Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Seeing the Same Thing Differently

Confronted with a soul-suckingly deep pile of email in my in-box yesterday, I felt some level of despair.  I had to get through it but found the prospect extremenly discouraging.

When I recalled a trick I had read some years ago.  Rather than looking at the inbox with its default listing of most recent email first, resort the pile.  Sort it alphabetically by Subject.  Sort it by sender.  Reverse sort it by sender.  Anything.  Make the pile look different.

So I did.  And I quickly whittled the pile of 50+ emails down to the 10 that truly needed attention. 

And then I wondered: "Why is such a dumb little trick so effective?  I didn't alter the pile...I just rearranged it.  Why did is cease to be a despair-inducing exercise?"

I think it is just the new sequence.  Busting out of the chronological sequence into some other sequence, even one that doesn't make much sense.  It makes the inconsequential emails about available free kittens seem even more silly and more easily deleted. 

Which is also why it's good to look at any process backwards, rather than forwards.  You see new things.  And silly things which are so very deletable. 

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Norbert said...

As in GTD, latest and loudest is hardly the most efficient approach to processing. By doing as you described you remove the responsibility that you feel for responding to the latest and I believe that enables curiosity and creativity to come through.

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