Email, Terds, and Dreams


In my family, we call behavior that’s negative or just downright pity party’ish: “The TERD”. Terds are the downers of the party, the naysayers of the new, the needy, the controlling, the time-bandits, and the ones who need the world to change for them to be in good status. Their mouth is shaped like an invert U sloping downward and not a normal one grinning ear to ear. We have all had TERDS in our lives at one time or another. In fact, we both have them right now.


I can say this with certainty, because you have a dream you’re pursuing, and when you’re taking action toward it, TERD generation is inevitable. You will experience them as a byproduct of creating what you want. At the same time, I also know that you like to have an empty email inbox don’t you? You dream of having less stuff to do, less paperwork, less to-dos, all the emails, phone calls, and stuff. You imagine the day when these mad dogs will stop barking in your ear drum.


Herein lies a conflict between two desires: clear the inbox or create the dream. One is pseudo work, and the other is impact work. Sometimes, I get over 300 emails per day. I could start in the morning and work on email until 12 noon if I wanted to. Yet, my dreams are more important to me. Goal centric behavior must get into my day or I’m going in circles. What’s the answer? Priority management.  I have to be willing to pay the price to create my dream by declining the allurement of the vortex of stuff.


What will muddy things up are two underlying concepts (beliefs): accessibility equals success, and approval equals peace of mind. We become conditioned to be accessible with our time and don’t notice how we lower the draw-bridge to intruders. Moreover, we avoid punting them, because we don’t want to confront someone or earn their bad opinion of us. You’d rather keep your TERDS quiet to have a short term moment of jubilee than have a long term dream come true. This is motivation out of scarcity and control, which will conceal your ultimate freedom. You might think response time is your silver bullet but it’s an illusion.


Your amazing personal brand to come through and be reliable and credible actually trumps your ability to create long term goals. Be honest. Deep down this is a conflict between image and effectiveness or between pretense and success.  Are you willing to take a serious look at letting go of these fears: isolation and confrontation? It’s a big question to ask yourself? And what risks are you taking by NOT letting these go?


Being accessible is like being a doctor on call. You might as well drive an ambulance. Your life balance rests in the hands of the world. It’s a choice you make when betting well-being on circumstances.  It’s up to you as to how you choose to orient your life. I suggest you choose to become the predominant creative force in your life. Your dream is more important than having an empty inbox.


Consider this for a moment – don’t answer emails first thing in the morning. Schedule two periods per day to answer emails on offense. This scares you? Walk into the fear; it’s what you need to do. Answering emails when you decide to will help you process the meaning of each email properly instead of it getting out of control and interfering. If you’re answering emails all the time, you’re egging your crowd on to keep throwing dodge-balls at you. Immediate responses beget immediate response timing. I call this “Email on a Whim Syndrome” EWS. Scheduling it is an “Email Control System” ECS. Answer the emails when you schedule time to do so, but furnish the reason why you’re doing so. You want to give quality attention to people out of respect – not some sudden flurry of blurry answers that are unclear and incomplete.  Short answer emails waste the time of others, and they feel misunderstood and unimportant anyway. Short emails attract TERDS.


Being overwhelmed is when too many things have equal meaning. Not every email will be as urgent or as important as the others, and not every email will be handled the same way. As you answer your emails, apply the “4 D’s model.”  Dump it, Do it, Delegate it, Delay it. The key is the email must go into one of these drawers.


  • DUMP
  • DO


Pileups and log jams in the inbox are a result of delayed decisions. You must put the email in one of these four “D’s” when you process them. If you delegate it, CC yourself the email you’re sending to the person to handle it, and drag it over to a WAITING folder you’ve setup. This way, you’re able to keep a tab on what you’ve deployed to others and are hovering on either lightly or intensely.


STOP!   I’ve just presented to you a field tested method and game-plan for bypassing your accessibility urge and need for approval; to have your dreams come true. Do you see a clear way forward here? Is your confidence up right now?  Hold onto your hat, there’s more. Let’s look further into the approval piece.


Remember, there are two kinds of people in the world: GIVEN UPS and GROWN UPS. Grown-ups are those that hold steady to their most important dreams and aspirations, while GIVEN UPS give up. They’re the compromisers of the world who outlaw other’s dreams with judgment, fear, and cynicism. These are enemies you will meet in pursuit of your dreams. Let go of your fear of isolation. You will never be alone. People come and go throughout your life; it is part of the natural order of your evolution and life journey.


Simple fact: TERDS WILL BE TERDS. You can’t change them. You live with them and in spite of them, as you position yourself toward more dominant, exiting, and bigger horizons that matter to you. Like Freddy Krueger, you can’t force out a TERD. As you create your dreams, you will outgrow TERDS. Eventually, they’ll stop their stalking, when they realize they have nothing to grab onto – only themselves. You’ve got bigger business to attend to than to quiet your TERDS.


As you’re reading this, you might also realize that the primary TERD is you and has been. The TERD is your fear.


Create dreams for a living. It’ll give your mind better instructions than something to avoid.