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Play Offense

I used to be a big inbox zero guy. I would make a note to respond to everyone as soon as I got their message across email, text, etc. As I started working more, the volume of messages that I received exponentiated. And I realized that while the volume of messages I could get was infinite, my time was fixed.

I used to love and listen to all the PandoMonthly's back in the day and remember the Chris Sacca talk where he mentions this idea in the context of email:

I've remembered this ever since. It's not just about email or other comms tools, but it applies to everything. Responding to messages, clearing our requests from others, etc. can make you feel productive, but ultimately they just distract you from your own goals. You are doing other people's work, not your own.

Living this way is playing defense, not offense, with your time. You'll wake up one morning and realize you've helped a lot of other people get to where they want to go while forgetting about what's most important - getting to where you want to go.

The way to avoid this is to ruthlessly prioritize and ensure that you spend most of your time working on things that push your goals forward. Other stuff can wait - make sure you are first playing offense with your time before you help others.

Now in practice you can't just live in a vacuum, ignore everyone, and only do what you want to do. You often have to help others in order to help yourself as well. So this is not to say ignore everyone and only focus on yourself. It's just that most people like to be helpful and can easily slip into an defense-first posture vs. prioritizing offense and keeping both in balance.