I don’t know about you, but there’s a part of the morning where I am capable of reading emails, but I do not have enough brain and/or coffee to reply the way I want to. I used to just mark those as unread, planning on coming back to them when I did have the ability to reply sensibly. That… sometimes worked. The rest of the time, it would drift to the bottom of my inbox and eventually float out of my mind… Until the middle of the night, when the guilt of not responding kept me awake, but still not in the right mental state to reply.
This is not a novel problem, and there are all sorts of ways of addressing it. Some people use the Getting Things Done model, inbox zero, special processes that label and sort (that they somehow remember to go into to follow up on).
But this is not a post about those things. This is a post about how I use Clickety follow ups to work around my pre-coffee brain. Luckily, it’s pretty short post, because it’s a pretty simple solution.
When I’m reading my personal mail in the morning, most of what I’m checking is notifications and updates - things that I need to know, but not take action on. But sometimes the vet needs to know the last date my cat got his shots.
I could go all the way to where I keep my pet records and get the answer (which I very much don’t want to do as I just got comfy). Or I could just forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When that message gets processed into your Clickety account, it automagically gets marked as needing a follow up. When your coffee has percolated into your brain, then check out your follow ups group. There you’ll be greeted with a focused list of the things you need to do!
Things that keep this from working:
- Forwarding everything. It’s better to send a short reply now than a perfect reply never. When you are over ambitious, you can overwhelm yourself and that makes your next attempt just that much harder to get going.
- Collecting dust. The most important (and hardest) part of any productivity habit is to actually do it. Pick a time when you are usually still energized and put an event on your calendar to process your follow ups. If calendar events don’t work for you, think about a daily habit you like doing and try to piggy back off of it. Place your reminder so you have to see or move it before you can do the task you like. I think of the tasks I need to do but don’t want to do as “vegetables,” and the things I want to do as “dessert”.
- Being overwhelmed. Some combination of setting too many follow ups or letting too much dust collect will inevitably happen at some point. You could declare defeat and go despair on your couch. Or you can break things into smaller chunks (preferably separated by dessert activities). I like using a timer. No matter how much I don’t want to address the pile-up of emails or draft that blog post I promised, I’m pretty sure I can put up with it for 20 minutes. I’ll set a timer and focus on taking care of my vegetables, and then I’ll give myself a dessert break.
Another helpful use case is when I am replying to someone saying that I will do something. I can BCC email@example.com and it will show up as a follow up on the card for who I owe that to.
- When you need to reply to someone but can’t do it immediately, forward your email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Schedule time to regularly process your follow ups, or add a reminder in front of something you like to do daily.
- Have compassion for yourself and reward yourself for doing emotionally difficult things.