My inbox and my to-do list are, collectively, a map of my fears.
There are three reasons tasks sit in my inbox, or on my to-do list, un-done.
- They sit there as reminders to do something at a particular time. (If someone promises me something, for example, in two hours, two days, or two weeks, I snooze the e-mail for the appropriate amount of time, at which time it returns to visibility. And, if necessary, I remind the promiser of the promised deliverable. [I love Google Inbox for this reason.)
- The response or action I need to take is too complex to be accomplished in the amount of time I (yet) have had available to devote.
- For one reason or another, I’ve been unable as yet to bring myself to complete the task, to respond, to act.
There is, of course, some fuzziness between 2 and 3. Sometimes, the reason I haven’t yet had the requisite amount of time to devote is that I face some internal resistance to completing the task. (I currently have three or four e-mails to which I owe responses sitting in my inbox. Is my failure, thus far, to respond suitably a function of the time that’s been available? Is it a function of my fear about responding? Is it both? Are they overlapping? Do they inform one another?)
But with respect to those which fall, squarely, into the third bucket, it’s almost inevitably fear that is the “one reason or another.” By which I mean, it’s not one reason or another; it’s one reason. It’s fear.
Maybe it isn’t necessarily fear all the time. Maybe it is lack of interest in completing the task, burn out if you will.
I don’t think so.
Lack of interest alone would explain why I might not choose to do something that has to be done in a particular moment. But it wouldn’t – absent radical lack of impulse control – explain why I might, say, fail to get it done on time. If I fail to get it done on time, or if it lingers for more than a relatively short period of time, it’s (for me) a safe bet that there’s more going on…. Maybe not fear – maybe it’s something else – Sadness? Resentment? Anger? But lack of interest seems to me an unsatisfying answer.