Overcoming Overwhelm

Yes, indeedy, folks, the year 2020 was one for the books. For me it was a year of a few major adjustments and a hundred minor course-corrections. All tolled, I managed to crush my major goals and a few minor goals as well, thanks in a large part to an unexpected and welcomed addition to my support network — my wife Liz.

Not that we were just married in 2020 (nope — together since 1982, married in 1998). It’s just that the pandemic effectively shut down her industry which required her to travel the world teaching, judging, and managing major events in the competitive cheer and dance world. For the last ten years she averaged about three weeks of the month on airplanes to really cool countries working with talented and motivated people. With competitions cancelled for the year, she was suddenly my constant companion and bestest friend again and her presence at home reawakened my joie de vivre and motivation to get my act together on many projects I had set forth for the year.

I launched my lifestyle web page Jeromatherapy.com mid year and had a hell of a time putting it all together by myself and it forced me to research and organize and manage an overwhelming amount of information.

Having followed closely my morning and evening rituals, exercising, meditating, eating well (and regularly, with planned meals and a variety of cuisines), I spent mornings online, cutting, pasting, sharing, uploading, downloading, reading. I wrote and published my first (and only, to date) article on Medium and was very proud of the 37 cents I earned on it (a story pre-pandemic about my life at Trader Joes).

The result of this time spent building the foundation of Jeromatherapy was the source of My Overwhelm. Paralyzing, debilitating, angst-inducing Overwhelm. It hit me the first week of 2021 and once I identified the source, the solution of the antidote was clear and liberating.

MY INBOX WAS MY ENEMY

It happened every morning. On my second cup of coffee, after journaling and planning my day, I opened my laptop sitting on my bar counter and sat in my bar stool shooing away my inquisitive tuxedo cat Bella so that I could get to my blogging. And immediately I would get that nauseous overwhelm in my gut.

My inbox had 200 new emails, with another 70 or so in my junk mail folder. And that was just one e-mail account. Just looking at those numbers created such enormous anxiety that destroyed the calm and determination I had just spent an hour establishing through my morning routine.

Having that special gene, my reaction was to take the time to triage the e-mails to sift the actionable and interesting ones from the spam/junk/recurring advertisements with the objective of getting my new e-mails to “0”. This took almost an hour, every morning. But it needed to be done, because if not tomorrow would require two hours if the process was skipped.

Valuable time spent just trashing useless e-mails when I could be serenely blogging and creating value for my readers. Lost forever. What to do?

Using Outlook, there’s always hitting “Junk” and “Block” but those features don’t always work as senders can and often do change their addresses by adding or deleting characters that identify them to the blocking algorithms. Smart, these e-mailers are.

I decided to go after the problem at the source in order to prevent the e-mails from being sent to me in the first place. The process was simple, fun and very satisfying, and it gave me my productive morning back.

Simple, because every e-mail from a vendor gives you the opportunity on their own e-mail to opt out. Sometimes it’s in an obvious place at the end of the e-mail, sometimes you have to look for it. Sometimes the opt-out is worded differently.

Fun, because you you are doing something easy that will will make your life more productive in the future.

Satisfying because it is effective, liberating, gratifying and final.

As I started the process, I felt like I was breaking off relations with 200 would-be e-mail mistresses. Relationships that, I soon realized, were one-sided and impersonal as such relationships are. They obviously don’t care that they are stealing your time, and in a way, your soul. And I wasn’t actually ending the relationships… I know where to go if I want to avail myself of any of their wares.

It took a little over a week, but now when I jump on laptop, next to my mug of bulletproof coffee on my coaster on the bar, and open outlook there are no more than 16 e-mails waiting for me, all of which are relevant and valuable to my life plan.

What will I do with that time? Well, you will find out as I publish more on Medium and jeromatherapy.com

Oh, and spend some more quality time with Bella, of course. She demands it.

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Jerome Rifino

Jerome Rifino

Entrepreneur, Blues and Bourbon Aficionado, Runner, Golf, Soccer, and Formula 1 Fan, Stress-Free Life Promoter