My inbox: The urge to purge

It is Monday at 3:50pm and I have just managed to open and deal with my weekend email… I was only away for 2 days, one of which I worked this weekend. How did the pile get so big?

I have an iPhone, I check my email when I’m away from the office, sometimes I check it after tea, sometimes I check it before my porridge and whilst I regard myself as a reasonably work/life balanced person, today I feel entirely swamped by e-‘stuff’.

It’s not that it isn’t worth reading either. In amongst the invites to events from Facebook, the updates on who is following me on Twitter and the adverts for the latest conference on technical blah blah there are requests for information, customer feedback, problems to solve, meeting invites to confirm and (for me) a steady stream of potential performers all selling their wares in the hope of a slot within the Spot On Rural Touring season.

I pride myself on being quite an organised person. My motto is that if it can be done immediately to ‘do it now’ or as a farmer friend used to say ‘the best time to cut a stick is when you see one’. I do things straight away because I know that if I don’t they will slip down into the dank, dark, dangerous world which is Page 2 of my email inbox – somehow when you don’t immediately see it you no longer have the impetus to deal with it and herein lies my concern. What if I miss something?

So, each morning I diligently sift through my email, I answer, delete, file and forward accordingly and after that (usually half an hour) I go on with my ‘to do’ list. What scares me is weekends. Over the weekend some kind of dark magic happens to my email – it starts to work its way steadily down the page and onwards, into Page 2 and sometimes even to Page 3! Why are people sending me email on a weekend? And so on Mondays I delete like crazy and spend most of the day trying to figure out which issue to resolve first. And so the process continues each week, mounting up more and more mail that ‘really should get dealt with’ but just gets pushed ever further down the list until it becomes obsolete.

My iPhone is the big culprit in this process. I read the urgent mail out of work and then I come in fresh the next day knowing it needs to be dealt with, but what about that other email that was ever so slightly less important, the one you read (and therefore it got marked as read) but then drifted into the other realm?

So what to do? Well, I’m already using filters, but maybe those filters could be more specific? Maybe I should colour code important/regular emailers and file them accordingly? Maybe I should have set times of day for reviewing particular types of mail? Maybe if I send less mail, less mail will come back?

First and foremost, I think we all need a purge. A spring clean of more than my desk and my desktop but of that invisible in-tray that plays on my mind from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed. According to the Radicati Group the average worker spends 41% of their time on emails. Maybe just for one day I should spend 100% and hit DELETE on the contents of the inbox. I know it will only last for a few hours but maybe, just maybe this time I might manage to stay on top.