Sunday, February 24, 2013

"It’s Not Email That’s Broken, It’s You”

It’s Not Email That’s Broken, It’s You, article.

Every time I hear in some ways of bulging in-boxes, I get confused. To me that’s…. I dunno, like getting groceries delivered and just letting it sit in the hall, week after week…

I get up in the morning (or “morning”), and I handle everything in my inbox. Sometimes I’m lucky, and it’s just ten minutes. More typically, I guess half an hour to an hour, but that includes work and personal items. Occasionally it’s heavy and takes a couple hours, but that’s rare.

Then several times a day I check mail, and empty it every time. With the rare exception of the very long mail from a friend which I send to my iPad via Instapaper, to read it in comfort.

And I don’t dream of going to sleep without an empty inbox.
There’s nothing difficult about it. It’s like brushing your teeth, you just do it.
Inboxes are not *meant* for long-term storage! For that you have to create another box, for things like information you *might* need later. I also recommend having one for read-and-handled mail, if your system doesn't have one. Don't delete old mail.

But it seems to be a universal problem that many people simply have problems handling communication. Many years ago I worked for some months in a modern religious organization. They pride themselves on having the most sophisticated management system in the world, with about 10 big volumes of collected articles on it. Some of it is very workable, like: one of the central tenets is that to get work done, you do it once, right away, and you finish it. You don’t look at it, make plans, start something, then put it back… etc. You do it and finish it. And you keep your inbox empty.
Despite this clear doctrine, many people in the organization can’t manage it. I remember an executive who was being investigated, and one of the findings of his failures was that they’d found letters in his inbox dating back months.
I don’t know how many it’s true of, but I’d hazard a majority. At least of those who aren’t lucky enough to have a job (“post” they call it) which gets very little communication.

I think one of the problems is that people don’t include answering email in the category of “work”. They think that they will do “their work” first and *then* they’ll do their email, if they get time! But your communications is one of the most important parts of your work, trust me. The majority of of big and costly mistakes in companies comes from messed-up communication.

I guess it also hinges on interest. I like my email. And also I really hate clutter, so a not-empty inbox just irritates me until it’s handled.

But: right now I’m learning how to use interdental toothbrushes. I don’t like it, because I find it difficult to get to the back teeth. But I have to learn it because otherwise my teeth will decay, this has been shown to me clearly. So I’m learning it. I think it’s the same with things like inboxes, you just apply a bit of will for a while, until it gets to be a habit.

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