I think that most of us are pretty used to making lists by now. We all do it quite well. Whether it is for things we need to do or simply the mental list of favorite times of the day, we make lists because it is natural to do so. And yet, the problems start when we try to prioritize these lists in oblivion. Each item becomes weighted and underscored. Each one’s value becomes suspect the instant that it is written down. It isn’t enough to have come up with the important things, we have to know how important they are.
And maybe that is natural too. But, it strikes me that with prioritization comes a lack of responsibility. By saying that some things are more important than others (which clearly they are), we are saying that some things aren’t worth doing (which they clearly aren’t).
Every once in a while, I just want to e an in and out box. I want the things that come into me to receive no weight or value based upon their merits. I want my list of things to be bullets instead of numbers. I don’t want to have to think about the order or bunching the like items together. I just want to do the things as they come because they have found me.
I want to follow the ideas where they lead rather than evaluate if I have enough time to work on them. I want to leave my priorities at the door. There are enough conflicting ideas of what comes next that much of the time I just want the NEXT thing to come next. I don’t want a predermined live to be the one I have, one that is prioritize and mastermined by the list. I don’t have enough refresh left to analyze once again where things are headed. The in and out box will suit me just fine.
Now that gmail prioritizes my email for me, I have a feeling that my daily events will be scripted by an algorithm. Sure, I can turn that feature off, but it is so useful for figuring out what to focus on. The priorities have won. the tangents have lost. I am more productive than I have ever been. I literally have a notice starring at me, telling me that I have read all of my important messages. This is what counts or an accomplishment now. Inbox 0 has become a goal in and of itself.
But there is one email that I haven’t answered that is eating at me, and it has been ever since it was sent over 9 months ago. It is from a former student. It has a short story and a few nice words about me as a person. I want to respond to it. I have wanted to do it each week since I received it. I have tried, too. I have one paragraph of a draft response completed. That’s it. Every time I look to answer it, another priority comes to the forefront. While this situation is not tragic and I could very easily make time for this email, it is a symptom of my lack of control over what gets done. It is the symbol of what my priorities have become in a lot of ways:
The important things are determined by situation, by my environment. The valuable things (to me, anyway) are determined by conversation.
I want more conversation.
I want more in-box/out-box, more give and take.
I want more of now.