I’m declaring a new international holiday. It’s Unreturned Message Forgiveness Day. Woo hoo! This episode is airing on September 18th, but the magical thing about Unreturned Message Forgiveness day is that it can happen any day of the year. Whenever you encounter this episode or this idea–boom, that’s when this holiday is for you. Cool, right?
Listen To The Podcast Here
This week I’ve been talking about breaking free from old people-pleasing habits. And one way that people pleasing can show up is fretting about making sure that you answer the dozens, even hundreds of texts, emails, DMs, and voicemails that accrue each and every day.
I mean hey, it’s a good thing to be a responsive communicator. But we are getting so many gosh darn communications every day that there is truly no way we could keep on top of it all. Despite the unrealisticness of having each and every message answered in a timely way, those unanswered texts and emails weigh on us. I know if there’s ever a time when I’m up in the middle of the night–you know, you wake up to pee and then can’t get back to sleep–I’m thinking of the people I need to write back.
Stop The Madness
Especially with covid, when our mental capacity is more fractured, and we’re all feeling like we have more on our plate with less time to attend to it now that kids are home from school, we just have to stop. The. madness.
I know, I know, I hate an unanswered email too. But they are a fact of life, not a character flaw. I don’t think it’s worth feeling guilt over every email that falls down to the bottom of your inbox, particularly when you consider that the average American worker gets north of 120 emails every day, and the average American sends and receives an average of 94 text messages a day. And that doesn’t include voicemails, DMs, or friend requests… It’s bad math, that adds up to it just not being possible to return them all.
Declare Email Bankruptcy
I’m not saying we should all callously just not care whether we get back to people who want to talk to us. I am saying that we have to accept that it’s not a reasonable expectation to be able to answer every message, accept every friend request, and respond to every bit of incoming communication that comes our way. We just can’t.
So, let’s do ourselves a favor, and give ourselves a get out of jail free cards. I hereby declare today International Unreturned Message Forgiveness day. Whatever messages are languishing in your inboxes, just let them go. I’ve heard it called declaring email bankruptcy. This is a little different than expending great effort to get your inbox down to 0. It’s about consciously choosing to forgive yourself for the messages you didn’t answer. If you can do it for yourself, you can do it for all the people who haven’t written back to you.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment for International Unreturned Message Forgiveness Day is a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure. You could go whole hog and delete a few thousand emails from your various inboxes. And get rid of old text messages. I know there’s a sentimental factor here but have you ever gone back to read old text strings?? I haven’t. With 94 new texts every day I don’t have time! Ha.
Or, you could simply choose to not feel guilty. I know… easier said than done. But maybe you didn’t realize just how big the problem was until you started to think about it and hear the numbers of messages we’re getting and sending every day and just seeing the scope of the problem will help you cut yourself some slack. Or maybe you’ll realize you have to prioritize the messages from people you truly do want to communicate with, and letting go of the feeling that you have to get back to everyone will help you have more time and energy for the messages that really matter.
Me, I’m going to delete as many of my oldest emails that I can muster in a 20-minute time block. After that, I’m going to step away from the computer, download a podcast, put my phone in airplane mode, and go for a walk. I may not be able to stop the messages from coming in, but I can build some muscles around ignoring them.