Easing “Backlog Guilt”

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image by Fletcher Prince

QUESTION:  Little Woo, I remember once you shared that you respond to everything that comes your way – email etc.  The reason why I ask is because I wonder how you do it as I noticed my old guilt wheels going when feeling behind on correspondence.  I’m shifting it to gratitude but still, my curious self pondered “what would woo do?

REPLY:  Yes, I do my best to reply to all direct messages on facebook, email and voicemail.  However, I am exploring more effective ways to deal with a bulging inbox and to reduce my time spent corresponding.  We’ll see what new ideas and solutions arise in the coming months!  In the meantime, here are some tips that may help…

Some Inner Work to release “Backlog Guilt”:

Remember that you are doing your best even if you are behind on communications.  We are all newbies in the information age – we are all still learning how to manage such a vast stream of information and communication!

Accept that there are time-space limitations with your body even though your spirit may be boundlessWe cannot help, reply nor visit everyone in the physical realm even though we do value so many people in our hearts.

See Guilt as a beacon calling for change.  See it as a neon sign indicating that your inner ideals are not being honored and that new action is required. But don’t make it into a cruel tyrant – be kind to yourself as you consider how to evolve your communication patterns.  (if your guilt strings are being pulled by someone else – examine whether it is manipulation on their part or if it is your own neon sign)

Some Outer Work to release “Backlog Guilt”:

Experiment with efficiency in communications.  Be willing to evolve your methods and be transparent about your process.
e.g  try point form details if replying with complex info. Less words but more clarity.
e.g. try autoresponders that inform people that you are away or dealing with a backlog or that it will take a few days to respond
e.g. for professional correspondences, use suitable technology or hire an assistant to reduce workload.
e.g. choose the quickest method when possible (sometimes a phone call is the best option)

Create a system of communication priority with varying reply speeds and reply depths for different people.
e.g.  certain family, colleagues and friends can reach you on a few hours notice but other correspondence can be more slowly addressed
e.g.  for time-sensitive matters, keep it to the point and have less banter

Some communication is better than a complete absence or tardy reply!  Sometimes we may avoid replying when we feel overloaded, don’t have an answer or don’t know how to respond.  Instead, a new reaction could be to send a short reply to ask for a tangible deadline or briefly explain your situation.   e.g.  if you don’t have an answer, inform the person that you need more time as you don’t know yet.

Stay focused when doing correspondences.  Sometimes, when we are juggling several things while doing emails or returning calls, we end up scattered and take much longer than needed.  Don’t have other webpages or programs open when you are doing emails (unless relevant).

Set a limited length of time for your daily correspondences.  You may get more done this way and free up time for other tasks.  e.g. Overwhelment may be reduced if you know you are only doing 1 hour of emails each day.  Try using a timer or alarm that rings when your time is up.

Find your sustainable pace and allow yourself (and others) to correspond at this optimal speed.  Everyone has a different rhythm so our speed of correspondence may be faster or slower than others.  (Some people access their emails on their smartphones all day long while others only check once a day!)

If others take it personally that you are too slow in responding, don’t take on the guilt.  Take action as needed but if you cannot operate any faster, then they will have to adapt or move on without you.

On the other side of the coin, it’s helpful to practice compassion and not take it personally when others don’t respond to us in a timely way either.  If we communicate our preferences about time-sensitive elements and the person simply cannot fulfill these requests – then we can choose not to collaborate or find a creative way to work through the issue together.

Ultimately, we must work with the energy we actually have and accept that it’s just not possible to give time to everyone who comes calling.  Once you prioritize your communications, you will see how much time you actually need each day and whether it is sustainable.

You may found this article helpful too:  Saying No With Love

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