Inbox Zero and GTD changed how I work. The tips of “Don’t constantly be reading incoming email” and “move email messages out of your inbox” are keys to how I succeed at managing what seems like a deluge of incoming email. It’s changed me, in some ways for the worse. I see inboxes everywhere now.
I’ve got a Netflix Instant queue filled with movies I’m never in the mood to watch. I feel bad that I have hundreds of unread articles in Pocket. I just unsubscribed to The Magazine because I couldn’t keep up to date with new issues. I even quit playing Words With Friends, because it was just another inbox.
That’s just the beginning. My Letterboxd watchlist has just over 400 movies added. My Downcast “Everything” playlist tells me I have 238 unplayed podcast episodes (a little over 100 hours). I just added up some 25 seasons of TV shows I’d like to watch, including Breaking Bad, Supernatural, Sopranos, and many others. The unread shelves in my Goodreads have 168 books. I’ve got a stack of video games that each deserve 40-50 hours of play time. Let’s not even talk about comic books, new music, board games, and Longform articles published online.
For a long time I felt almost crushed under the pressure of not having any time to consume all these things. Really, who has that kind of time? I’d need some 2,500 hours of free time to get through all my lists of unread/unwatched/unconsumed stuff. If I spent 2 hours a day, it would take me almost 3 and a half years.
Then I realized: then it’ll take 3 and a half years. It’s not going anywhere. Some of those movies and TV shows I’ll watch with my wife, some of the movies, books, or podcasts will be things I want to talk about with friends. Some of those books will get made into movies, some of the podcasts episodes will be worth skipping, some of the movies I won’t finish, and some of the video games won’t merit a second playthrough.
When I first got my Xbox 360, the game I played most was this puzzle game Hexic. You just spin these pieces around in the grid shaped game area. It dazzled me and I played for hours. I was the same way with Tetris. And nearly every other video game I can remember, I was constantly replaying it to master a top score or best time. I must have rewatched the original Star Wars trilogy every week of my childhood, and I can’t count the times I’ve seen some of the movies we watched as a family growing up (Romancing the Stone, So I Married an Axe Murderer, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure come to mind). I think as a teenager I saw more reruns of Quantum Leap and Saved by the Bell than any single person should.
I think most people are like this. I think most people are daunted by the things they haven’t done/seen and comforted by the things they know best. I think most people would rather eat at the restaurant they know they like then try some place new, or eat at the same entree than try something they may not like. Sometimes its nostaliga that has us watch old movies we love instead of a new one or revisit vacation destinations than visit a new city. It takes a great deal of effort to try new things, step out of your comfort zone, and take a risk.
So I refuse to think of my Watchlists as Inboxes anymore. They are wishlists. They are a pantry. They are a rainy day toy box. No one ever feels pressure to use up all the flour and sugar in their pantry. Just use it as needed, since it’s not perishable. When Christmas is over, no one should ever feel pressured to buy up the rest of their Christmas list. It’s about enjoying what you have, not what you don’t. And some toys you keep stashed, in case kids can’t play outside. So that is my new philosophy. And I feel much better.
If only I could make a decision on what movie to watch next.