Managing Black Holes and Dead Ends
By “black hole” I mean those things in our life that suck up our valuable time. Here I’m specifically referring to email and social media.
I have multiple email accounts full of unread emails. At the end of 2019 I spent considerable time cleaning those accounts. I purged a lot, cancelled subscriptions and read a lot.
The reading a lot is the real time suck. It’s easy to go down the list and delete messages that are months old or that have uninteresting subject lines.
But some emails are from bloggers who write great articles full of interesting and valuable information.
Often, I end up saving them to a mailbox with the intent of getting back to read them the next time I have a few hours.
This is a bad habit. If I didn’t read the email months ago, how likely am I to go back and read it in two more months. Not very likely.
I have gotten better at letting these older emails go.
If I don’t keep up with the reading and purging, these accounts fill up quickly again.
So Many Accounts so Little Time
I have email accounts to receive special offers and newsletters from companies. The problem with many companies is that they send multiple emails each day.
Do they really think anyone is reading these emails?
Those accounts are easy to clean out and I get to them about once a week.
For work I have two email accounts and subscribe to multiple newsletters and web sites that send me stuff every day.
Getting curated articles sent to me is the only way to keep up with industry developments. I’m in healthcare IT, so things are changing rapidly.
I get sucked into the black hole with these emails when they are highly relevant to my work. Being in the office it’s easy to look up and realize that it’s time to get back to work.
As a blogger, I have more email accounts than most people. I can’t possibly keep up with all of them all of the time. I follow almost 300 bloggers and businesses and receive a tremendous volume of emails from them.
The pull of this black hole is even stronger. I would not have followed these bloggers unless I thought they had something to say.
As a blogger, I spend a lot of time at the keyboard and productive writing time is limited.
To manage the black holes and remain productive, I’ve come up with a few strategies.
Strategies to manage Black Holes
To get anything done and still have time for work and a life, you have to actively manage your email and social media accounts.
Here are my strategies.
Monitor several email accounts daily on your phone. When I have a minute I go into an account and clean it up. I’ve found that if I spend 5 minutes a day on these accounts I can keep them under control.
By segregating different types of emails into different accounts or mailboxes, it can be quite easy to clean up the commercial emails.
The account where I receive blogger email is tougher to clear on my phone, but if I can read or clear 20% during the day I have fewer distractions during my productive writing time.
Content Specific Email Accounts
As I mentioned before, I have email accounts for specific purposes.
I have a few email accounts that I use for Omni Running. To keep these accounts under control I manage them daily.
These are high volume accounts, but receive mostly high interest emails. I have very few general interest emails going to these accounts.
I can’t possibly manage these accounts on 5 minutes a day. My strategy is to scrub these accounts about every three months. I do manage to clean out some email daily, but the deluge is too much to keep up with.
My work email accounts receive a barrage of email daily. I manage to keep on top of these in real time as it is part of my job.
Many emails are from customers and colleagues and need to be addressed in a timely fashion. Other emails are from vendors, partners or industry web sites and newsletters.
It’s the industry related emails that are the real black hole here. Many have fascinating articles and information that I need for my job.
My strategy here is to only read what is truly important to my work. Interesting is not enough, it has to be important for my work. I don’t have time to be entertained or learn about things not central to my work.
By segregating different types of email into different accounts, it is possible to keep the clutter out of your main email accounts and still see the interesting but non essential emails.
Strategies to manage Dead Ends
This brings me to Dead Ends.
I follow close to 300 bloggers. Over any three month period several bloggers will abandon their blog.
New bloggers often decide blogging isn’t for them or they don’t have the time to write, so they shut things down.
Some blogs are removed and some are just abandoned. While I no longer receive emails from these blogs, sometimes I’ll go to a blog to see what’s new.
When I find an abandoned blog, a dead end, I’ve just wasted valuable keyboard time.
Blogs turn into dead ends for other reasons also. Sometimes I loose interest in the blogger’s topic or they change direction. Until I click “unfollow” their emails continue to flow into my mail box.
It’s easy to delete the bloggers who gave up. The ones I’ve lost interest in are harder to delete. I’m always hopeful they will have something interesting to say, and don’t want to miss it. I usually give these guys a few passes, but eventually they get cut.
When I do my email clean up, I delete the abandoned blogs from my feed also.
Twitter Black Holes and Dead Ends
Twitter can be another massive time suck. The torrent of tweets never slows. Not only do you get tweets from people you follow, you also get tweets from people who pay to get in front of you.
A few times a year I go in and clean out tweeters I’ve lost interest in. I also clean out the hyper active tweeters and the dormant tweeters. Some twitter accounts can send 20 or more tweets a day!
To manage the Tweeters I do want to follow I’ve been using lists to keep things organized. By grouping Tweeters it makes it easier to find tweets relevant to what I’m interested in or working on.
See my post on using Twitter Lists.
Black Holes and Dead Ends
With limited time to read and write, I’ve had to develop and practice these strategies. I’m still buried, but I am actively trying to manage the situation so that I can spend more time reading what really interests me, and of course trying to write what really interests you.
- Are you buried in emails?
- How many email accounts do you have?
- Do you un-follow and un-subscribe?
Read well my friends and watch out for black holes!