Stomach churning as I click on the Outlook Icon one regular Monday morning. Preparing myself for the plethora of emails that have managed to build up over the previous 48 hours. Squinting- because that eases the pain, I prayed to the big man upstairs before speedily grazing over the shit storm of requests.
-Heather, can you please…
-Heather, would you mind checking on…
-Heather, how is this travelling?
-Heather, can you arrange this…
-Heather, how long?
-Heather, what’s this?
-Heather, can I…
Too many ‘Kind Regards’ later, I’m now completely overwhelmed and reciting the Lords Prayer. Frantically trying to reply with the same level of professionalism and urgency that they always seem to project. My ass hadn’t even warmed the chair and of course more flood in.
‘And forgive us our trespasses. As we forgive those who trespass against us…’
Strategically identifying the urgent from human annoyance is a legitimate skill in itself. A skill however I did not possess. It was in my nature to reply to the urgent as well as the unnecessary while mid anxiety attack. This repeated for longer than I’d care to explain. I found myself going into the office while on annual leave just to check the nightmare. I was a slave to it, assuming it would help when in fact I was inventing a new mental health by-product. Creating an unattainable expectation and quickly adding PA to my job title.
My personality wasn’t suited for this unhealthy relationship. I could not sustain this pattern, therefore slamming on the breaks mid reply. I didn’t even give the relationship a curtesy ‘away from computer, will reply at the earliest convenience’ note. It didn’t deserve the time. I just started undoing a behaviour I had created myself.
I stopped replying instantly to every hand-holding ask of me. I’d limit time to check my inbox throughout the day and slowly learnt to identify the people who didn’t require a response at all. Subject headings became resumes and if they weren’t engaging, they didn’t get a look in.
During this adaptation, I realised a few things;
- Some urgent emails are not actually urgent.
- I had created this overflow of required assistance myself by over servicing in the first place.
- Constantly adhering to emails impacted my work life.
- People will call if it’s serious.
- Long winded apologies, while spacing out paragraphs and triple checking punctuation was time I could not regain back.
- Kind Regards and Many Thanks are not necessary.
- Time management is real and absolutely crucial in a corporate environment.
- Setting a tone for future behaviour- also crucial.
- Email was never an avenue for communication that required an instant response.
- People who make home permanently in ones inbox are the same people who use the ’12 items or less’ isle at Woolworths with a full trolley.
- Email has no real power unless you give it yours.