General Interest

E-mail Me

I’m convinced that, should we all disappear under a radioactive mushroom cloud, the only things that will survive are cockroaches and spam. And I’m not entirely sure about the cockroaches.

I’ve tried and tried to rid my computer of junk e_mail, but they just haunt me like a bad Richard Gere movie. At one point, I put out the white flag and surrendered my e_mail box to the Viagra pushers of the world. I decided the only way I could keep up with the volume of e_mail I was getting (99 junk messages for every one good one) was to quickly scan the subject line and instantly decide if I could trash it, ignore it, put it off or file it away where I wouldn’t have to look at it for “a while.” My backlog of unopened e_mail grew like a pile of empty beer cans at a fraternity row block party.

I was almost willing to accept that situation except that with every unopened e_mail in my inbox, my conscience was weighing more and more heavily on me. It was snuffing every bit of life out of me and crushing me under a burden so heavy that not even Barry Bonds on steroids (but I repeat myself) could carry it.

Then along came Penelope Trunk. I’m sure Penelope is a perfectly nice human being, though I’ve never even met her, but I can tell you with no uncertainty that I didn’t like her. Why?

In her book, Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, she talks about being in control of your inbox and getting it down to zero. That’s crazy talk! There were only two times that I’ve ever had my inbox down to zero; one was when my computer was less than a day old, and the other when I was unemployed. Naturally, I wondered if there was a correlation between being unemployed and a ze-roed-out inbox. If one could cause the other, could the other cause the one?

That little bit of uncertainty set me on the path toward a newfound determination to answer every bit of e_mail I got each day. I’ve been on this yellow brick road for a couple of weeks now. To help ease the transition, I pulled the trigger and got Spam Arrest. So for-give me if you e_mail me and you get a challenge/response in return — you know, those wavy-looking words that look like you’ve had one too many cocktails and ask you to type the wavy word? Now I’m working harder than ever to keep up, and guess what? I’m slip-ping back into the black hole of unanswered e_mail. Help!

A little bit of research put me on to Mark Hurst, author of Bit Literacy. It’s a book about acquiring the necessary skills to prevent digital overload. One of the central ideas in the book — but not the only idea — is how to properly manage your e_mail. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it involves sending e_mail to the future so that you’ll have more information at your disposal to resolve it. This allows you to “let the bits go” until such time as you can do something with it.

How many times have you left an e-mail in your inbox unanswered because you just didn’t know the answer yet? No, I don’t mean the ones that ask if you want to separate yourself from other men. I mean the ones wanting to know who, what, where, when or why. Many times, we don’t know the answers for a week, a month or several months later. So by sending the e_mail to the future, you have more tools at your disposal to deal with it properly.

There’s much more to the book, but I’ve been way too busy sorting through e_mails to finish reading it. Can I get back to you about it?