Software

Gimme my e-mail


I came across a productivity tip the other day, which--on

the face of it--sounds entirely reasonable. The suggestion is that instead of

getting sidetracked all day long by the arrival of one e-mail message after

another, you configure your mail client so that it delivers mail on a

restricted schedule. Like every hour or two.

I can certainly see where that would cut down on interruptions

and the temptation to slide into work avoidance mode. But after giving the idea

some serious consideration, for maybe a full three seconds, I rejected it. And

here's why: I would go INSANE thinking about all those potentially critical or at

least critically amusing e-mails washing up in some cyber holding tank waiting

for Outlook to open the sluiceway and allow them to pour into my mailbox. Not

that I ever get that kind of e-mail. That's not the point. I wouldn't know WHAT

was waiting for me, is the point. I have to check e-mail when I'm on vacation,

that's how et up with curiosity I am. So no delayed or consolidated e-mail

delivery for me. I'd be stabbing at the [F9] key for a manual send/receive all

day long like a psychotic, pellet-craving lab rat.

Assuming you're in the same boat I am, and I know at least

some of you are (because you answer my e-mail when YOU'RE on vacation), what can

we do to keep from becoming derailed by our e-mail? I think maybe the only real

choice is to embrace derailment as a working style and learn to function

productively even as we go jouncing and skidding across the multitasking

landscape.

To further choke the life out of the train metaphor (although our

journey began on a boat), it's like hopping from track to track to track:  working on Project A while answering a couple

of smart-ass e-mails, responding to a serious managerial imperative, gathering

data and writing a report while working on Project B, investigating a customer

problem, reading a series of e-mails from the person sitting four feet behind

you. Hop hop hop.

Not that it hurts to fine-tune your e-mail handling skills.

(Here it is, finally: my raison d'blog.) As long as you're

going to be wallowing in e-mail day in and day out, you might as well shoot for

some degree of efficiency and organization. I found just the system, too. It

calls for you to:

  • Set Up a Simple and Effective E-mail Reference System
  • Schedule Uninterrupted Time to Process and Organize E-Mail
  • Process One Item At a Time, Starting at the Top
  • Use the "Four D's for Decision Making" Model

(That last one is my favorite part. The four Ds are Delete it; Do it; Delegate it; Defer it. There are some excellent options there!)

This system is described in "4 Ways

to Take Control of Your E-mail Inbox." It's one of those productivity

articles describing practices that sound great and would probably work if it

weren't for the fact that you have to actually adopt them. The advice is

practical and specific, though, and I might give it a try.

If you have some other suggestions, please pass them along.

Or send me an e-mail. Odds are, I'll have it read before it comes to a complete

stop in my inbox.

About

Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior editor for Tech Pro Research.

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