The Sparkle Steps: Be Productive More. Read Email Less.

Chapter, Fashionably Light

Apr 02 2013

Gold Tape

It’s April, which means it’s tiiiiime foooor… a new Sparkle Step!

When you’re thinking of a goal to focus on, don’t just think about now. Think about where you want to be in a month. What events are looming, far enough in the future that small steps can add up to a lot of progress?

My Step this month is dedicated to my fellow students, wherever in the world you may study (pronounced stoody). Whether you have exams or piles of work or both, we busy bees must hanker down and get it done!

I’ve been monitoring my work progress, paying attention to what holds me back most. The conclusion: it is definitely compulsive checkings of email, Twitter, Facebook…. it’s a black hole of distraction. Email is the worst, because it is the most likely to distract me with new information. I click into it for the instant gratification of reading a lovely personal email that reaffirms my faith in myself and humanity, and instead find something like a reminder to top up my phone credit (oh yeah I should go do that now. k done.).

So my next Step is to check my emails mindfully, and only once a day.


Actually this is very possible. When I go climbing in the mountains for a day, I have no internet access, but also no desire to constantly be on it anyway – I’m in the freaking mountains after all. I don’t need to check my email. I don’t even want to check my email. But I do anyway, because, well, how do I tell you this, self… I’m bored.


Bored! I can’t possibly be bored! I’m a motivated human being who is entertained by a range of stimuli from Chaucerian criticism to adorable puppies!

Maybe I’m not actually bored, but somewhere my sneaky mind tells me I am, and tells me that instead of taking a bit longer to focus on the complexity of Chaucerian criticism, instead of saving up time so I can go outside and find adorable puppies to admire, that the easiest way to satisfy myself is to go online. No, mind! Bad!

So here’s the plan. At one point each day, I can go on Gmail. It must be a time when I have at least a half hour block in which to focus on tackling each email, right then and there. No uh huh I’ll look at that one later. Sometimes emails seem like a lot of work to reply to, but, like pretty much everything else, the hardest part is starting. Actually clicking reply and collecting thoughts for a moment. (Leo Babauta wrote an excellent guide to emptying your Gmail inbox. My inspiration!)

At the end of the day, I’ll feel so much better having a clear inbox and extra minutes (hours maybe?) to spare. When I’m studying for exams my mind won’t have to do extra work to switch gears from Middle English to modern technology as quickly as I’ve been straining it to do.

Okay brain, sounds like a plan! What’s your plan? Ready go!

xandra ★

Play Audiobook

Be my pen pal!