The Skill of Letting Go

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

Leaders must be good at self-management. It is one of the themes my colleague Mike Couch and I discuss in our upcoming book, Retooling Leadership Development. One area of the “self-management” refrain related to how leaders deal with the daily tsunami of emails that come across their desk. We find that some leaders try to stay on top of them on “as they come in basis,” some on a “3X a day basis,” and some on a “whenever they can get to them basis.”

I was working with a leader last week who told me that he had over 5000 emails going back several years and was not sure what to do about them. He frequently obsessed about them, sometimes went back and looked at some of them but mostly ignored them hoping he could just forget about them until he died. He was fearful about deleting them in case there was something mission critical contained in them. We went back, right then and there, and opened up some emails from just the last month. After reviewing 4-5 of them, he concluded that there was not much mission critical to be found at this point. The critical time frame had passed.

I suggested that he delete all the emails prior to 2019 and then put all the 2019 emails by month in a folder just in case he was not ready to let them all go. He could start fresh in April and we discussed a strategy for deleting, responding or filing incoming emails. At the end of each month, he could take any unresolved emails and delete or file them.

He told me he was going to think about this and consider working on it over the weekend. A few hours after our session, he sent me the following email:

HA! I am catching up on emails. 2018 and everything before March is out of my inbox already. I just couldn’t wait. Thanks, Richard for everything. And have a great weekend!

I wonder how this simple action will improve his productivity allowing for more focused work time. Change does not have to be hard or time consuming. Get a good idea and then act on it.

Your Challenge this Week: What can you do to improve your self-management skills. Consider something that you’ve been wanting to improve upon and take some action to make it better. Send me a note and let me know what you’ve done.

© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2019


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