Monday, 2 June 2008

E-Mail Freedom Day Arrives!

After many years since I set the goal... I have no e-mails in my inboxes! None at all! Hurrah! Every mail needing a reply has been dealt with, and every e-mail whose real purpose was to remind me of some job I was meant to do but without needing a reply afterwards has been transferred to a "to do" list.

I think I first realised I needed a more disciplined system about 4 years ago when I observed that I had over 250 e-mails of up to 2 years old. In September 2006 I got down to only 4 e-mails, but then it took off again. Most of the time it's been hovering between 30 and 100. A sermon I listened to some months ago reminded me that God is a God of perfect order, and that therefore tidiness does not come after godliness - it is godliness! It's one thing to agree with that, though, and quite another to discipline oneself to slowly chip, chip, chip away at the various tasks that have been put to one side for so long...

Having seen a few similarly jubilant "I emptied my inbox" posts over the years (e.g. this one from my friend Gerv) and feeling jealous, I must follow the genre and give my tips on how to do it (with apologies to you organised people out there who've never had this problem and wonder what the fuss is about):
  • A spreadsheet recording jobs that need doing. Using your inbox as a list of reminders is bad - just write down the job that needs doing and move the mail away. My list of jobs that needs doing has somewhere around 150 things on it! ;-)

  • The same spreadsheet also keeps a running total of how many e-mails there were - I record it every few weeks or so. This way I can keep a tab on whether I'm actually making progress or not and see the progress made. I've done this for the last 2 years and it's been a big help in terms of motivation.

  • I adopted the principle that if an e-mail came in that I could reply to straight away or do the job that needed doing straight away, then I would seek to. Often I check my e-mail during a break from something else, or in the evening when I'm tired - and I can't be bothered to reply, I just want to read. That practice though leads to huge backlogs if you get much mail. According to my e-mail program, I've received around personal 12,000 e-mails, not including spam or mailing lists in the last 6 and a half years - an average of 5 a day (six and a half years ago was the last time I had no e-mails - I accidentally deleted them all!).
Well, some people might read this post and think it's tragic that someone with a university education can get so excited about such a trivial thing - indeed, that with more than two brain cells it could be such a struggle in the first place to keep on top of your e-mail. But, it's a fallen world - such tragedies exist. The only thing to do is deal with them! :-)

No comments: