Even though it's a little early to be thinking about New Year's resolutions, I've decided to make an early one for 2005. I've decided to stop letting my inbox rule my day.Over the past week, I've paid particular attention to the amount of time I spend checking, writing and responding to e-mails, and the results were frightening.
Despite the fact that that I am not one who check e-mails in the middle of the night or on weekends (99 percent of my e-mailing activity is relegated to office hours), I find myself, more and more often, staying an extra 20 or 30 minutes at the end of the day just to try to delete some of the messages that have clogged my inbox during the previous eight or so hours. It is a constant struggle to keep the number of messages in my inbox below 150 (as I write this, I am at 156, 18 unread, and that is only after a concerted effort to purge). I realize that, to some of you, that is a pittance. To someone who feels that crossing things off a to-do list and throwing things away are cathartic experiences, however, it borders on a nightmare.
Let me be clear that I am by no means anti-e-mail. I am a huge fan of its convenience. As a matter of fact, for the majority of communications, I prefer it to phone or fax. And I'll admit that snail mail can sit on my desk for four days before I glance at it. As the editor of a Web site, I spend a great deal of time responding to readers who contact me via e-mail. And for that, it is an invaluable tool. But my inbox has more flags than the United Nations. And the madness of spending 20 minutes dealing with e-mail at the end of the day only to arrive in the office less than 15 hours later to sort through yet another 30 or so messages has been getting to me. Yesterday, I caught myself e-mailing a co-worker who sits less than 15 feet from my desk -- and there's no wall separating us. That was the breaking point.
So, I'm resolving here in writing not to rush for my inbox every time that little envelope announcing that I have new unread messages shows up in the corner of my monitor (I'm proud to say I long ago silenced the annoying ding that accompanied the visual cue). And to get started off on the right foot, rather than e-mailing a copy of this over to our managing editor for proofreading, I am going to walk over a hard copy.
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