The 800,000-Email Woman
I recently figured out that I had to compartmentalize both my email folders and my life hurdles.
A couple of months ago, I had 800,000 emails. I kid you not. I was like a sideshow at parties (oh gosh, remember parties?); I always, always had more emails than anyone else.
I was oddly proud of it, but mostly because I like to stand apart from the crowd (you’d think my many tattoos and extensive eyeglasses collection would be enough, but historically for me, more often than not, nothing was enough).
Also, I think I was tying my identity a little too closely with my “hyperactive hive mind,” feeling like if I’m extremely busy and extremely plugged-in at all times, that must mean I’m relevant.
And what’s better proof of relevance than an overflowing email box?
At the start of the Operation Make Jasmin Happier that I started a couple of months ago, which ultimately led me to document my journey here on this newsletter (and included a giant audit of both my schedule and my psyche), I finally bit the bullet and started using SaneBox, which helped me to move around giant batches (like, thousands) of emails at once in order to 1) get rid of them, and 2) “train” the bot that controls SaneBox so that they all move to different folders, with some of the less-urgent ones bypassing my precious inbox.
On some level, this was an excellent tool for me exactly when I needed it most. It helped me get my life in order, and even the painful process of batching my emails into archives was a teeth-gritting exercise in how out of hand things can get when you stop paying attention, or when you assume you will just deal with it tomorrow, or when you laugh at your neurosis—much like I was doing whenever I’d “show off” my hundreds of thousands of emails.
Hahaha, I have a problem. Hahaha, look how busy I am. Hahaha, tell your friends about it so I feel relevant.
Hahaha, send help.
Admittedly, since starting with SaneBox, I’ve had some issues with losing track of emails that got “trained” to go into the wrong folder, which I wasn’t keeping track of, because who has the time? To keep SaneBox keeping you sane, you have to devote a fair amount of time to reviewing the daily digests. This quickly became a problem for me because I intentionally stopped prioritizing emails (the kind I organically get and the kind that SaneBox wants me to review).
Basically, I neglected my bot, even after it was so helpful to me initially.
I like bit bots and I cannot lie.
As chance would have it, just last night, I onboarded with another email management service called Superhuman (not to be confused with my workout app, Supernatural). Superhuman claims to be “the fastest email experience ever made,” and, I mean, hyperbole will get me each time …
My egregious email overflow continues to be a thorn in my side, but it’s one that has gotten significantly better ever since I started to de-prioritize email (and texts, and calling people back … sorry, Mom). This new character trait (defect?) of mine has certainly been annoying to some of my friends and family (ah, it’s nice to feel missed), but swinging that pendulum back all the way was completely necessary for my self-intervention with my schedule and my mayhem. I am sure that the pendulum will swing back in the way it’s supposed to.
This will all be an ongoing journey for me, and I will keep you posted about the tools I am finding that work in keeping me on top of the communications that used to run my life until I’d had enough.
I want to be pro-active (I don’t mean the zit cream, though I could probably use that too because my skin reacts to stress first), not reactive.
One other email trick I have learned is fun, and this one is super easy: On my iPhone, I have created an email called “donotcheckyouremaildammit,” and when I find I keep checking “all inboxes” obsessively, like my muscles are doing it before my brain has agreed, I just set the email to that one, Buddhist-infused inbox. The only message in it is one from me to me, and it says: “breathe.”
And I sent it to myself two years ago, which means I’ve been reminding myself to breathe for a long time now.
Relatedly but on a more personal level, I’m coming to terms with how quickly I have historically said “yes” to projects without so much as a second thought, going on the assumption that I’d figure out a way to manage it later.
I will fit it in. I will make it work.
Just like my overflowing email, I’m realizing that this also requires a kind of radical reset. Like SaneBox, I need to put things into folders much more often. Like Superhuman, I need to make the experience a lot simpler. Because, well, I’m not superhuman. Though I play one on TV.
