Hey, 1997 is calling. It says it has 9,374 emails for you…
I had had it with email about 20 years ago. You?
The worst thing about it is that it keeps coming, and there’s nothing you can do about it other than waste time on it — a certain amount (way more than you want to spend) each day, or gargantuan amounts now and then.
I saw a headline recently in The Washington Post that said: “The three worst things about email, and how to fix them.”
I should have known better by now than to click on it, but I looked, and the blasted thing was 2,700 words long. In the amount of time it would take me to read and absorb that, I could delete a thousand emails. Also, I skimmed enough to see there were no real “solutions.” There were apps you could buy, of course, and the phrase “and pay $100 per year for it” persuaded me of the rightness of merely skimming.
Anyway, it begins like this:
Apologies if you’ve been waiting for an email from me. My Gmail has 17,539 unread messages.
Raise your hand if you have even more….
What, I’m going to take email-handling advice from a guy who has 17,539 unread messages?
Of course, I’d have that many in my In box if I didn’t take fitful stabs each day at at least skimming the first page of headlines, to see it there was something I actually needed to look at.
As it was, I had somewhere close to 9,000 in the various compartments of my In box (I refer to the way Gmail presumes to sort that box into “Primary,” “Social” and “Promotions.”) I don’t know exactly, because I didn’t add it all up before I started attacking it.
How much time did I expend on it? Well, I only got in about 8,000 steps Saturday, and basically I got NO walking or working on the elliptical in Sunday — which means I only got in the normal 2,860 from walking around the house.
I probably won’t make my steps goal for this month now (although I’ll try in these last four days — I had been on target before those two wasted days).
I won’t even start listing the things I needed to do and could have done OTHER than stepping if I hadn’t wasted so much time on email.
What did I get for that? Well, I deleted or filed (and in RARE instances read) the 1,300 or so in the “Primary” part of the In box. That’s the hard part. This morning, when I should have been working, I cleared out the “Social” section — none of that really needs to be looked at, although I filed away items naming members of my family or friends, in case someone asks “Did you see what I posted on Facebook?”)
That left the 6,000 or 7,000 in “Promotions.” This is 99 percent garbage, and the rest mildly interesting stuff I might want to glance at if I have nothing else to do, which of course is never the case.
I work through it pretty quickly. I highlight a page of 100 messages, and run my eyes down the whole list to at least give myself a chance of spotting something important that got placed in that category by accident — by which I mean, through the stupidity of the software — before deleting it all. Then I go to the next page. Ten pages for each thousand…
If I spend an hour each evening this week on it, I’ll probably have it cleaned out by the weekend.
I don’t think there is a solution to this, other than getting someone else to do it. Back when I was editorial page editor, I had a secretary. But I never asked her to do it (although I thought about it, many times), for two reasons:
- No one else can spot those odd things you sometimes need or want to read — say, a cryptic note from a friend from 30 years ago, or a release from some source you would normally ignore that contains critical info about something you’ve been thinking about addressing in a column — unless he or she can read your mind and know everything and everyone you know.
- I couldn’t bring myself to inflict that on another human being.
Anyway, there’s just no solution, is there? You just have to throw away significant portions of your life on it, don’t you?
(Please, please, please tell me I’m wrong…)