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, not a normal one grinning ear to ear. We all have had TERDS in our life 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. But, 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-do’s, 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, the other is impact work. I get sometimes 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 muddy’s 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. And second, we avoid punting them because we don’t want to confront someone or earn a 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 conceal your ultimate freedom. You 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 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 to bet 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 scare you? Walk into the fear; it’s what you need to do. Answering emails when you decide to will help you process the meaning each email properly instead of it getting out of control and interfering. If you’re answering emails all the time you’re egging in your crowd to keep throwing dodge-balls at you. Immediate responses beget immediate response timing. I call this “Email on a Whim Syndrome,” or EWS. Scheduling it is an “Email Control System,” or 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 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.
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.
Step 1: Will it hurt me to throw this away. Scan your email starting with the first unread ones when you answered last. If you’ve been out a few days, start from the day you left. Delete spam first, then others that won’t hurt to dump.
Step 2: If it will hurt to throw it away, ask yourself, “Can I do this in 2 minutes?” If you can, handle the email, because it’ll take you a lot longer to look it up later and handle it. If not, then create an “@ACTION” folder, it’ll auto-place itself under your inbox if in Outlook. Drag emails over that you will handle longer than 2 minutes. Then, either schedule a time block for “returning email” at 12 and 4pm, or handle these after you’ve gone through the next steps.
Step 3: If not doing it yourself, then Delegate it.
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. It should auto-place itself under the @ACTION folder. When you setup a forward to task someone with this, in the subjective line: “name of file/client/task”. Initials of the one you’re tasking this to, and today’s date and time. This way you’re able to keep a tab on what you’ve deployed to others and are hovering on either lightly or intensely. When you forward it, the CC to yourself will come immediately into your inbox, just drag it over.
Step 4: If not delegating it, delay it.
Put it in the tickler file to get attention within a 30 day span. Drag the email down to the clipboard icon on the left, with the check box marked in it, and a task window will open. Mark a date to address it. Setup a reminder for yourself. This get’s this out of your sight and mind to refocus on what’s next.
Step 5: For all “Sundown” tasks that parachute in that must be done by 5pm end of day…
On your 5-day week in outlook calendar, scroll up, just above 12am is a blank space. Left click once and type. You can put an immediate event there. Type whatever flies into your domain without expecting it, and write it down there to keep a tab on what MUST be done by sundown. Tomorrow review this list and carry over any unfinished items that still need completion and polish.
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. You now have a way to control the flood of emails that rip off your dreams! But you must use it! Do you see a clear way forward here? Is your mojo 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 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. Creating your dreams will outgrow TERDS, and eventually they’ll stop their stalking when they realize they have nothing to grab onto, only themself. You’ve got bigger business to attend to than quiet your TERDS.
You might also realize that the primary TERD is you, and has been as you’re reading this. The TERD is your fear.
Create dreams for a living, it’ll give your mind better instructions than something to avoid.
Hear more of my thoughts in my Radical Creativity Podcast #19: Delegation, Mobilization, Liberation. Click the picture below to go there!
Read more about how you can become more productive in my book, The Day I Built My BBQ, available on Kindle.