Speaking of which, I know I wear a lot of hats and most of my readers don’t even know about half of them. So I think next week, I’ll spend time telling you about each of my activist, creative, and work projects. They include but are not limited to: VP of Editorial at Kinder Beauty, Executive Director and podcast co-host at Our Hen House, editor at VegNews, author of two books (my third book proposal is finally out in the world, so my hope is that I can sell another one sometime soon!), editor of a forthcoming anthology on antiracism in animal advocacy, active board member for the Newark LGBTQ Center, and, as of recently, newsletterer. (I just made up that word. I like it.)
So, you can see why I have so many emails, but will you join me on my quest to letting some shit go? Email and otherwise? And putting the rest of it into the folder in which it belongs, even if it’s a folder I don’t check too often?
What do you need to let go of?
One Thing I’m Jazzed About
I just mentioned I’m on the board for the Newark LGBTQ Center. Let me briefly explain to you how I got involved with this truly extraordinary organization and then I’ll tell you about an upcoming virtual gala that I hope you attend with me.
Last year, I was doing a virtual presentation for the extraordinary Main Street Vegan Academy (along with the brilliant Mariann Sullivan) called “Animal Rights 101 and Animal Law 101.” As I try to do whenever I give talks about animal rights, I brought up that I’m a lesbian—mentioning that my activism career started 20 years ago in AIDS-awareness theater. After the workshop was over, I was contacted by one of the women who attended. She had reached out to me because she knew I was LGBTQ and she was a little desperate. She told me that her daughter, a Black trans woman, had been found dead on the streets of Newark (almost a year ago to date as I write this).
Her daughter’s name was Ashley Moore. She was 26-years-old and trying to get her life together. The cause of her death included her either falling off, jumping off, or being pushed off of a building in Newark—the Y, where she was living at the time. To make this story even more tragic, the police didn’t bother to investigate it, nor did they bother to contact Ashley’s next-of-kin … her heart-broken mom. Her mother found out about Ashley’s death on her Facebook page nine days later, when she went to wish her a Happy Birthday. And when she pressed the police for info, she didn’t get any answers. Not a death certificate, not even a call back. Her mom was contacting me because she needed an ally, and because she didn’t have many queer people in her life, she felt safe with me.
But I was in LA at the time and mostly working on animal rights. So I started cold-calling anyone I could think of, and I ultimately reached Beatrice Simpkins—the Executive Director of the Newark LGBTQ Center. She stayed on the phone with me, a complete stranger, for an hour, while I told her what I learned. And then Bea, who has become a real hero and friend to me since that day that she picked up the phone and took all of this so seriously that it became a core campaign for her nonprofit, took the lead in bringing some kind of justice to Ashley Moore. She worked with the police to create new systems of accountability when there is potential violence to the LGBTQ community—including setting up an LGBTQ hotline and closely collaborating with the LGBTQ liaison that is part of the Newark PD. Bea reached out to the local activists (I did my best to help from afar) and held a vigil, and then a protest, in Ashley’s name.
I stayed in touch with Beatrice, interviewed her along with Ashley’s mom on video, and worked with my generous and smart friends at Evolotus PR to bring some incredible media attention to this horrific case.
When I moved back to NY last August, Bea asked if I’d join the board—which I did at the start of this year. It’s been a true joy, honor, and sometimes a challenge (in the right ways, though … the kind that make you and your team stronger, ultimately) to be doing this work, and I am so honored to be co-chairing the upcoming Newark LGBTQ Gala, called “Can You Imagine.” It’s free if you can’t make a donation, it’s all virtual, and it will feature some truly epic LGBTQ performers. I very much hope you can join me in attending.
A Random Thing I’d Like to Share
As if I haven’t shared enough in this novel (is anyone still reading?), I wanted to leave you with one thing I’m enjoying in my day-to-day. Since I love companies that have a mission attached to them, I’m a proud subscriber to Brewing Good Coffee, which donates a portion of its profits to a different animal rights group each month (they recently benefitted the nonprofit Mariann and I co-founded, Our Hen House—making me extremely incentivized to caffeinated … as if I wasn’t already).