Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Email hell, struggling with the inbox

I had a moment of clarity the other day, I decided that the first task I tackled was not going to be touching my email.

I left the email garden to fend for itself, to grow weeds or bloom brightly without my constant tending to it. I chose not to worry about the steady rain of falling messages. I ignored the raging river of email rapids, and focused instead on other tasks.

The purpose was to chose my priority list and not have it chosen for me based on everyone else's needs as expressed with a missive directed at my inbox. It felt that my grappling with the email item, as soon as they sent it, made the items on their list take precedence over my own.

Reading my email, I concluded, was taking care of everyone else. I needed to take care of me for one day.

On an ongoing basis, I struggle to keep up with the steady email stream. On the surface, it's not overwhelming, it's continuous. It never lets up. It doesn't rest and it doesn't take a holiday.

At my previous job, as advertising sales manager, I oversaw a multi-million dollar budget. From my experience, one could conclude the larger the budget the larger the inbox. At one point I had almost 2,000 emails staring at me. I would console myself by looking over at the monitor of another manager and notice he never filed or deleted any email. Another manager had a whopping 15,000 emails, with 8,000 unread. Admittedly, 15,000 emails probably spells bigger problems than just email. It's like the person who hoards felines but doesn't take care of them.

My personal email would wax and wane depending on which inbox I focused on. I have more than one personal email account.

I'm not the only one.

A recent review of Quora revealed more than one personal email addresses is not unusual. Having only one probably is. Cody Riddar, Founder of Rebel Bits, admits to twelve. Currently 712 people are following the 'number of email address' topic. I would wager that those 712 followers are doing so to avoid their in basket.

Other Quora seekers discuss how many emails coming flying at them a day. That ranges from a low estimate of 130 for Lynette Young, a social technology specialist. She scans three accounts and actively handles or replies to about 40 emails. The remainder she usually skims, trashes or archives.

For others, the average email count is between 200 and 300. Trevor Dyster, reports 250 a day, with 50 directly work related and the remainder related to social media. He manages the influx by keeping his Blackberry switched off at night, which doesn't stop the email, just the email bleep. "Most get deleted as I follow them up through the various platforms."

Food blogger, Julie Niesen Gosdin, says two accounts is enough and she receives "probably 300" emails a day. Most of which "go into the trash."

The result of my 'one-day without email' experiment is inconclusive. I didn't end the day with a sense of satisfaction. It felt more like leaving a ticking bomb and I wondered how communicating became such an explosive device.

How do manage your email accounts?

How often does your inbox read '0?'