The Life-changing Magic of Deleting 200 Emails

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On the way home from an out-of-state roadtrip (family obligations, stop glaring at me, I’m quarantining now), I listened to a discussion Brett McKay of the Art of Manliness podcast had with Scott Soneshein about his book Joy at Work, which he cowrote with the Queen of Sparked Joy herself, Marie Kondo.

One of Soneshein’s suggestions for decluttering your digital life is to clean out your email inbox of things you keep around but don’t need. I don’t know about you, but this is an area where my pack-rat tendencies flare up.

I have a few different email accounts for personal use, including one just for advertisements, mailing lists, and newsletters–non-vital email, in other words. I subscribed to several newsletters, which may arrive every day to every month or so. They range from political analysis to creative advice to theology. I think they’re all pretty neat, and I’ve enjoyed reading them from time to time in the past. However, several months ago, I started collecting a backlog of emails I promised myself I’d get around to reading. The news-commentary emails are easier to delete in a more timely manner, but some of the other less-time-locked material was just sitting there in my inbox, like it was a little digital to-be-read shelf full of bite-sized goodness. If only I had the time!

Well, I took the time today–but used it to clear the deck. I pulled up the 250-300 emails, and went screen by screen, highlighted all 50 emails on each screen and selectively saving only the ones I decided I could read TODAY. And then hit “delete” at the bottom of each page, removing all the rest.

That inbox now has 36 emails in it. And I’m about to go through, read or skim each of the survivors, and file or delete as needed. The crazy thing is: I don’t even miss the 200+ other emails, because I have no idea what was in them. I’m sure they included good and useful content (I’m pretty selective about newsletter mailing lists), but that doesn’t matter.

Sometimes the hardest thing for me is to accept that I don’t have the time or ability to read everything or learn everything. I am finite. And that’s okay.

So here’s my suggestion, reader: if you’re collecting hundreds of emails that would be nice to go through if you had the time, but just aren’t vital to your life, perhaps consider flipping the script. Rather than asking whether or not you should delete each of those emails, assume you are going to, click that “select all” box, and then make each of those emails justify why they deserve your attention.

Be merciless. Be demanding. Don’t linger. Hit delete.

You probably* won’t miss them.

(*And if you do realize you just deleted something valuable, dig that one thing out of your “Trash” folder–but don’t go email dumpster diving!)

 

“Please think I’m cool.”

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Confession: That was the thought running like a background track in my head yesterday, as I took part in a group Zoom call with two authors/podcasters whose work I admire.

I’ve tried in various ways to get into their “club” in some way over the years (with some minor level of success), but this was the first time I’ve actually interacted with them face to (screen-mediated) face. I was able to get a few words in, but otherwise, I found myself just grinning foolishly and trying unsuccessfully not to embarrass myself.

I’m a grown man with a wife and kids. I’ve got my own stuff going on, such as it is. I should be fully out of middle-school-mode. But there are still people who I can’t help but see on another plane of coolness. And despite my very best efforts, I slip right into notice me, senpai mode. I hate it.

The call went fine. When put on the spot to perform a bit of dramatic reading (don’t ask, it’s a long story), I bungled some of my dialogue and felt like a goober. Then I tried too hard to be funny at the very end of the call, so that when it finally ended, I spent the next hour-plus kicking myself for being such an irredeemable dork.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. There’s another podcaster whose work I enjoyed for years, and when I was finally able to talk to him during a live call-in show, I got tongue-tied and said something stupid. For the months/years that followed, while I was active in the live chats during various broadcasts, I was never really recognized as a “regular” by the host or the chat group. Eventually, I dipped out and stopped listening/engaging with that show at all, not out of malice but really just disappointment that I couldn’t break into the circle.

What’s the point of all this? Shoot, I don’t know. I’m just talking here, gang.

