August 23, 2023

Just press send


How long does it take you to write a single email?

Fifteen seconds? Five minutes? An entire afternoon?

Whatever amount of time you picked, odds are, it’s too much. Adobe surveyed over one thousand workers for its annual email usage study, and found that people on average spend more than five hours per day checking their email.

You heard that right. More than fifty percent of their workday. Close to one thousand hours a year.

That’s criminal. Everest has been climbed in fewer hours than that.

Naturally, there’s no shortage of recommendations, tricks and hacks for keeping email from cannibalizing your schedule. Here’s a collection of the most common ones:

Disable notifications, only check email hourly, adopt a shorter style, use more templated response, unsubscribe from annoying lists, provide people with alternate contact methods, delegate more, hire a personal assistant, replace email with chat platforms, and so on.

Unfortunately, these are all tactical solutions to a problem that is more psychological.

The challenge isn’t your inbox, it’s your inner life. You need to shift your mindset to one that favors speed, calmness, compassion and trust, rather than anxiety, perfection, fear and approval.

One of the mantras that was floating around my old startup was, just press send. These three simple words say it all. Just press send, or jps for short.

It’s amazing how much this concept can lower your level of stress and raise your level of productivity.

But before proselytizing the holy benefits of jps, let’s talk about the reasons most people don’t just press send in the first place. It’s because of questions like the following.

Is the work even good? Did we miss anything? Will people even like it? Is it actually done? What if it totally backfires?

Now, these are perfectly logical fears. And you can thank your reptilian brain for trying to protect you from shame, failure, ostracization and abandonment. Your amygdala is just doing its job.

But allow me to offer some perspective and context around each one of those questions.

First, is the work even good?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But you’ll never know until it’s out there in the world, being reacted to in real time, by other people. Even then, the world is not a reliable or responsible critic anyway. Nobody knows anything. Terrible work often earns millions of dollars, and staggeringly brilliant work often goes unnoticed.

Just go read the reviews of your favorite childhood movie of all time, and you’ll see what I mean. The other key point to remember is, quality isn’t as important as we’ve been taught to think it is.

Speed, volume, imagination and initiative typically count just as much, if not more, than quality. Being the finest isn’t as valuable as being the first.

Did you miss anything?

The short answer is, almost certainly. You are a human being. There are millions of moving parts in this absurd circus called business, so have some compassion for your imperfections.

It’s kind of like packing for a trip. You can check your suitcase a dozen times, growing more and more anxious with each pass, worrying yourself into a frenzy about forgetting something before leaving for the airport. Or you can just board the plane and go, and trust that you can always pick up a belt and some shaving cream once you get there.

As someone who is notoriously not a details guy and almost always misses something, take my word for it. Most people won’t notice, and if they do, you can correct your mistakes quickly and quietly without significant consequences.

Will people even like it?

Fair enough, so here is your reality. Some of them will, some of them won’t, and some of them will be too busy to even notice you finished it. But none of those reactions are in any way a reflection on your inherent worthiness as a person.

The real question is whether you like it. Whether you’re proud of the work. If doing it gave you a sense of fulfillment and contribution. Because at least those things are within your sphere of control.

Whether or not you earn instant approval of people whose taste is questionable anyway, is neither here nor there.

Is it actually done?

This one is perhaps the most philosophical. It all depends on what your definition of done is. If done means good enough for now, then yes, it’s done. But if done means perfect, then you’re never going to be finished no matter how hard you work.

On the other hand, if you define done as the minimum viable execution for this particular stage of the process, and that enables you to iterate into more valuable version two, then congratulations, you’ve crossed the finish line. It’s all a matter of expectation.

What if it totally backfires?

You’re right, that could happen. It’s possible and maybe even probable. What you have to decide is whether or not you’re going to let rejection wipe you out of the game. Whether failure is the end of your story, or only the beginning.

After all, if your failure creates positive momentum that you need to move your story forward, then it’s not failure, it’s simply what happened.

But if you’re the kind of person who turns every failure into a global signal of incompetence, then just pressing send will continue to elude you.

Wow, who knew people’s inboxes were such psychological jungles?

Perhaps you’ve figured out that we’re not talking about email anymore. Just press send is a nice mantra for your inbox, but it’s also a necessary mindset for innovation and growth.

Once we shift our mindset from one of anxiety, perfection, fear and approval, to one of speed, calmness, compassion and trust, anything is possible.

We stop wondering to each other, wouldn’t it be cool if we did this thing? Instead, we start announcing to each other, hey, I thought it would be cool if we did this thing, so I did it, and here it is.

Bottom line, anytime we have an idea and attach a measure of action to it, that’s where the most spectacular growth comes from.

And the funny thing about initiative is, it doesn’t have to be big, doesn’t have to be perfect, ah hell, it doesn’t even have to be right.

You merely need to create something that didn’t exist before, and trust that the momentum will carry you forward.

Just press send.

How many emails are still in your drafts folder?