Your inbox is not meant to be empty

Do you find more joy in how many items you accomplish than the actual process of doing them? Learn why it's important to discover that the reward is in the doing.Do you find more joy in how many items you accomplish than the actual process of doing them? Learn why it's important to discover that the reward is in the doing.

Do you find more joy in how many items you accomplish than the actual process of doing them? Learn why it’s important to discover that the reward is in the doing.

By Maureen Consdine Gharrity

It is normal and very common for people to get a sense of accomplishment from the number of things or tasks they get done. To feel as though they are doing a lot, the more they cross off their ‘to do list’ or remove from their ‘inbox.’ I’d say there’s even added pressure to get through all of them. 

I would like to offer a different view: It is more about the actual doing that makes the difference. 

It is better to focus on the process—the actual activity—rather than being able to cross it off your list. One reason would be that the list is never completely done. That’s right, there are always more that get added, so this cannot be where we set our focus.  

The same is true for a to-do list. It is never done, for whatever reason it is rarely completely finished. There never seems to be enough time, things come up of a seemingly higher priority. You run errands or finish a project for your boss and as soon as you check it off your list, more is added.   

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This can be highly frustrating. It makes us feel like nothing is ever getting accomplished because we view it as needing to be done. We try to finish it all, thinking that is the objective. In our culture value is often obtained from productivity and how much we accomplish. This is unmotivating and even self-defeating because a lot of tasks are never truly done. In addition, we tell ourselves: When I get this done, I will be happy. We think we will have more time for the things we really want to be doing, or that trip we’ve always wanted.  

If you start to view this in a different way, say on a continuum or from the position that the list is not meant to be done, it changes everything. Your sense of accomplishment changes. It comes from a place of what did I do rather than how much did I do. To take this even farther, it becomes about all the things you are doing that bring you joy and enhance your life. 

You begin to focus on life rather than on what have you have to get done. It’s not about the list—it’s about the actual activity, doing things. 

The joy is in the doing. 

I love this idea. Your inbox is not meant to be empty, your to-do list is not meant to be fully complete, the projects at work are not meant to be over. These things are a necessary part of life and a very positive one at that. Life, to be alive and vibrant, is to have things to do. To be successful means to be in demand or that there’s a need for your product or service. To be engaged, creating connections—that is what life is all about. 

To realize it’s about balance, or a continuum that may require tweaking things on an ongoing basis is much more comforting, and extremely motivating, than thinking you’re supposed to get to an end point. It is no longer about what did I get done or how much. It is more about the quality of things I have done. How much joy they bring to me and to others in my life. 

It means the actual reward is in the doing. 

The key then is in doing what we love, what we are good at and what gets our creative juices flowing. When we are doing this, we are in our best place, we are closest to our true selves and things seem to flow easily. We are motivated, full of energy and moving forward even in spite of fear. 

For me, I like to sweep. I find it relaxing. Same with shoveling snow. It’s funny but it’s true. Sweeping and shoveling are energy boosters for me and some of my best thinking is done while doing these tasks. 

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I want to leave you with this story. The author was not listed.  

“Remind Yourself that When You Die, Your In Basket Won’t Be Empty”

So many of us live our lives as if the secret purpose is to somehow get everything done. We stay up late, get up early, avoid having fun, and keep our loved ones waiting. Sadly, I’ve seen many people who put off their loved ones so long that the loved ones lose interest in maintaining the relationship. I used to do this myself. Often, we convince ourselves that our obsession with our ‘to-do’ list is only temporary – that once we get through the list, we’ll be calm, relaxed, happy. But in reality, this rarely happens. As items are checked off, new ones simply replace them.

The nature of your ‘in basket’ is that it is meant to have items completed in it – it’s not meant to be empty. There will always be phone calls that need to be made, projects to complete and work to be done. In fact, it can be argued that a full ‘in basket’ is essential for success. It means your time is in demand!

Regardless of who you are or what you do, however, remember that nothing is more important than your own sense of happiness and inner peace and that of your loved ones. If you’re obsessed with getting everything done, you’ll never have a sense of well being! In reality, almost everything can wait. Very little in our work lives truly falls into the ‘emergency’ category. If you stay focused on your work, it will all get done in due time. I find that if I remind myself (frequently) that the purpose of life isn’t to get it all done but to enjoy each step along the way and live a life filled with love, it’s far easier for me to control my obsession with completing my list of things to do. Remember, when you die, there will still be unfinished business to take care of. And you know what? Someone else will do it for you! Don’t waste any more precious moments of your life regretting the inevitable.


Maureen Consdine Gharrity is the founder and CEO of Finding Your Way Coaching. She is the top Wealth Health Creation Strategist for entrepreneurs, executives and other high performers. She has over 25 years’ experience in sales and marketing and has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and executives in their careers and businesses. She has a B.A in Psychology, with training in mindset and the Psychology of Sales. You can reach her at: and


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