NPW Self Curious: Three Steps to a Beach-Ready Inbox

The most productive day of my whole year is the day before I go on holiday. I know I’m not alone in this, but I’d never given it much thought before. It turns out there are things that we do when we are up against a hard deadline that could make the daily grind more of a joyful zhuzh if we did them more often. Here are my top three, with a ‘daily fix’ – an idea about how you could try and bring that pre-holiday magic into your day to day.

One: Important stuff rises to the top. What is it that only you can do? Which projects need your unique contribution? On Holiday Eve we suddenly care a lot less about the email that sits there not because it has asked us to do something but because we haven’t thought about it yet.

Daily fix: Create a folder for ‘ideas and conversations’ and schedule regular time to bathe in the ideas at your leisure. Does it require action or input from me? No. Am I interested? Yes. Great! But it’s not a task, so get it out of your inbox.

Two: We clear the decks. Suddenly we are ruthless. We delete stale old emails with glee. Bish, bash, bosh. Stack of actions? We make a list! Laser beams emanate from our eyes and obliterate tasks that don’t serve us. More than once, with a hard deadline looming and a stack of competing, complex priorities, I have resorted to a multi-coloured spreadsheet that can be easily updated with microupdates and re-sorted. (Ping me a tweet if you’d like to see, I’m happy to share).

Daily fix: Cultivate your laser eyes, even on days when you have loads of time. Be that annoying person who asks in a meeting why we are doing what we’ve always done. Because your time is exactly that: YOUR time, and if you aren’t spending it on doing your to-do list you get to spend it on other stuff. Like pursuing those ideas you filed away. And that’s where the awesome happens.

Three: We let stuff go. This is the one that might make you feel squirmy – #sorrynotsorry! A couple of days before holiday time, we reset our aspirations for what we can actually get done in the time we have. We only have a finite amount of access to people and resources, after all, so we knuckle down and do what we can.

When you choose not to do something, or let a project slide, people who are less awesome than you may judge you as not having succeeded. Please let me tell you now and please remember in the dark times: so long as you are bringing your A-Game, those people are wrong. They are probably tired because they have not used their lasers (see two).

Daily fix: Embrace failure. Be the person who initiates the conversation on whether it’s time to pull the plug on something that isn’t a good use of energy. Pair that with a commitment to reward effort rather than others’ judgment of the results and you’re onto a winner.

Here’s the thing. You simply can’t do All Of The Things and survive. Prioritise, use lasers, and don’t be afraid to let stuff that doesn’t make the cut float off into the sunset (just like you will be once you get that out of office on).

PS: I’m trying a new ‘nudge’ every week to carry on learning what does and what doesn’t work for me. Follow me at @marathonshine on Twitter and check out the #weeklynudge hashtags to see how that’s going, and feel free to join in!

Claire Eadington geeks out on workflow management, performance and wellbeing. Claire’s TEDx talk about barriers to performance for exceptional women kicked off the 2017 TEDxWhitehallWomen event in London.

Claire writes a weekly blog, Self Curious, on NPW’s website.
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