Confessions of a Ping-Pong Emailer

It’s confession time.  My name is Susan and I am a ping-pong emailer.  I am compelled to reply quickly to each and every email message – even if it’s just to say thank you or OK.  By my calculations I have doubled the volume of email in my area simply by over-using the reply button.

Partly this is due to the large number of projects I manage.  By batting quick responses back to the email initiator it feels like I am somehow keeping extra balls out of my court.  The other part of this habit stems from my proclivity for communication.  I am a communications junkie.

Habit and predispositions aside, I did what I always do when I recognize a problem.  I throw a book at it.  I chose this one: “Send – Why People Email So Badly and How To Do It Better“.  I learned more than I expected.  I was concerned with volume — this book helped me with that and also alerted me to other watch areas like tone and clarity.

As part of my email therapy I’m sending this post to my colleagues (yes, via email) so you can hold me accountable for my recovery.


Sleep Deprivation Oneupmanship

When did sleep become a sign of weakness – or lack of sleep become a badge of honor?  The next time someone brags about how long they’ve been functioning on only 4 hours of sleep per night I won’t be impressed.

I admit that in the past I have made derogatory comments about the need for sleep.  That was before I learned that sleep deprivation has been connected to high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and mortality.  Yeesh.  If you’re in doubt at all, check this out.

Even Martha Stewart, a well known insomniac, has some sleep advice for us in this short video.

And from the literary world:

It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it. ~John Steinbeck

So for all those who marvel at my ability to dial in to 5:00 a.m. meetings – think of me at 8:00 p.m.  I’m probably already in bed.  You can’t be a high octane performer without the proper fuel.  I hope you enjoy the TED video below.

Embracing imperfection

How do you view New Years?  A fresh start, a clean slate, a new year with no mistakes in it, unblemished and pure as the driven snow… 

All of these descriptors have one thing in common: they uphold an absence of errors as a desirable state.   As poetic or quaint as this may sound, this is actually not positive framing.  I don’t know where this obsession with perfection came from but I’m doing my part to do away with it.  Here, in no particular order, are some favorite quotations about the beauty of errors.

Certain flaws are necessary for the whole. It would seem strange if old friends lacked certain quirks. ~Goethe

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best. ~Henry van Dyke

Once you accept the fact that you’re not perfect, then you develop some confidence. ~Rosalynn Carter

 It has to be okay to stumble while we take on new challenges and stretch our performance abilities in the new year.  Read Leading from Behind to see how this impacts team development.  Let’s go make some mistakes!

Inspiration for a New Year

Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.
~Brooks Atkinson

Self Care for Resolution Makers

Ever worry that you will fall down after having adopted fresh habits in the new year?  Relapses are to be expected.  The trick is to realize you’ve slipped and resolve to get back to the better behavior – without self recriminations.  The folks at Manager Tools have written an encouraging post on this very topic.  You can pick it up here.

I’m all for goal setting.  I enjoy setting them and dreaming up ways to achieve them faster.  Once completed I love looking back and reliving the steps in the journey.  What I worry about are New Year’s resolutions that set one up for failure.  Watch out for these danger signs:

  • “Should do” goals — These are goals that appear important to us or to someone that matters to us – but the outcome is not personally motivating or compelling.  It’s not really your goal but someone else’s.  Example:  I should dress better for work.  I call this “shoulding” on one’s self.
  • Vague, poorly described goals with no clear deliverable, no definition of success.  Example: I want to lose weight.  How much?  By when? When do you get to give yourself a pat on the back?  What’s a realistic amount?
  • The “all or nothing” goal — Example: From now on I will always be on time for every appointment.  If chronic lateness is an ongoing problem, it’s not realistic to think you can simply wish it away.
  • Conflicting resolutions — Example:  I will spend more time with my family and I will devote more time to the restructuring project at work.  If you’re having trouble fitting everything into your schedule now, vowing to be more devoted is just going to start eating into other critical activities – like sleeping – and could produce unintended negative results.

Instead of jumping right into setting New Year’s resolutions, why not take some time first to reaffirm what you have accomplished in the past year that is in alignment with your longer-term goals?  Congratulate yourself for the growth and development achieved and think about ways you can augment this success by continuing on your current path.

This last quote is offered tongue-in-cheek:

May your troubles in the new year be as short-lived as your resolutions. 

 ~Author unknown~