Napoleon's Mail

"As a general, Napoleon made it his habit to delay responding to the mail. His secretary was instructed to wait three weeks before opening any correspondence. When he finally did hear what was in a letter, Napoleon loved to note how many supposedly “important” issues had simply resolved themselves and no longer required a reply." (Ryan Holiday, Stillness Is the Key)

I wonder how Napoleon would have handled instant access to his mail every second of every day. Regardless, he was on to something with snail mail.

It is way too easy these days, and I guess two centuries ago too, to prioritize everything. Sometimes I think we do it because we want to be the hero. We want to come in and resolve every problem. The thing is that when we do that, there is no priority, and no one learns.

Not long ago, a client was emailing a member of our team late at night. The person did not see the back-to-back emails until it was just about bedtime. Unsure how to respond at that hour, they waited until morning.

At the start of the next day, they got in touch with the client for a call. The client immediately apologized for the late-night messages, embarrassed by their behavior. The issue turned out to be a misunderstanding.

I cannot help but think that had the team member seen the emails earlier and responded, the heat of the moment would have been explosive, dominating the evening and making a mountain out of a molehill.

Some issues do require our immediate attention, but more often than not, it pays to be selective.