I’m finding these kinds of articles about people moaning about their e-mail more and more annoying.
Unanswered emails were the bane of my life – until I spent a month in search of inbox nirvana
I renegotiate the terms of this week (with myself) and instead resolve never to check emails on my phone. This is because, as Gomes tells me, it is a “really, really stupid” thing to do. He describes a crushingly familiar scenario: you skim through emails on your phone, and half-read one that stresses you out. You can’t read it properly because it’s on a small screen which is “psychologically frustrating”, and you can’t reply because you get distracted – you so half-read it three times, growing more and more anxious, before you finally sit down at your computer, and realise it wasn’t as bad as you thought.
To prevent myself from checking my email on my iPhone’s browser, I move the Safari icon so that it is nine swipes away. It works. I feel simultaneously triumphant and riddled with self-loathing.
Yes, some people get more e-mail than others. And yes, it’s taking up more of our time than it used to. But no, it’s not an interruption from your work, dealing with e-mail is a part of your work now. And has been for, what, 20 years? There’s so much advice out there on how to work smarter with e-mail – filters and rules, labels and folders, even declaring e-mail bankruptcy now and then. Whatever works for you. Just get on with it.
The triumph of email: Why does one of the world’s most reviled technologies keep winning?
“Email has evolved into a weird medium of communication where the best thing you can do is destroy it quickly, as if every email were a rabid bat attacking your face,” Paul Ford wrote last year. “Yet even the tragically email-burdened still have a weird love for this particular rabid, face-attacking bat.
If Google and MS Exchange were to implement this, it really would shift our relationship with e-mail into a much more mature and intelligent place. We’ve had e-mail for ages now, we really should have moved on more than we have.
Seven email problems – one solution, I think
You can have your inbox set to destroy email after a certain time period. The sender is alerted to the fact that their email will be destroyed after xxx number of days, so if no response has been received in that time, assume email bankruptcy on behalf of the receiver, and use a different method to communicate your demands/thanks/wishes/offers.
You can also send time limited email – if the receiver has not read the email by a certain date, it becomes irrelevant or too late, and so the email is deleted, so that saves the issue of protracted apologetic comms that are dull for everyone involved. You could set this email to alert you when it is deleted unread, just so you know, in case you want to pursue the issue on a different medium.
The New Age: Leaving Behind Everything, Or Nothing At All
As for his own digital legacy? Moser says, “Please throw it all in the Pacific Ocean with a big block of concrete around it. I mean, it probably won’t help because I’m sure that Google has it in a cave in Idaho somewhere,” he says. “There’s this incredible amount of you that exists and that isn’t protected, that you don’t really have any say-so over. Where before you could just burn letters and diaries, you can’t exactly wipe every hard drive and scrape the cloud clean. I think the only thing on our side is that probably by the time, if I’m granted a normal life span and die in 40 years, there will be so much of it that nobody would possibly ever want to bother,” he says.
Note to self: must sort through those old boxes in the loft, those old university zip disks and SyQuest cartridges might still be up there. Though of course I’ve nothing to play them on if I find them…
How Gmail happened: the inside story of its launch 10 years ago
But serious search practically begged for serious storage: It opened up the possibility of keeping all of your email, forever, rather than deleting it frantically to stay under your limit. That led to the eventual decision to give each user 1GB of space, a figure Google settled on after considering capacities that were generous but not preposterous, such as 100MB.
An interesting read about the cautious beginnings of what now seems like such a no brainer. But consider that passage above with this one from Barclay T Blair, information governance expert, in a post entitled “There is no harm in keeping tiny emails”. He had found an article that
“There is no harm in keeping tiny emails”
I thought it nicely summed up the attitude I encounter from IT and others in our information governance engagements. Ask an attorney sometime if there really is “no harm in keeping tiny emails around in this age of ever-expanding storage space.” The drug dealers of the IG world have really done an incredible job convincing the addicts that the drug has no downside.
"I found the first report helpful because even though the team was unsuccessful in selecting an email solution, they shared a detailed explanation of their experiences and lessons learned. The second report touches on a number of issues surrounding email management: auto-classification, user motivation and time available for categorization, training, and scalability."
Sounds like an uphill struggle all right. I’m finding it hard to visualise an e-mail management system that will actually work as well as we want them to, without significant buy-in from the user. It’s not that we lack the self-discipline- well, no, it’s not just that we lack the self-discipline, there needs to be a considerable time-investment made by the user in actively managing all this – methodically, consistently, deliberately moving e-mail out of their good-for-reading-and-sending-e-mail system and into a good-for-storing-and-searching system.
I mean, we all have an hour and a half scheduled into our calendars every Friday afternoon for this, right? I can’t see how it all would work if not. Surely it’s up to us, the users, to get us out of this mess ourselves, rather than waiting for a technological solution?
We’re drowning in email. And the many hours we spend on it are generating ever more work for our friends and colleagues. We can reverse this spiral only by mutual agreement. Hence this Charter…
Didn’t this used to be just called etiquette? Interesting spotting this shortly after the postcard thing.