I’m writing this post on a Sunday evening.
Most people I know have the case of the Sundays: They dread going to work come Monday morning. If you’re one of these people, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Less than 20% of people worldwide actually like going to work.
But while I don’t have research to back this, my guess is that what so many of us dread about Mondays is more specific than just “going to work.”
We dread our inbox and the pile of emails either waiting for us or likely to start accumulating at rapid speed.
There’s tons of advice on how to deal with email dread, some of it really good.
But I had a eureka moment recently that seemed to have worked better to cure my inbox dread than anything else I’ve tried. (Yes, I’ve tried inbox zero and I’m an “inbox few” kind of person.)
I came back from a three-day work trip that involved two 12-hour days of shooting videos. (Don’t ask.) I had barely checked my email while I was gone so when I opened my inbox, the unread count was insane.
My first reaction was to cry. Then to run. And then to feel completely despondent because as I read through the emails, almost each one was actually important and required my attention. (Where is spam you can delete and feel like you’ve lost inbox weight when you need it?)
I started to freak out. Book publicity plans. Content for our new Happier website. Review of my book’s back cover design. Accepted Happier at Work proposals requiring invoices and follow-ups. Emails from my publisher, my web design lead, my speaking agent, my new publicist, our community manager, people asking questions about writing endorsements for my book… There was no way I was getting all of these answered and all this work done.
I felt completely overwhelmed.
I don’t even know what caused the “then,” the pause, the shift, but it was like all of a sudden I was looking at my inbox through a completely different lens.
A lens of abundance.
“Holy crap! There are all these amazing things going on and they need my attention. My book is being published! We’re creating a freaking awesome new Happier website! My speaking agents are redesigning my speaker page to include my book and lots of new info. My new publicist has turned around a media list and a draft press release in three days and is thrilled to work with me. We’ve got a community so vibrant as part of our new course that our community manager is emailing to prioritize messages I should respond to. THERE ARE ALL THESE AWESOME PEOPLE DOING STUFF TO HELP ME DO MY WORK THAT I REALLY, REALLY WANT TO SHARE WITH THE WORLD!”
My inbox was full. Really full. But what it was full of was abundance.
Abundance of people who were helping me.
Abundance of opportunities for me to do my work so I could help people.
Abundance of reminders that I am freaking lucky to be doing the work I care about and have people around me who want to help.
Did shifting my lens eliminate all my stress over my insanely long inbox? No. Did it magically do all the work that these emails entailed? No.
But shifting my lens from dread to abundance was HUGE. It filled me with energy. It made me want to dive in and do the work. It made me feel like I could do it — perhaps not all of it on time and not all of it perfectly, but well enough.
What I experienced wasn’t unique or weird. It was predictable.
By seeing the many emails as opportunities and offers of help, I was practicing gratitude.
Research has shown that gratitude increases optimism (“I can get this done”) and productivity (i.e. actually getting it done.) In fact, an increasing number of studies are showing a direct link between gratitude and resilience (“I can get through this long list of emails even though it’s stressful and difficult.”)
What’s more, my gratitude led to an abundant mindset.
As Steven Covey, who arguably coined the ideas behind abundance vs. scarce mindset, wrote in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
"The Abundance Mentality... flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth or security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody... It opens possibilities, options, alternatives and creativity."
I could still see an overwhelmingly long list of emails in my inbox, but I also saw a long list of open possibilities, options, alternatives and creativity. I felt grateful for being able to have these possibilities and options and for the people who were helping to create them with me.
That day I gave my inbox a name. I call it the Inbox of Abundance.
If you think this is a bit woo-woo for you, I’m okay with that. A few years ago this might have seemed a little woo-woo for a self-help skeptic like me, too. The only proof is in the doing.
So here’s my challenge to you:
Can you put on your gratitude glasses and see your inbox as the Inbox of Abundance?
When you look at an email, can you find in it an opportunity to help or do something meaningful — or an offer from someone else to help you do what you find meaningful?
Yes, you’ll still need to find time to do the work and you probably won’t have enough time to do all the work in the way you would like. And there will be work you don’t want to do at all. But I’m willing to bet you a really nice lunch that if you practice seeing abundance in your inbox, you’ll feel like you have more time and more ability to get it all done that you did when you were filled with inbox dread.
(Yes, I’m serious about the lunch. Just let me know when you have some time and we can pick a French bistro you can take me to.)