A McKinsey Senior Partner on How To Manage Endless Email Threads

The Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company on his relationship with his phone.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Manish Chopra: Drink two glasses of lime or lemon infused lukewarm water and followed by practice of Vipassana meditation.

TG: What gives you energy?
Meditation, intense physical exercise (squash or running), quality time with my 3-year-old daughter.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
MC: An ongoing practice of Vipassana meditation.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
MC: Increasingly reduced obsession with the phone. It certainly does not sleep with me. I have a goal to not check it in the first two waking hours and the last hour before sleeping.

TG: How do you deal with email?
This question also could be the subject of another book but in brief:

  • Try hard to not start the day with email aside from urgent emails
  • Try to do more over phone and text and avoid email threads that can be easily resolved in other more efficient ways
  • Batch process emails at the end of the day instead of constantly doing email all day. Avoid doing email during most productive thinking / working hours
  • Often don’t respond to non-urgent emails for a week or longer. Intent partly to condition people to not expect instantaneous responses when unnecessary
  • Recently started an experiment with assistant reading all emails and marking them for nature of action required to increase processing speed

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
MC: Great question. Here’s my typical use of short time windows:

  • Catch up with my lovely assistant especially if it’s a day I haven’t had time to connect with her.
  • Quickly dash to the “quiet room” in office to meditate especially if I'm having a tough day.
  • Call someone (personal or a colleague for non-business reason) who I have been putting off calling for “lack of time.”

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out?
MC: Last time I felt burned out was before my first experience with meditation 6 years ago. Thankfully, since then, the gift of regularly practicing meditation and investing in a 10-day meditation retreat every year has kept things in a nice balance even as external stress and work-related responsibilities have increased.

TG: Share a quote that gives you strength when times are tough.
MC: It would probably have to be “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” by Viktor Frankl, who is an Auschwitz survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning. I typically use a shortened version for brevity and ease of memory “Between the stimulus and response, lies the freedom of our choice.”

The context / interpretation for this quote, or at least as I have internalized it (and incidentally referenced it in my own book), is that while external circumstances (stimuli) can be good or bad, how we process the situation is really up to us (the choice of response). It may seem counterintuitive on the surface whether we have a choice but certainly through meditation and other such techniques, one can appreciate that there is in fact a fraction of a moment in which the mind can in fact make a choice on how to respond vs. be on autopilot.

Outside of serving CEOs and other senior executives and leading institutions in healthcare and on the topic of pricing, Manish speaks and writes about the benefits of meditation to professionals. He is the author of the book, The Equanimous Mind, which chronicles his initial experiences with learning the practice of Vipassana meditation and the life-changing impact it has had on his personal and professional life.

Originally published at medium.com

Wisdom, Life Lessons, Meditation, Thrive Questionnaire

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