Saturday, January 02, 2010

Making and Breaking Resolutions

I have already broken my three New Year's resolutions.

  1. Inbox Zero
  2. NaBloPoMo
  3. Decluttering

Inbox Zero advocates a philosophy towards email that seems antithetical to how many people treat their email. Using Gmail gets me part of the way there by archiving and keeping most every bit of mail I get. I only delete a few very specific items of mail, and part of my resolution this year means tweaking my filters to delete more unneeded mail. I have a much larger problem with actually answering/replying and acting on mail. I want to foster a better habit with email response.

NaBloPoMo riffs from NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. Sub "Blog Posting" for "Novel Writing" and it's the same schtick. I only wrote EIGHTEEN blog posts in 2009. This is not acceptable. I need to get back into the writing habit. I'm not hiding behind writer's block; I have plenty to say (as evidenced by the volume of words I output via Twitter), I just need to work on my long-form writing.

Decluttering remains on my mind. With an infant on the way, I anticipate that we'll acquire a mountain of stuff, stuff, stuff. I don't want to live a spartan life with no material anythings, but I do need to get rid of old things I don't need. I'm imposing another game buying moratorium and adopting a one-in-one-out rule.

How have I broken these resolutions already on the second day of the new year? One, I still have months-old mail I haven't replied to. Two, I didn't write a blog post yesterday. Three, Cat and I bopped into a thrift store and I bought two new games today.

How does this not bother me?

I'm making the effort with email. I might re-read Getting Things Done when I find it, but the first system in my head from an old boss is TRAF: Trash, Refer, Act, File. My good buddy Marc also left me a thought: "[With too much email,] that's archive 'em all and let god sort 'em out territory." I'm not there yet, but I have less than thirty pieces of mail in my inbox. Last month, it was probably closer to sixty. Facebook is part of this problem.

I'm writing a blog post today and not post-dating it. Good enough for me right now- the more I write, the more I have other ideas that I want to write. It's just a habit to foster, which makes it easier than other kinds of writing problems. (I still agree with the notion that Twitter makes you a better writer.)

I'm looking forward to trying the one-in-one-out rule to at least break even with material items- mass will never factor in to the decision (I buy a battery and sell the car), but I'm going to try to at least remain in the same class of item. Right now, I need to get rid of one book, two games, and a calendar. I don't know how long I'll give myself to meet each goal; maybe a week's worth of Craigslist before trashing or donating. I'm also happy with my current "play unplayed games" strategy, and my game-buying moratorium will merit at least a whole 'nother post. Or four. But seriously, I spontaneously bought two games new-in-shrink that I wanted to play for two bucks per. Does not count as a planned MSRP purchase and triggers the one-in-one-out.

Overall, I feel confident that I have achievable, positive resolutions that I actually want to follow. Hope you do, too.

Life's to short to give up chocolate.


Sean McCoy said...

What I did with my Gmail was messed around in the Labs quite a bit. I gave myself "Multiple Inboxes" as well as the "Super Stars" labs features. With Multiple Inboxes, I file away personal emails, emails from my sketch comedy show, emails about the film into different inboxes (drag and drop easy). And that keeps my inbox-inbox at zero UNLESS there is something I need to do with the e-mail itself. Which is where I have the superstars, which just adds more than the usual "star" option. I have a question mark or an exclamation point to let me know if I have to act on it or think on it before I respond. My e-mail response rate is up about a bajillion times than it was before, and I feel good looking at my inbox. Even if I'm scared to delete a facebook notice, at the very least I can throw it into a "system messages" folder that I never look at but am comforted is there, on its own and not cluttering my judgement.

And then as for cluttering goes, I'm considering moving, and to declutter, I'm going to throw away (sell or give away) anything I haven't used / moved since the last time I moved.

Good luck, Misch!

Peggy said...

I made a grand total of one resolution: Don't be living in Boston by my next birthday.

This will hopefully be satisfied by having us completely moved to Seattle, but I'd be just as happy if we're on the road then. We're already trying to figure out schedules.

Tony said...

If you haven't tried Remember the Milk, it's a good web-based task/list manager with iPhone/smartphone integration AND Gmail integration via a Firefox/Chrome addin. You can create a specific label that triggers an email to turn into an item in RtM, then archive it without running the risk of losing it. Even better, when you click the Gmail icon in the RtM sidebar of Gmail, it pulls that email up, starts a reply, and marks the task as Completed.

I've also had good luck by implementing the 2 minute rule: If an email or other interruption can be handled in 2 minutes or less, Do It Now. Otherwise, put it on an appopriate Do It Later list and resume what you were working on. Every morning, I go through my lists, figure out which ones I want/need to address , then redate the rest.

With that, I have kept Inbox Zero so far all month, and have lost fewer "I'll do it later" things to the vagaries of my swiss-cheese memory.

As for decluttering ... you're on your own there. I haven't figured that one out yet. :)

Good luck with it all!