Patrick Reynolds

Patrick Reynolds

Kenzai Member
Founder

Finding Openness with Email

  • Feb 9th, 2019 at 4:02PM

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The question of the week was about what in our lives is feeling stuck, and how we can regain a sense of openness around it. It may seem small but I'm having so many issues around email these days. Like most companies the Kenzai crew has moved all of our day to day conversations over to Slack, which eliminates the majority of "process email" (when's the meeting, where's that file, what's the status of this thing). That's great, but it means that mails that hit my real inbox are almost all what I call "real" mails. These are mails that require me to be present, to think about what I say and access empathy and intellect.

So what happens is that I'll get a "real mail", from a customer, family member, or friend, and I really want to sit down in a good frame of mind and answer it well, but that time isn't right then when I read the mail. So I don't answer it. But then time passes and answering it becomes even harder because not only do I need to really think about it but now I have to get over the shame of not answering sooner and go through the whole "sorry I didn't get back to you sooner I've had a lot on my plate" interaction. So I delay again.

A few weeks like that and everytime I open my inbox I'm filled with shame, regret, and self-loathing. I can ignore it as the old mails slip down and off to a second page, but I know it's still there, the unanswered mails vampire away mental energy during the day and will even cause me to wake up in the night.

So, how to create space around this tension?

I spent an afternoon getting within spitting distance of the fabled "inbox zero" with just a few (very tough) mails to write over the weekend. After I'm back to zero my plan is to be straightforward with people and write back quickly, even if it's just to say "I want to answer you but I don't have enough bandwidth to do it properly right now, please be patient!"

This email situation is really rough because every minute I spend in email is a minute I'm not creating something new, taking care of my food or exercise, spending time with my family, or engaging with the Kenzai community. I need to learn that most mails will never get the deep, thoughtful replies I want to write and be upfront with people on the other end. I know we all feel the same tension and everyone will understand.

What I've got to absolutely stop doing is the pattern of "I'll write a good response to this later." How many more years will I have to repeat that before I realize it never works!

Have been writing this in my 10 minutes seated forward bend. Another day knocked out and another bird painting done.

 
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13 comments

Scott H.Scott H.Kenzai Member
about 2 years ago

My Inbox has 3215 emails currently with 980 unread. Of the 3200, a thousand or so are probably useless dribble I won't read anyway. Of the 980...half probably fall into the same category. I can't keep up. It's maddening, but I'm used to it. If someone "really" needs an answer or a comment, they will call me, or write me again. I just cannot stress out over it anymore. I feel the pain of email however. What does "Inbox Zero" look like? Or even mean? Oh wait, and then there is my Personal Inbox gmail... Oh btw, no need to respond :)


    Kathleen C.Kathleen C.Kenzai Member
    about 2 years ago

    When I worked at the "board office" at my school board we were told that all emails had to be responded to within 24 hours. Further, emails from "important" people needed to be returned sooner. Not such problem on office days, but pretty tricky when I was in a school working with a teacher or principal or class. Of course, on those office days I might not get any of the real work done! Texts have made it even harder, because now you can be hit from that direction as well - and without the same level of peeking to see what it is about. I concur with Scott's comment that if someone really needs you they will reach out another way too, but I still stress about it even though I am no longer at the board office and no longer get nearly as many emails.

    However, on the other hand, if we send an email to a trainer we want that response yesterday but have to remember that they have xx other trainees plus their own outside of Kenzai lives. One of the great things about the Q&A board as it can lead to quick responses from many talented people.


      George B.George B.Kenzai Member
      about 2 years ago

      I am mostly in the zero inbox zone, because I don’t want to have people wait for me to be able to get on with stuff. In order to do that, I use the automatic rules options in Outlook quite heavily. First, any email where I am just copies in go straight to another folder I call the “CC” box. If I am copied in, I assume I am just being kept in the loop. This folder I open only once a week or every few days, and I tell people about it so they don’t copy me in and then ask for my input or approval. I sort them by subject and quickly scan the trails to see if I need to intervene. Other rules filter requests for approval straight to another folder based on key words or senders. That is the first thing I do every day. Another rule pools reports about the business’ performance. Second thing I do is go there to see how things are going and if I need to start working on a special area. Private emails go to another box that I only look at at the end of the day. I have configured special buttons with pre-written replies to certain recurring situations. Emails I answer immediately if it takes less than 3 minutes. If not, I convert them into “tasks” (just pull over the “task” icon) and prioritize immediately into “high” (same day), “medium” (same week), “low” (some day). All emails I answer, read or write go into a huge folder with no categorization (they are easily searchable). And I only do emails in three pre-defined time slots per day. The rest of the time I turn Outlook offline.


