On Saturday September 17 2016, I received an email from a "Jasmine" (*name changed for obvious reasons) with the subject line: "Love your awesome blog!" She went on to say how she enjoyed one of our articles and that she'd "love to contribute a guest post."
Three days later when Jasmine didn't receive a response, she sent me this email:
I sent you an email regarding guest posting on your site a few days ago. I understand we are all busy but did you give it a thought? (see previous email).
Looking forward to hear [sic] from you.
I don't know about you - or you, "Jasmine" if you're reading this - but responding to emails is not my sole purpose in life. We might live in a world where instant gratification isn't quick enough, where everything is "on demand" - Netflix, takeout, even dating thanks to Tinder - but I refuse to be an on demand human.
Now, put yourself in my position; as the editor of one of the world's fastest growing sustainability blogs, the co-founder of several digital businesses and co-owner of an organic - soon to be certified organic - farm. My time is in high demand, and in short supply.
Time is my scarcest commodity.
In fact, I'm betting that time is everyone's scarcest commodity. I just happen to be highly aware of its value given my practice of mindfulness.
I want to meet my deadlines, write, interview, spend quality time with my partner, garden, play with my dog, go to the gym, grow and eat clean food, practice yoga and meditation, be a good sister/daughter/friend, read, journal, coach my team members, plan and execute business strategy.
Related Post: Why I Chose Mindful Living
Nowhere on my priority list is responding to non-essential email from people who are only reaching out under the guise of providing a "guest post" which is really just code for: "I don't care about the quality of the piece I write for you, I don't even care about your readers - I just want a quality backlink." Indeed, Jasmine's motivation for reaching out is not at all genuine, adding yet another layer of frustration.
The bane of my existence: emails and phone calls.
While the internet has made it much easier for me to get work as a digital strategist and copywriter, there's a massive downside to it - the endless distractions.
My fiance and business partner doesn't see what the fuss is about, but of course he wouldn't. He's not a creative. He's in business development.
In the world of sales, every email and every call represents a business lead. In my world, every email and every call represents an annoying distraction.
It's why I don't check emails first thing in the morning. It's why I have a system in place for checking and responding to emails (I hired Ted, who prioritises email for me, and then I make it a point to only check and respond to essential emails). It's why I keep my mobile phone on "airplane mode" when I'm working. It's why I have reduced the amount of time I've spent on my personal social media accounts such as Facebook and Snapchat.
Related Post: The Meaning Behind My Meltdown
Distraction in all its forms - whether it be email, TV or the magazine you're dying to read - is a real issue for writers. And even some of the world's famous writers have (had) their own complex issues with it.
Here's what Steven King had to say about distraction in his book, On Writing:
There should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.
Award–winning short story writer Nathan Englander in an interview with The Daily Beast:
Turn off your cell phone. Honestly, if you want to get work done, you’ve got to learn to unplug. No texting, no email, no Facebook, no Instagram. Whatever it is you’re doing, it needs to stop while you write.
In Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck explores his relationship with distraction:
Sue and Bob showed up this morning. Had to kick them out. Simply can’t have people around on working days.
I want to be a published author one day. If I am ever going to achieve this goal, you can expect me to be as ruthless with how I spend my time as these talented writers.
Put yourself in my shoes.
So just to give you an idea of the kinds of emails that we - or more accurately, Ted - receives each week, here is a sample of them:
- writers wanting to contribute,
- sustainable brands wanting to advertise or collaborate,
- readers who want to share their thoughts about one of our blog posts,
- ethical bloggers wanting blogging advice,
- journalists and writers wanting commentary for an article,
- publicists' latest press release,
- students wanting assistance with sustainability/ethical fashion university assignments,
- personal emails from friends and family members;
- event invitations; and of course
- lots and lots of email spam.
If you were in our position, what would you do? How would you go about prioritising your time? How do you possibly get back to every person asking for something - whether it be advice, recommendations, or advertising requests? And how do you do so while continuing important work whilst being there for the people that mean the most - family, friends and genuine community?
Related Post: A Journey to Mindfulness
I honestly thought I found the perfect solution when I hired Ted our admin officer... and still the email inbox is out of control!
I'm a digital copywriter, not an internet addict.
I use the internet, I don't live on the internet.
Some users get high on technology; they abuse the internet much like a junkie abuses recreational drugs.
These internet addicts compulsively look at their smartphones at least a hundred times a day, constantly checking emails and notifications, liking images on Instagram, posting updates on Facebook, playing with image filters, Snapchatting - basically seeking out their next online dopamine hit. The internet is a bottomless rabbit warren for drug-like stimuli.
I might work in the digital industry but I refuse to become an internet addict.
Plus, how conscious can a mindful blogger be if they're just as plugged in as the rest of modern society?
So I'm done apologising for not getting back to people. And I'm also done with the phrase "I'm busy." As "Jasmine" clearly pointed out, everyone is busy.
To deal with this email hell of my own making, I've come up with what I think is a more effective reply if people get stroppy with my lack of response:
Sorry, I juggle many competing priorities and unfortunately your email wasn't high on the list...
Surely no one can argue with truth?
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