Friday, May 18, 2007

What did we do before email?

Sometimes I arrive at work in the morning and, fresh and full of energy, open Outlook and say to myself "today's the day I reduce this pile of x emails [this morning, my inbox had 516 entries, 14 of which were new] to zero!"

And yet, each time this happens, I fail to succeed. It's not that more emails arrive, though they do. I fail because:

1. Rather like the person who rips up the old carpet to lay down the new, finds old newspapers underneath and then cannot but spend hours reading through them, as I click through the older emails I come across ones which call out to be re-read.

2. Rather like the other person whose house is just full of junk because they dare not, or will not, throw anything away in case it prove useful one day, I leave certain emails undeleted in case they are needed in the future.

3. Rather like the third person who starts to sweep up the garden, then stops for a chat with their neighbour, then stops for a cup of tea, then remembers that phone call they promised to make.... it's all too easy to find something distracting to do [and that's why you're reading this as a post].

I am still old enough to remember the working world before email. Looking back at my first office job as a volunteer at CND in the early 80s, I wonder how we managed to do anything! I remember opening and stuffing a lot of envelopes and a lot of people thought the telephone was a good way to talk to us. Then there were faxes! Sometimes, we'd come in and find a long trail of curled up paper trailing across the floor. I don't miss the fax machine, but I do miss the joy of opening a letter that someone has written, or typed and spent time and effort on.

Emails are both so personal and instant. Sometimes overly so.

Any solutions to the mountainous inbox? Let me know yours and I'll let you know mine.

1 comment:

Gabriel said...

I remember long ago, when I had to work for Christmas, or the last day before summer's holidays, I'd order my workspace at the office, put all kind of papers and documents away (usually to the recycler) until the place looked empty again.

Now, with my commitment with not taking paper at all, I still do the same, but with my inbox, my desktop (all stuffed with different files) and my documents folder (it's funny how everything unclassified tends to land there)

It's all the same again, only digital. :)