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This may seem really obvious to people who do it naturally, but to me it was a revelation.

I naturally read all email the same day it arrives. My previous method was to assess “urgent” vs. “not urgent.” This meant that the urgent got taken care of, but all of the “not urgent” was a mess. Finding the things that had become urgent over time but were still undifferentiated in my inbox was daunting.

Now I assess “action required, ever” vs. “no action required, ever.” If there is an action required, any action, even if that action is NOT a reply (for example, if it is “write this date in the calendar” or “I’ll need to refer back to these instructions someday”) I click “reply” then “save.”

Now, instead of having to search back through my too-full inbox for things I might need to do, I just go to my drafts folder, which has become a manageable electronic to-do list.



From “Envoy” by Billy Collins, a message to his just-published book:

"stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can."