This is a piece from last August but I must’ve ignored it. Yet reddit just spotted it anew and it’s worth thinking about: the original piece argues that we must ignore some people and that the trick is to work out who.
The critical… is triage. Medical staff in a crisis must decide who requires immediate assistance, who can wait, who doesn’t need help at all, and who’s past saving. Triage for the rest of us entails not just focusing on the items that are most important and deferring those that are less important until “later,” but actively ignoring the vast number of items whose importance falls below a certain threshold.
The first step is to reframe the issue. Viewing a full inbox, unfinished to-do lists, and a line of disappointed people at the door as a sign of our failure is profoundly unhelpful. This perspective may motivate us to work harder in the hopes of someday achieving victory, but this is futile. We will never win these battles, not in any meaningful sense, because at a certain point in our careers the potential demands facing us will always outstrip our capacity, no matter how much effort we dedicate to work. So the inbox, the list, the line at the door are in fact signs of success, evidence that people want our time and attention. And ultimate victory lies not in winning tactical battles but in winning the war: Not an empty inbox, but an inbox emptied of all truly important messages. Not a completed to-do list, but a list with all truly important items scratched off. Not the absence of a line at our door, but a line with no truly important people remaining in it.
Read the full piece.