Maybe what I’m getting at is this: it’s really easy to chase attention, recognition, and a sense of belonging among those we think are cool, talented, and more “together.” But maybe the thing we should be focusing on most is just doing our own thing and being content with that.

But, then again, you know how it is: about to hit 40, looking at the successes and accomplishments of your peers, comparing yourself to the people around you, second-guessing your life choices. Typical Wednesday.

That’s all I got. See ya later, space cowboy…

Friday Feed (05/01/2020)

Hey readers!

Here are some interesting things I’ve collected from around the World Wide Webiverse over the last 6 months. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

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That’s all I got this week. Have a good weekend, stay safe and healthy, and we’ll see you down the road!

Message Received.

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Receiving clear and direct feedback is necessary, especially when it’s uncomfortable.

Over the last few months, I’ve been pondering how I can build a readership, serve my audience, and use my writing to build up others, especially fellow Christians. Thanks to Jeff Goins’ recent series about email lists and Seth Godin’s book Tribes, I had a flash of inspiration a few weeks back: What if I put together an email newsletter?

I could focus the content toward guys like me–lay pastors who want to grow as teachers and communicators and faithfully lead their families and churches. I’d be writing as a peer, not as an expert, and would focus on encouraging the brothers. Maybe I’d even throw in some writing advice or Scriptural encouragement.

I was instantly excited about this idea, so I decided the best way to gauge potential interest in this project would be to ask my Twitter follows; after all, they’d be my core audience for such a venture.

I put the question out there as a poll, with the plan that, if I got at least 20 or 25 “yes” responses, I would start brainstorming for an early 2020 roll-out.

I certainly got an unambiguous response.

nope poll

In the words of Alex Hitchens (Will Smith’s character from Hitch))… 

I’ll admit, my pride took a bit of hit. When a brother started asking very specific follow-up questions about what exactly I would include in such an email, I started to get defensive, mainly because I hadn’t thought it all through yet. I had an exciting idea but no plan of how to get there, and no real clear goals. Truth be told, I may have been more enamored with the idea of having an email list than actually serving my readers, which would have been almost instant death to any goodwill if anyone had signed up.

What’s more, this clear response said something else I wasn’t eager to hear: An email audience is earned, and I hadn’t put in enough work to earn that level of trust.

Let’s be real: of the 170 or so “followers” of this blog, there are maybe 20 of you who actually read my posts. (In fact, do me a favor: if you’ve made it this far, reply in the comments with your favorite ice cream flavor. Just humor me–or Good Humor me, if you prefer.) Most of my blog follows are other bloggers looking for follow-backs, or folks looking to sell me something. If I tracked actual engagement via likes and comments, the number is much, much smaller.

As Jeff Goins puts it, joining someone’s mailing list means giving them specific permission to get into your “space” and speak to you directly. This is a closer level of access than a blog post that can be ignored. For an email newsletter list (of any kind) to grow, readers must believe I have something worth saying that is worth their valuable time to read. It’s clear I haven’t done enough to prove that yet.

It may not have come the way I wanted, but I’ve heard my 2020 challenge loud and clear: I need to give my audience a better reason to listen.

AND I need to have a better answer for the inevitable “why” question. Maybe that starts by deciding why I’m really interested in the idea of an email newsletter at all.

Suffice it to say, I won’t be creating an email newsletter in 2020. I’ve heard you loud and clear, folks.

Now, a podcast, on the other hand–there’s an idea…

Shareable, skimmable, skippable.

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I’ve been trying to catch up on my RSS feed’s “Read Later” tab. (After a few weeks of effort, I started the day at around 270 bookmarks.) I farm my RSS feed for links to share in my #FridayFeed posts (which seem to be most of my posts these days–I’m working on that!).  But I noticed as I mechanically cycled links this afternoon that I was merely skimming to see if the post was worth sharing, instead of reading to see if it was beneficial to me. I wasn’t reading; I was just curating.

Reversing the roles, I’d probably be disappointed if readers were only skimming my posts to weigh if they were “good enough” to share or retweet.

