I have my best business thoughts while drying my hair in the morning.
Obviously I don’t plan that. Who wants to think about email segments or product descriptions at 7:30 in the morning before breakfast? Not me.
It happens all. the. time. though.
Recently I found out why.
During my drive to Charleston I checked email at every stoplight and then got super frustrated that I couldn’t do anything about it. I called clients to take care of issues. I got anxious. “What am I missing?” “Who is trying to reach me that doesn’t know I’m on the road?”
THAT right there is a recipe for a WRECK.
I did not like the constant state of panic I felt while driving to Charleston, so I did something about it for the drive to Hickory to give a talk 5 days later.
I put an out of office message on my email saying that I was driving and I would not be checking email until late in the afternoon.
While I drove I listened to a FANTASTIC audiobook, The Power of Agency. (It’s linked in the bookmarks of the week.)
In that book, the authors talk about how our brains need space to thrive and in today’s world we don’t get that space unless we create it for ourselves.
We are NOT supercomputers, but we’re expected to process data at the speed of supercomputers. We have constant inputs from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep unless we set up procedures and boundaries.
- Nonstop email
- Nonstop Facebook
- Nonstop texts
- Nonstop phone calls
Trying to be supercomputers when we’re not wired that way is, the authors of The Power of Agency contend, causing an epidemic of anxiety in the United States.
When we’re anxious all of the time we can’t make good decisions or do good work.
In order to lower anxiety, we have to have space. We have to let our brains heal. We have to manage our inputs.
“Oh it’s ok if I check my email every few hours on the weekend,” one might say. Here’s the thing. It’s not. There’s what’s called “attention residue” whenever we dip in and out of a task.
In the book Deep Work, by Cal Newport, he lets us know that attention residue never lets you let your guard down and negates any “off time” you would have taken. Because you’re NOT OFF if you’re dipping in and out of notifications.
You haven’t heard from me for a while
The reason you haven’t heard from me is that I’ve been working to reclaim space and manage my inputs and I didn’t batch my emails before I did that. BAD KATIE. In December I wrote about getting my business organized in a new project management system so I don’t have to hunt through my email for everything.
I have found that a huge, overwhelming problem for me is my email inbox. It’s not newsletters from people I want or marketing emails from companies I want to hear from. It was managing communication for projects. I had to streamline it and get it all in one place.
Wow, I didn’t realize how disorganized my communications were until I organized them.
In addition to organizing everything, I rapidly scaled my business by about 40% in two months. That is a lot to deal with at one time. I had no space. I was a wreck. I had no inspirational businessy things to share with you because I was drowning.
Sometimes, it’s all any of us can do to keep our heads above water.
We can’t live that way indefinitely without serious consequences to our health and our work. What caused me to stop working weekends was a diagnosis of mono at age 37. That’s NOT NORMAL. It was a wakeup call.
Things were great until it was time to rapidly scale again. I’m happy to say that I put my head down, I got my systems organized to drastically reduce and help me process inputs, and I emerged from the other side ready to rumble.
Yesterday I went back to running practice. More space.
The Power of Agency
You might have figured out that I think my best thoughts when I’m drying my hair because at that point in the day I have no attention residue and I have a little space to breathe and think.
Sometimes I have good businessy thoughts on the weekends, but I actively try not to think about work on the weekends.
Space: get some
The only way to have the space we need to do our best work is to claim it ourselves. That is what the book The Power of Agency explains how to do.
We think that the world is doing things to us.
We are actually allowing the world to do things to us.
Sure, things happen that we’re not in control of. But we are in control of how we react. And most of us can proactively manage a lot more than we do now.
That’s why I moved all subcontractor communication to my project software. I could not continue to function without changing the way I process those inputs.
You might believe that you have no agency to change the way you react to things and handle things in your life, but you do have agency. Perhaps you need to approach a situation differently. Maybe the book will give you some new ideas about how to do that!
Again, you can’t change everything. You might have a sick relative. You can’t change that they’re sick. You can only change how you think about it, what you do about it, and how you react to it.
This book gave me hope that we don’t have to let life happen to us. We can, largely, create a framework in which to live and work where we have space to do our best.
I’ve already done some of what they recommend (see obsession with not working weekends, going strong for 2.5 years), but there’s so much more, and I’m so looking forward to implementing it.
What I Wish for You
I wish for you to suspend the belief that you can’t change anything about a circumstance that’s upending you or causing you anxiety in work or in your personal life, and I wish for you to figure out a way to manage it. Pick up the book if you like.
Email me. Maybe I have some thoughts. I’m happy to brainstorm with you.
There’s not one size fits all. What works for me might not work for you. After all, we’re not machines.
It’s time to stop acting like we are.
Bookmarks of the Week
Here’s a little something for everyone.
The Power of Agency
The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms
Jump Start Spring Email Marketing Online Workshop
Now that we’ve finished our email course, we’re re-offering our online workshop to help you jump start your spring email program.
Compress a PDF, split PDF into multiple pages, etc.
The Wild Spice Cabinet
My friend Ellen is a forager, and she has a SUPER neat new course about foraging for your own wild flavors.
Have a great rest of your week/ weekend! Get some sun on your eyeballs!