        Jenn R.Jenn R.Kenzai Member
        about 2 years ago

        It's ironic how hard we are on ourselves for doing the same things we are understanding of others for. In this technological age where we all think we should respond immediately and can expect the same, we've forgotten how somethings just need a little time. We hold ourselves to should's and all the negative emotions that come with those should's instead of looking to kindness and doing what we can when we can.


          Greg V.Greg V.Kenzai Member
          about 2 years ago

          totally get where you are coming from. that dreaded email overhang. it deserves a good response, but its fading off into time. its stressful. however, i think email etiquet is what you make of it. esp as the ceo. i used to write thoughful considered responses. now i dont. i consider it a double waste of time. mine and the readers. now i write brutally short and factual emails. clear instructions, and clear questions. no nuance. i dont respond to every last rmail either. i let plenty just fall off the table. its a test. if its important there is always the phone. people prefer a call , esp from the ceo. plus a phone call is fluid and has potential to discover new things or bond more closely with people. no need to stress about email, as long as you have a phone.


            Talya EdlundTalya EdlundKenzai Member
            Assistant Trainerabout 2 years ago

            brilliant use of the 10 minutes! Love the photo.


              Janet L.Janet L.Kenzai Member
              about 2 years ago

              As I work in an information driven global business, I get over 200 emails a day. A lot come overnight, so in the morning, when I tend to be less imaginative I go through and delete unnecessary emails and try to read informational emails. I ring fence the late morning, afternoon and early evening for creative work. That said, clients come first, so I sometimes need to put creative work on old and prioritize clients...they pay the bills.


                Sharmali ArumugathasanSharmali ArumugathasanKenzai Member
                Trainerabout 2 years ago

                You're certainly not alone Patrick. I think we're all in that same boat of struggling to keep up with all the demands on our time. When you run your own business, no doubt the demands are tenfold. I like George's very systematic approach. At the other job, I'm very conscious of alleviating the email pressure on others, so I try to do the old fashioned thing and pick up the phone instead!


                  Carol A.Carol A.Kenzai Member
                  about 2 years ago

                  Wow!!!! George has an AMAZING system. I believe emails are a struggle for so many of us. I can only hope that those who email you do unnderstand how busy you are and can be patient for you. Now... you did make me think of one of my fav leadership books by Brian Tracy... Eat That Frog... I know you are looking for time and I add work 😂🤣😂🤣 If it helps you, it's also on audio book. When I think of procrastinating, I can simply tell myself to Eat That Frog and it brings back lessons learned from the book.


                    Stew F.Stew F.Kenzai Member
                    about 2 years ago

                    Wow...
                    If they really need you wudnt they just call?

                    Awsome bird pics man quite impressive .


                      Belinda R.Belinda R.Kenzai Member
                      about 2 years ago

                      First, I'm loving your paintings! When's the gallery show, and how much for the hummingbird with the purple wings?

                      Second, I totally related to this: "... and I really want to sit down in a good frame of mind and answer it well, but that time isn't right then when I read the mail. So I don't answer it. But then time passes and answering it becomes even harder because not only do I need to really think about it but now I have to get over the shame of not answering sooner..." #metoo, man!

                      I like your solution (the quick answer, asking for patience). I also love this: https://emaildebtforgiveness.me/

                      Of course, the way they put it it's like everyone has *one* email they've been avoiding replying to, when my problem is more like what you described--wanting to reply to too many of them with more mindfulness than I have time to muster.

                      In any case, ever since I heard of this, I approach every day like email amnesty day. I just tackle what I can tackle, and if I'm getting back to someone late, I start with, "Sorry for the delayed response," and then get right into it.

                      Good luck with your new approach. I'd love to hear how it goes.


                        Ren KurodaRen KurodaKenzai Member
                        Business Developmentabout 2 years ago

                        I have a similar strategy: I respond to every email within 24 hours, but only for one minute to start. I send "I want to get back to you if only for one minute, and I will follow up with more details later. I think..." and I spend 60 seconds responding. If that sorts it: done. If more is needed, I can think on it and respond later in detail.


                          Nate Belle IsleNate Belle IsleKenzai Member
                          Trainerabout 2 years ago

                          Love this painting dude, and following your "Monk Month." And this was a great post on a topic I think most of us can relate to.

                          Maybe Kenzai needs to adopt E-mail Debt Forgiveness Day (https://emaildebtforgiveness.me/).


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