Jessie: Still surrounded by snowbanks

It feels to me like I’ve spent the last few weeks awash in email. Every day I make a to do list and it seems as though half the items on it are emails that need answering. That doesn’t take into account all the emails that simply require discarding. Or the email trash bin that needs dumping. Or the unsubscribing from junk email lists.

By the time I’ve waded through it all I feel ready to leave my desk for the day. Which doesn’t result in a great deal of creative output.  So, I’ve started  seriously thinking about strategies for managing it all. Every month I pick a new skill or habit to work on and for the month of April I’ve decided to tackle the email monster. I’ve mulled and pondered and considered many options.  What I’ve come up with is the idea of scheduling  regular deliveries.

It used to be that the post was delivered no more than twice a day. As much as I might like to think otherwise, I’m not nearly important enough to need to be constantly available to whomever needs to reach me. Twice a day post would have been more than sufficient. Is there really any reason email should be different?  Not for me there isn’t.

It isn’t going to be easy and I don’t expect to succeed right away, but I’m going to try to reduce my email checks to three or four times a day. It may take me longer to respond than senders would prefer but I think it will increase my creative output and leave me feeling accomplished at the end of the day rather than like I’ve simply been putting out fires that had no business flaring up in the first place.

Readers, do you have a any suggestions for how to deal with email?

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12 Responses to Overload

  1. Monica says:

    If you are downloading your email to a reader, set the timer on the reader to only check for new mail every x hours instead of minutes.

    Gmail will sort your incoming mail for you into tabs by content. Not exactly sure how it works, I’ve never tried it.

    Set up a second account just for your personal email. Then you can have a set amount of time you devote to ‘business’ and ‘personal’.

    If your​ website allows multiple email addresses, set up different ones for different purposes: fan mail, publisher mail, marketing mail, etc. Those different email addresses can be set to go to different places. Like the Gmail sorting.

    • MCWriTers says:

      I like your timer idea, Monica! Time always goes by so much faster than I think it does when I go down the email or internet rabbit hole!

  2. Julianne Spreng says:

    Instant message and texting have trained many to believe that communication must be as close to instantaneous as possible. That is a falsehood. Using a different address really does help with efficiency. You can set one up only for your most important correspondence. Check that one more often if you need to. Limiting email checks on other accounts to twice a day would be a great habit for you. It will increase your work time and reduce time wasted during multiple checks.

    • MCWriTers says:

      I agree, Julianne, about the access expectation. Perhaps announcing an email schedule will help with that part of the problem! Especially in my own mind!

  3. Julianne Spreng says:

    You mention unsubscribing from junk emails. Don’t bother. It wastes time. You can check the box to ID it as spam. Then hit delete. Or simply check the boxes of emails your are not going to open and hit delete. I find if I delete enough, it will eventually be sent to the spam folder. It takes only a few seconds to check items in your inbox and delete. You DO NOT have to open each one and respond.

    • MCWriTers says:

      Thanks for your thoughts on unsubscribing. I usually do just click junk without reading most of it but when the same vendor sends emails daily for weeks I end up askign myself if I would waste less time unsubscribing than deleting daily until they go out of business. It seems an insurmountable quandary!

  4. Kate Flora says:

    I have read, though not yet put into place, that you can get programs that lock you off the internet for specified period of time. I believe on was called “Freedom?” Anyway, I’m with you. Recently I realized I had an undeleted backlog of 60,000 e-mails. I spent two days deleting and I still haven’t gotten rid of all of them. Sigh. And everyday, more “friend” requests from the spammers.

    Between politics and e-mail crap, it is very hard to get in that 1000 words a day…now if I could only find a way to merge e-mail and fiction?


  5. Sennebec says:

    Unsubscribing periodically is a therapeutic process. I’ve been doing it all morning.

  6. Barb Ross says:

    I remember a corporate training program that taught everyone to return their calls only twice a day, between 11:00 and 12:00 and 4:00 and 5:00. Of course, then everyone was on the phone at that time and no one could reach anybody.

    I really like the standard one company adopted that if you couldn’t understand what action you needed to take or what decision you needed to make in the first paragraph of an e-mail you could return it to the sender with the remainder unread. All it takes is a little paragraph at the top–please read this because I need you to…

    I, too, go through fits of unsubscribing around twice a year–vendors I no longer by from, digests that go to the trash everyday unread. Very satisfying.

    • MCWriTers says:

      I love the idea of a first paragraph that is clear! Those daily digests that need trashing are exactly the sort of thing I am trying to avoid!

  7. Amber Foxx says:

    I check my author e-mail once or twice a day. I check my professor e-mail three or four times a day but don’t leave it running in the background. I don’t check it after normal work hours or on weekends and my students know to ask me questions in person after class or during office hours. I check my personal non-professional e-mail once a day. And Facebook? Maybe once a week? Twitter? Once every two weeks? I’d rather be writing. Maybe I’ll do more social media when I retire.

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