Hi again! I decided since you had been working with three sets of prompts (this one, this one, or this one) that likely resulted in 50–100+ cards being generated while you were sweeping, it was time for another article where we do some Q & A — and establish some additional mindsets.
Just as in a previous article, I’ll include a question that someone has asked, then offer some answers and then give you a mindset to make note of.
Our first question is:
“Whew! During the “communications” category you shared with us, one of the things I wrote down is to go through email. I have thousands of unanswered messages in my inbox, and I keep planning to get around to them. I know better than to count on these emails to remind me at this point. Do I just delete them all? I’ll never get to them.”
As you probably know, I have quite a few publications and classes related to email because it’s something that all of us battle mightily in one way or another! And even though I teach this stuff, I am always looking for better practices and tools to help me, too.
One suggestion for you and anyone else who has hundreds or thousands of unanswered messages — which is not uncommon — is to set up a folder in Outlook or a label in Gmail (or whatever program you use) and name it “YEAR Archive”. So “2022 Archive” or something like that.
Then move every damn email that is in your inbox that is older than say, this week, right over into that folder. Move them regardless of whether they are opened, not opened, it doesn’t matter. You aren’t deleting them. You could, actually, but that’s not what I’m telling you to do here. You are simply moving them all out of your inbox so that you can start fresh. It’s much easier to start with a clean fresh inbox and begin to apply some best practices than it is to open an inbox that has hundreds or thousands of emails in it and try to apply new practices. Once you’ve moved them over into that archive folder, they’re out of your way.
Worrying about that backlog is exhausting. Talk about getting mired down. Oof. It’s disconcerting, disheartening, and is a huge waste of time. For example, some of those people probably emailed you in previous years and you never responded to them, and the world has gone on. So just move over the piles of emails into that “Archive” email inbox. If you ever felt the need to go look around in there, you could. But after a year, or even another few months, I’d go ahead and delete it altogether.
Related to this question, there are two mindsets I’d like you to write down:
Mindset #1: Email is a tool to help me be more productive. It works in conjunction with other tools like calendars and project lists.
Mindset #2: The world won’t end if I miss an email or if I delete or archive an email that I wasn’t getting to anyway.
“I have to say, I am a little bit mad at you, Meggin. I feel more overwhelmed than I was before. The Mind Sweep isn’t really making me less stressed…it’s making me more stressed. What do you have to say about that?”
I can take it. I hear various versions of this statement every time I have people do a mind sweep — for the first time.
Here’s the thing that is important for you to know:
Everything that you are coming up with and putting into your notecards or whatever you might be using, was all already there. So if you are feeling a little bit freaked out or a little bit, “Holy smokes. What’s coming?” no need to be mad at me. No need to be thinking, “Aaah, Meggin. Aaaah, you’ve really made me stressed.”
Actually, it was all there. What’s happening now is that you are acknowledging it. You are capturing it. It was all running around in your brain before although without any supervision.
Think about this. We know what a playground looks like or would look like if there were hundreds and hundreds of children on it without supervision. It would not be good.
So that’s what your brain is like, “Aaarrrhhhgggh!” Hundreds and hundreds, and hundreds of children running around without supervision.
By doing a mindsweep, you are beginning to put some guidelines in place to begin to figure out, “Well, who’s here? Where are we? What’s happening? What playground equipment do we even have? Where are people keeping up with things?”
Please write down this mindset:
Mindset: I am acknowledging the truth about what’s been on my mind and getting the mayhem calmed down.
Question 3: “I kept this exercise (using the prompts you’ve given us) to broad projects. Should I be writing down pieces that make up a project?”
Right now, it doesn’t matter. You’re beginning that sweep. There will be times you get super-specific and other times you will be very general. No problem.
In some cases, one particular word may cause you to think about an entire project; you don’t have to write down all the little bits of the project unless you already know all of them. What you make note of on your card or other collection device is, “Oh, for heaven’s sakes, I’ve got to figure this out.” Let me tell you, the phrase “figure out ______”, for now is perfectly fine.
Mindset: I can think about sweeping broadly now and get into the specifics of individual projects during mini-mind sweeps later.
Question 4: “When we start with each new module and set of prompts, are we supposed to be doing a separate pile or just keep going with what we have already been working on?”
Yes. Excellent question. You are just continuing with, “Oh, yeah. What else?” and, “Oh, right. There’s that.”
There’s nothing significant about having the different module sets vs. just giving you the big pile of all these prompt sheets all at once — except that by dividing it into the separate modules, we can take it a little more systematically and calmly. You can pace yourself rather than feeling like you want to give up because it’s too much. Even when I lead an all-day mindsweep retreat, we take it in stages. I’m simulating that in the gradual release of these articles and the prompts.
Each of the “sweeping” modules gives you a variety of ways of poking around in your brain and in other places that would prompt you to think of ideas you need to write down. So no, it’s not a separate pile. You’re just continuing. These are just to help you keep generating more outside your head to clear out inside your head.
Mindset: I am clearing space inside my head by taking things out and putting them in a different container that will hold them safely.
Question 5: “I have home and work kind of mixed together while I’m doing the sweeping. Should I be sorting them and trying to keep them separate or is it OK to keep them mixed together?”
Dr. Lance Secretan, one of my teachers for my work as a coach, has a body of work around “Spirit at Work.” Part of that body of work is a beautiful set of cards and a book of wisdom to accompany the cards (or the cards accompany the book; either way, the work informs me each day). Anyway, one of the cards is, “Integration.”
Dr. Secretan writes, “We hear much about the need to achieve greater balance in our lives. But it isn’t balance we need. The very notion of balance implies that there are two solitudes to choose from, work and life. What we are yearning for today is not balance between work and life, but a complete seamlessness of the two. Not balance, but integration.”
That’s just a tiny piece of what he’s written about integration and I wanted to share it here because it will help you know why I’m answering this question the way I am.
You have a life and your life includes many facets. Although it is possible to consider one aspect of your life separately, before long, you see how that piece of life intersects with another piece.
Although some people who are doing the mind sweep may be trying to keep their “work” and “personal” lists separate, most people will find that quite difficult to do. I wouldn’t fight it either way. Do what feels most natural to you.
Mindset: I yearn for a seamlessness about my life — all of which brings me joy.
Hooray! I hope thinking through these questions that may have been on your mind was helpful. Go back and review the mindsets as often as you need:
Mindset #1a: Email is a tool to help me be more productive. It works in conjunction with other tools like calendars and project lists.
Mindset #1b: The world won’t end if I miss an email or if I delete or archive an email that I wasn’t getting to anyway.
Mindset #2: I am clearing space inside my head by taking things out and putting them in a different container that will hold them safely.
Mindset #3: I can think about sweeping broadly now and get into the specifics of individual projects during mini-mind sweeps later.
Mindset #4: I am acknowledging the truth about what’s been on my mind and getting the mayhem calmed down.
Mindset #5: I yearn for a seamlessness about my life — all of which brings me joy.
Here I am the most recent day I was leading a mind sweep for about 50 people. I wore a rainbow shirt and rainbow necklace to symbolize the “arc” of how this process goes.
Here I am the most recent day I was leading a mind sweep for about 50 people. I wore a rainbow shirt and rainbow necklace to symbolize the “arc” of how this process goes. Remember the rainbow!