Returning from a few days out of the office, I was reminded again of how oppressive a jammed Outlook Inbox can be. Even though I diligently checked and responded to e-mail messages during my absence, I still faced a daunting pile of messages and related items that required follow-up. The resulting sensation was a little like suffocation — with the likely outcome of death by e-mail.
There is an extreme, but highly effective, strategy for avoiding death by e-mail: simply declare an e-mail moratorium. Luis Suarez has completed seven weeks of Giving up on Work e-mail. Others like Lawrence Lessig and Fred Wilson have declared “e-mail bankruptcy.” In the words of Wilson, “I am so far behind on email that I am declaring bankruptcy.” Haven’t we all experienced that feeling.
A less drastic measure is to follow the advice of Lifehacker Gina Trapani who recommends dumping that backlog into a separate Outlook folder and starting with a clean slate. You’ll feel like you’ve lost 20 pounds. Alternatively, the folks at Lifehack offer How to Avoid E-Mail Bankruptcy: 5 Rules that Work.
Jack Vinson’s post, Yours is bigger than mine, ha ha, points out that a key problem is that we are profligate in our approach to e-mail. We send too many messages to too many people. Mutually assured destruction by e-mail. The only solution to this is to send e-mail sparingly.
Being an advocate of incremental change, I took Gina’s advice. It’s an interesting experiment in personal knowledge management, but it seems to me to be very necessary. I can attest to the incredible lightness of being I experienced when my inbox shrank from several thousand messages to fewer than 10. Now let’s see how long this lasts.
Other ways I found interesting to deal with email:Ross Mayfield:http://ross.typepad.com/blog/2008/03/vacation-email.htmlputting up a wiki for people to leave message and hopefully answer each others questions.And this one:http://www.google.com/reader/view/#search/vacation%20delete/0with a message that all email received during the vacation will be deleted.
These are great, Doug!The helpful, supportive side of me likes the idea of people helping themselves and each other to find answers via the wiki. The subversive, fed-up-with-email side of me loves the idea of deleting e-mails after a brief warning. It’s a fitting end to messages that are sent while I’m on vacation.Thanks for the suggestions!Mary