves, we blame others (they didn't ship it, the clerk didn't put it in the bag, the customer never specified they wanted that, etc.). This mindset can be changed and a peaceful, productive, functional work environment IS attainable! (With much less time and finances invested than you think!).
So here's to 10 years of great education, experience, and growth! Now....let's see where the next 10 years takes us!
My goal is to help you achieve more peace in your home and work space by offering information and services that can enhance the function and atmosphere in the places you spend most of your time. In doing so, this not only promotes peace but also frees up time for you spend on the things in life that are most precious and pleasant.