Other than chocolate, I’ve long held I have no real addictions. This week, I realized that was no longer true. I think I’m addicted to e-mail, and for a reason that surprised me. See, I’ve always thought I insistently check e-mail out of a sense of obligation; I want to make sure I read or respond to every communication in a timely manner. And I thought it had to do with my deep fear of dropping a ball, which I assumed was why I read and reread e-mails. It’s also true that business these days is 24/7, and one has to stay on top of e-mail or it gets out of control. So, I thought I was being diligent in keeping my inbox from overflowing.
But lately I realized there may be another reason I keep my inbox open and visible all day long, why I glance at my monitor every time I walk past my computer, and check and recheck the messages I’ve received. I’m waiting for, hoping for, longing for that one big e-mail that is going to change everything.
That e-mail requesting an extra-large order of my books or the one inviting me to keynote at an event or the one asking me to appear on a national TV show. At the very least, I’m hoping the answers to the questions I’ve been grappling with as I launch a new book and grow a new business will present themselves in an offer or a suggestion that arrives via e-mail. Or that, like today, someone will say just the right thing to give me the boost of confidence I need. I’m looking outside myself for the answers and expecting them to land in my inbox.
Every day, I do get e-mails that lift my spirits and advance my business, but I also get e-mails I have no idea how to answer. So, I skip those, and they clutter up my inbox for days. As often as e-mail provides assistance, it raises questions or concerns.
Well-intentioned friends have offered advice. “Check your e-mail only a couple of times a day,” they suggest. Or “Read an e-mail only once and deal with it immediately, rather than saving it for later.” Or “Hit your delete button more often on all those industry newsletters.” But what if the solution to my problems lies in those newsletters?
Where are you looking for answers or validation or belonging? In your inbox, on your social media platforms, in the podcasts you listen to or the online learning platforms that promise the answers? What are you really hoping to find there?
I’m working to remember that e-mail is simply a tool. And whether it delivers good news or bad, it’s just a reflection that my work continues, my purpose is unfolding, and my journey is underway. Nothing that comes or does not come through virtual mail is going to make or break me. The answers may sometimes seem to arrive in e-mail, but they’re just as likely to arrive on a walk around the neighborhood or over a drink with friends or in a moment of quiet meditation. The real work doesn’t lie in hitting “send” or “delete,” it lies in being open to refresh and receive.
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