I have to admit, the pressure to put *something* up on the blog makes it easy to slip into that role of curator instead of creator

So I decided to chop my voluminous “Read Later” list down to things that I [gasp!] actually wanted to read later, even if doing so cut against my info-hoarder tendencies. The list is now below 150. Even if a link touched a topic I might want to read at some point, if I didn’t want to read it now, I deleted the bookmark.

Here’s my point: As much as you are able, only read what you actually want to read. There are no prizes for reading the most blog posts or news feeds, beyond the prize of what you actually retain. So read what you like, read what feeds your brain and heart and soul, and skip the rest. (And hopefully, I’ll create some of that good stuff for you along the way.)

Side-note: It’s also fascinating how little the BIG NEWS COMMENTARY of 6 months ago matters now. It’s almost as if, I don’t know, the 24-hour news cycle produces a lot of sound and fury that signifies nothing in about a week. Hmm.

“I ain’t gonna work on Susan’s Farm no more…”

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So…how much is your time worth?

Last night, while looking at a freelancing site, I was shocked how many people underestimated the time and effort required to complete the jobs they posted. In one instance, a poster offered $5 per 4000 words proofread, and flatly stated that if the price wasn’t right for you, then you weren’t the right person for the job. (This comes out to a fraction of the average burger-flipper’s hourly wage.)

I was both amused and offended. “You need to value my time better!” I smirked.

Then the irony dawned on me: I don’t value my own time even that much.

I had just spent 2 hours watching Youtube videos as I finished the dishes and sat down to unwind at the end of the day (not an uncommon occurrence).

Youtube sells its users’ attention/eyeballs to advertisers. Essentially, we’re the product being sold. And I gave Youtube a few hours of my time to sell for…what? Fractions of pennies?

I enjoy content creators on the platform who cover geek culture or video games. But after giving away hours and hours of my attention for a trifling bit of amusement (“a-muse”=”not-thinking”), I start to wonder if $5 per 4000 words might be, comparatively, a princely sum.

I use Youtube for lots of things: music, information, but mostly distraction. It’s often background noise while I work or do chores–a sometimes distracting video-podcast. To be honest, I was afraid to look up how many hours of partial or full attention I’ve given away to a platform that seems to be more interested in reshaping my worldview than supplying my entertainment needs. But I went ahead and did it just now.

26+ hours in the last 7 days.

More than an entire day in the last week. Almost 4 hours a day of this ubiquitous screen demanding my partial or full attention. I’m…mortified.

It’s time for me to step back from Susan’s Farm, find another source for my daily music listening, and (crazy thought) go without a daily distractor for a few weeks. I don’t like being a product. Beyond that, I don’t like that I’ve consumed all this media without producing much of anything. This feels really out of balance.

If Youtube is the way you unwind, I get it. It’s cheap, and there’s lots of options. I hope it benefits you.

But looking at those numbers, I have to wonder if, for me personally, there may be a better way to spend these fleeting moments, even in leisure. (Perhaps I need to re-read Digital Minimalism or Competing Spectacles for inspiration.)

Friday Feed: 07/26/2019

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Happy Friday! I’m back today with some interesting and (hopefully) beneficial links for your weekend review (including some links pulled from my Feedly app’s “Read Later” list that I’m reading *much* later).

Let’s get to it!

