I recently put up a permanent out-of-office message:
I apologize - I've hit that sad point where I am fundamentally unable to answer all the emails I get in a single day, with no end in sight. I do try to answer every email but I've resigned myself to the sheer impossibility of the endeavor. If it is important, please feel free to IM, text or call me.
Suggestions for solutions welcome.
My thanks and apologies for the inconvenience,
This came about because every morning I would say to myself, "I'm going to get through all today's emails." And every day, I would feel guilty. It's been years - years! - since I've not felt a twinge of guilt every day about my inbox.
And there's no reason to feel guilty! Email is a channel by which other people authorize themselves to spend your time. If you know me, you'll know what a horrific thought that is to me. The nerve. But the fault lays squarely with me and the Catholic-Asian one-two guilt combo of my upbringing.
I've been on a drive to eradicate all shame from my life. I've gotten most of it cauterized, and am now slowly trying to eradicate guilt - while still being a human being about it. A much harder endeavor.
But what can be more important than making sure we're making the most of the short time we have? Not much.
Part of it is installing some "life infrastructure", e.g. ways to manage your inbox, automating your life. But most of it is the psychology - the ability to see time spent "not doing anything" as productive, and training that emotional response to seeing something undone that you have not yourself actively chosen to do. If you can't train your emotional response, you'll always and increasingly be a puppet to gamification engineers, filling out your profile for no other reason than because it's only 75% complete, and subject to people who would like to spend your time for you. I don't want to live my life feeling guilty every day for things undone - what kind of life is that? This is an arms race worth winning.
Take your time back. Space lets you sleep. It lets you eat. We are so much more productive when we are physically well and rested. Our memories are better. We are more efficient. Space lets you think, to make the right decisions rather than the automatic ones, to be creative. It gives you room for serendipity, and for the quantum leap. Most of all, it gives you the chance to sit with someone else for the sheer sake of sitting with someone else, the friends and family you love and maybe the friends and family you could and will eventually love. Without space, we're not really human.
It's become increasingly clear to me that space is productive. And if we define work as "that which is productive," then space is work.