The monster that lived under my childhood bed was hairy and smelly and had really long claws, horrible breath and sharp fangs. These days, I battle another monster, and he lives under my desk. He’s more subtle than my childhood version, but he can still freeze me in place and keep me from moving forward without ever saying a word. All he has to do is point one of his ugly claws, and I am immobilized, overcome by frustration. He holds my feet back from the path I’m trying to walk.

His name is Email and I have figured out that unless I break his hold, I’m never going to get where I want to go. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to vanquish him completely, but I have finally learned how to tame him and set myself free.

If your inbox is anything like mine, messages arrive by the cyber-truckload, day in and day out, 24/7. Just the sheer volume of information is enough to freeze me in my tracks. In the past, I responded like I did when I was a kid. I held my breath as I tiptoed by and then scampered off to do something else.

The messages kept coming.

Lately, I’ve been doing lots of planning for the March release of my new book, Angel
Falls
. I’m super excited. But preparation requires some mental housecleaning. It means, gulp, peeking into the corners I’ve been avoiding.

One day, I took a deep breath and faced the monster. I opened my inbox and peeked at the number that tells you how many emails are in the box.

It said: 4,544 Items.

I sat back, stunned. That couldn’t be right. Oh, but it was. My hand hovered over the mouse, so tempted to close the program and do something else. I could feel the monster breathing down my neck, urging me to run and hide.

But this time, I chose to stand and fight. I started deleting messages, a handful at a time. Then a few more. Then I made some new folders and started moving important emails into those.

One email at a time, I purged, moved, saved, deleted. With every email, it got a little easier and the monster got a little more nervous, a little less ferocious.

I spent two days of my life engaged in the email battle.

I checked my inbox again: 23 items.

The sense of relief was enormous. I had conquered the monster. At least for today. Oh, he’ll be back. He shows up every day, but I’ve learned a few tricks to keep him in line:

  • Empty your inbox every day. Once I’ve answered, I either file or delete the message.
  • Answer email in batches at set times of the day. Then move on to something else.
  • Save only things you can’t get hold of anywhere else.
  • Unsubscribe to lists you really don’t need or want to be on anymore. Set the ones you’re on to digest, so you get one batched email a day.

There are many experts out there who can offer much more detailed advice, but the bottom line is this: if you stay on top of the email monster, you’ll be more emotionally free to pursue your dreams.

And that’s worth every minute of the battle.

Do you have any email tips or victories to share? I’d love to hear them.