  • Maybe you’re someone who wants to read more but just can’t seem to find the time or the will to make it happen. Jordan Taylor can relate. He can also show you how to address that.
  • I had never before heard this story of the price that Pastor (and author) Randy Alcorn paid for his convictions about the life issue. What a profound example of humble, daily faithfulness.
  • As you may know, we welcomed our second daughter recently. This post by Matthew Tuck is a great encouragement about how important simply reading the Bible to your kids can be.
  • Along those same lines: If you have wanted to begin a practice of family worship in your home, this piece from Things Above Us is instructive and practical. Check it out.
  • From last year, here’s a Crossway blog post about 5 tips for Bible memorization. I don’t pursue this discipline as I ought. These reminders/encouragements are worth a look.
  • Christian, rethink your public speech. Amen.
  • If you’ve never heard the story of Charles Spurgeon and the “Downgrade Controversy,” this is a nice summary. It’s a story worth digging into.
  • I am looking for a way to get organized, mentally as much as schedule-wise. I may give bullet-journalling a try this weekend. 
  • Finally, this post about the ignoble tasks of pastoral ministry was a challenge to the creeping selfishness in my heart, and a reminder that I should be grateful for the elders I serve with and the ones who have cared for me over the years.
  • Update: Actually, one more link–this post from Tim Challies about being your own content curator. As I noted above, I use Feedly, at Tim’s recommendation, and I think it’s a great resource. If you use an RSS feed now, or if you are considering using one, could I perhaps encourage you to add this blog to it? That is one of the best ways to know when I’ve posted new content, as I’m obviously still trying to figure out a consistent posting schedule. (Another great way is to sign up for updates on the sidebar to the right (or below, depending on your device). Thank you!

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I hope this was a help to you. If any of these topics interest you, be sure to click through, and maybe drop me a comment below to let me know which of these interested you. Thanks!

#BoycottHashtags

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Before you post on social media with that hashtag of disapprobation, I would humbly submit the following questions, intended purely for your consideration and self-reflection:

  1. Does this particular “outrage” actually affect your life directly and personally? If so, how? Be specific.
  2. If it does affect your life directly, is a social media post or hashtag campaign the best and most productive approach to addressing this issue? In other words, are you trying to “cancel” this person or group, or are you seeking real restitution/recompense of some kind? If seeking restitution, how will this social media post accomplish that? Would contacting them directly be more effective?
  3. If you are seeking to “cancel” your target, what is your ultimate desired outcome? Be specific. Does that outcome seem appropriate, when compared to the offense in question? If you explained this situation to someone who isn’t on social media, would they understand where you are coming from or would they look at you like you had grown another head?
  4. If the outrage affects your life indirectly at best, what is your goal in using the social media hashtag approach? Be specific. (Note: “Raising awareness” is not an answer. We’re all aware.) Again, apply the “random person who doesn’t use social media” test. Would this explanation make sense to your neighbor? Your boss? Your elderly grandmother?
  5. If you are using social media to call for or perpetuate a boycott of a certain business or product for ideological reasons, please consider how many times you have paid actual money to purchase this particular product or service in the last week? Month? Year? If it is a frequency greater than once a month, do you feel that diverting your custom to another business will accomplish the goal of your boycott? If so, how? Be specific.
  6. Are you using a social media hashtag to protest a widespread corporate policy or the actions of a local employee? If a corporate policy, how do you hope your use of a hashtag on a social media post will change this policy? Be specific.
  7. If an individual employee, what is your goal for publicly shaming this individual through the use of this hashtag? How do you want them to be brought to account? What do you want their punishment to be? How should this single decision affect the next 5-10 years of their life? Be specific.
  8. Final question: If you, having learned of this outrageous statement or action by an individual or corporation, made the decision to post nothing, to say nothing, to move on with your life, would it result in a net-positive, net-negative, or net-neutral change to your life?

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So what’s my point? Is this just more self-righteous social-media-bashing from your buddy Dave?

No. Here’s my point: While there are real issues of injustice and inequality that should call for our voices, votes, and vigilance, so much of our trendy outrage (whether on social media or even broadcast media) is exactly that: a trend. It’s not real–it’s fashion.

I know I’ve already talked about this a bit, but it’s on my mind again tonight.

Good grief, just tonight, there was a Twitter trending topic about Jason Momoa (Aquaman), and how a few random people on social media critiqued his slightly-less-chiseled body while he was on vacation. There were hundreds, even thousands, of tweets in response, almost all commenting on the “controversy” in disbelief. I’m embarrassed to admit, I contributed to that number.

