I’m drowning in email this semester. And it’s only the second week.
In his book The Laws of Simplicity, John Maeda describes the familiar Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule: “in any given bin of data, generally 80% can be managed at a lower priority and 20% requires the highest level,” adding that “Everything is important, but knowing where to start is the critical first step” (14).
This comes in the middle of his discussion of SLIP: Sort, Label, Integrate, Prioritize.
Following that paragraph is a photo illustration of Maeda’s own system of prioritization, including the labels Focus, Base, and Next. Focus being those things immediately at hand; Next being the (duh) next set of tasks; and Base being the great unwashed slop pile from which all attempts at having free time for oneself are thwarted.
I’ve decided to get rid of my usual email prioritization scheme (the stuff in my inbox, and the purgatory of a mythical todo label) and give Focus, Base, and Next a try. I’ve already this afternoon gone through my remaining email in the inbox and todo label, and sorted things into the three new categories.
Pro Tip: I’m a Gmail user, but many email clients will list hyphens at the top of any folder/tag list. So, my labels are actually
----focus, the alphabetically next
----next, and the three-hyphen and thus alphanumerically and conceptually lesser
Things already feel more manageable. But then—like a new shelving system or a new productivity app, isn’t that always the feeling? Let’s see if this lasts.