Email: The Battle Continues

I felt a bit embarrassed while admitting to my troubles managing my email. Since that post, I have had several interesting conversations with people about the problem of email and what a massive time suck dealing with email has become for all of us.

A friend I admire as one of the most driven, organized, on-top-of-it people around told me her email stresses her out daily and that checking email has become an unhealthy obsession. Every time her iPhone chimes, an angel looses its wings.

A vendor called today to get the pricing information she had requested twice by email. She said, “Its frightening how quickly that very important thing at the top of my email gets pushed down the list.”

A presenter today acknowledged 10,000 messages in her email inbox. I hope that wasn’t an exaggeration. I wanted to shake her hand. Or buy her a drink.

Here’s the problem I see: we have all somehow arrived at the conclusion that email is our job, that email is what we do. Somewhere along the line, I swallowed the belief that every email needs to be acknowledged, that there is a prize for how well or completely we deal with our messages. Email is the first communication we reach for yet is also the communication most likely to be lost, unread or deleted without consideration. Why do we expect everyone else to read our email when we do not always read all of their’s?

Tanya Joosten today described the problem as a noise and signal problem. Classic communication theory: the more noise there is on a channel, the greater the chance of signal loss. Truth.

So what’s the remedy? I’m still working on that.

In the meantime, my battle continues. I have tried to keep a clean inbox. No luck. At present there are still 48 emails received since May 1 that seem to require some action or acknowledgment on my part.

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