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How I Prepared To Sell my Inbox

July 17, 2017

I have been in the reply business for so long that now that it’s over I don’t know what do with the rest of my life.
– Comedian Steve Hofstetter upon finally clearing out his Inbox.

It was a momentous day for me yesterday. I’ve worked for my company for nearly four years. In all that time, I’ve never accomplished this. But, yesterday, I finally cleared out my Inbox. It’s the type of event that you write down in your journal. . .or post about online.

I get a lot of email. Everyone says they get a lot of email and everyone is right. It’s relative. In my case, it’s not unusual to get 100 or more emails everyday. Many of them are replies to earlier messages also in my Inbox. So, that tends to inflate the numbers a little. But, still, it’s a lot. 

When I sit down and create goals for my day I pick a number, typically 50, as my goal for the maximum number of emails still to be dealt with. During the day, I’ll build a table that lists the current number of unread and total emails. Then, every 30 minutes, I’ll make a mark and record my progress. On a good day, I can cut the number of emails in half every hour. So, if I start the day at 300, by 9:00am, I can cut that number to 150. By 10:00, if I really focus, I can be down to 75. By 11:00, assuming I haven’t gotten distracted, I can account for the new ones and still cut the number to 40. That’s often all the time I have to devote to email, and anything below 50 is a good day.

Fortunately, email doesn’t interfere with my job. Email, often is my job. By closing out emails, I end up making progress on my current projects. But, there’s always more to do. There’s always those ones that have to wait on a reply from someone who’s on vacation, or notes for an upcoming meeting. Occasionally, on a Saturday, I might get below 20, but that’s an exceptional day.

Until yesterday. I honestly thought my copy of Outlook was broken when I later opened it and none of my email showed up. “Oh, that’s right. There is no email.” But, as exciting as this event is, and I really can’t adequately explain the sublime feeling of accomplishment, it’s all a waste. I won’t get to enjoy it.

I’ve bought and sold multiple houses over the years. There’s something magical about buying a house, about owning the building. When we bought our first house, it was a small 1100 sq ft two story home in Spanish Fork, UT. The first night we attempted to get our queen sized mattress up the steep stairs. The doorframe at the bottom of the stairs limited the amount of room we had. Try as we might, we couldn’t fit the mattress through the doorframe and then get it up the stairs. In a flash of new homeowner enlightenment, I realized that . . . I could just break down the wall above the door. . .This seemed wrong. There had to be someone I needed to ask, a parent, a landlord, someone?

I pulled out my large framing hammer and somewhat hesitantly smacked the sheetrock above the door frame. After the first blow, I actually paused to see if anyone was going to object. My new bride thought it was hilarious. But, this was serious stuff. I soon literally got into the swing of it. Sheetrock rained down on the carpet as I gleefully destroyed a section of my new house. After the sheetrock was gone, I went to work on the cripple studs and then the doorframe itself. I new exactly how I was going to redo this doorway. I would get a nice ten foot long 1×6 and replace the doorway. The trim would run all the way up to the ceiling and it would open up our cramped house just a little.

That was the plan. It was about 6 months later that I finally got around to installing the wood trim piece. And another month before I managed to get it painted. That’s the other “magic” about owning a home. The list of projects become ever larger. It’s never ending. Well, it’s never ending until you decide it time to sell the house. We built a house in Maple Valley, Washington and decided we’d do the trim ourselves. We moved out of the house about two years later and one of the last things we finished was the trim.

The problem with that method is that your house is always in a state of disrepair until right before you leave. You never get to enjoy the finished baseboards, or the painted kitchen, or the empty Inbox.

Today, I’m out of the office (more on that later this week.) But, back at work, people will be doing work, holding meetings and sending emails. I emptied my Inbox in preparation for going on vacation. And I don’t get the enjoyment and freedom of not being tied to my email.

I’m not complaining too much, of course. An empty Inbox means that hopefully I managed to arrange for people to cover all of my projects for the next two weeks. I hope they enjoy the finished baseboards.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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