It’s a silly example, but this is the very epitome of “fake news.” It’s not real information. It’s stupid. It’s a fart in the wind. It affects my life absolutely ZERO. Yet, I’m thinking about it right now.

A slightly less-recent but more well-known example: A customer at a SINGLE STARBUCKS LOCATION in Arizona asked the manager to ask some police officers to leave because the person felt uncomfortable. The Starbucks manager, put in an awkward position, asked the officers to leave. Should he/she have told the person making the complaint that the officers have the same right to be there as they do? I think so. But instead, the officers were asked to leave, and there was a NATIONAL TRENDING HASHTAG to “dump” Starbucks as a result. Because of one customer and one employee. That’s like boycotting all Honda vehicles because my van’s seatbelt “tongue” piece keeps slipping down to the floor ever since the little plastic button broke.

Perspective, people. That’s all I’m saying. Have a bit of perspective.

#FridayFeed: 06/28/2019

Happy Friday, friends! Here’s another bushel-basket of links and videos I found interesting this week. Hope you find a few fun items for your weekend amusement and edification!

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  • Seth Godin is a mastermind of business, marketing, and thinking outside the box. His bite-sized blog posts are short and insightful–like Zen koans about sales and professional relationships. Even if you’re not a sales or business person, each of his posts are worth a read, including this recent post about memorization vs. story-telling.
  • Okay, one more Godin post to check out that I really liked: “investing in slack” (as in margin, not the app-based business product).
  • This story from The Verge is very hard to read, but I’m glad it’s being told: 3 Facebook content reviewers break their NDA’s to talk about the horrible working conditions at Facebook’s content-review subcontractors and the painful emotional and psychological toll of reviewing vile and disturbing social media content 8 hours a day.
  • My friend Marian has some challenging words about how Southern Baptists can unintentionally signal their view of women’s contributions to church life through the questions they ask and the questions they don’t ask.
  • Kevin DeYoung provides some Proverbial insights on social media usage, courtesy of Solomon himself.
  • I dig artistic and unique music videos. This latest offering from my buddy Trevor’s band Fight the Fade is visually and lyrically intriguing. I love the industrial sound that FTF has found with this recent single. Check ’em out.
  • Some of you will really hate this article by David French, in which he argues that (some) evangelicals who supported the President’s election (and re-election) seem to be doing so out of fear instead of faith. While I don’t think he can make a blanket argument about all evangelicals, it could be applied to a not-insignificant slice of the president’s base.
  • I had a blog post idea on the back burner for the last month or so to look at 4 pictures of “toxic masculinity” in II Samuel 13-14 (the rape of Tamar  and the subsequent murder of Amnon). But then Michelle Lesley went and pretty much covered what I was looking to say. So maybe just check out her excellent post about “bad-dad David.”
  • A friend recently challenged me on Twitter by arguing that those who seek to be  complementarian in a Biblically-faithful way need to overcome the stereotypes and bad examples by presenting a clearer, nobler vision of this approach to gender roles. I agree heartily. This post from Hohn Cho over at Pyromaniacs is a great step in presenting that clearer vision.
  • With the upcoming birth of Daughter #2, this new Kirby Krackle tune about a super-heroic father saying goodbye to his daughter hit me squarely in the feels.

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Programming note: We have some big events coming up in our household this coming week (including the birth of the previously-mentioned daughter!). I’m going to try to schedule some posts this weekend to run over the next week or two, but if I can’t get that done, just know I’ll be back sometime after the July 4th holiday. Thanks for understanding.

Have a great weekend!

Friday Feed (6/21/2019)

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Happy weekend-eve, y’all! Here are some interesting links I’ve found over the last few weeks. Hope you enjoy!

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That’s all I’ve got for today. See you next week! 

 

If you’ve come across any interesting links lately, post them below!