Help or hindrance?
It seemed a good idea when it first came along; you can get messages very quickly to people and it only costs time - you’re paying your provider anyway. Most people get a lot less snail mail these days than they used to but the email they now get more than makes up for it. Recently after a few days of not being able to access mine I had 666 (yes, scary number) messages waiting for me. My work account often clogs up. I really daren’t be away from it for too long – even if I’ve put on an out of office message.
I’ve come across a few examples of this just this week. A student apologised for replying late to one of my mails – she claimed that looking at her emails was adding to her stress. A colleague told another colleague to contact him by text – he wasn’t looking at emails at the moment because they were preventing him from getting other things done. I myself wrote a note to a colleague on paper as I didn’t want to open my email. It can be a distraction and a bit of a Pandora’s box.
We often quake before we look at our inboxes, especially if we haven’t been there for a while. I do this too, but sometimes I also find it quite exciting.
A healthy attitude
“Promise me,” said our HR business partner at a recent Senior Lecturer day, “that you won’t look at your email for the first hour of the day.” This prompted a positive discussion about time management and how what comes into our mail boxes is actually from other people’s agendas. Sure, we need to work with others and what is important for one person is possibly important for others too. But all in its own time.
Let’s do what’s important and urgent first, what’s important second, what’s merely apparently urgent next and then see what’s left.
Today I’m writing (aka researching) for two hours and then intend to have one brief sweep through my work email, write for another two hours and have a brief sweep through my personal accounts.
Yes, no doubt, someone will grumble about something. Someone else or possibly the same person will find me some more work to do. Actually, though, there will also be a number of interesting mails, ones that can be deleted straight away and possibly even a few that will make me feel proud or that will make me laugh. In fact, the negative ones are in the minority.
We all tend to dwell on the negatives, so they loom larger. I’m gradually training myself out of that. I’m also beginning to regard those negative ones as a bit of a challenge. There’s still a little dread as I go too open that box, and the sheer number can sometimes be overwhelming, but most of the time now I’m more excited than afraid.
The power of the delete button
I subscribe to quite a few lists and newsletters. Often I have very little time to read them. Yet, I won’t unsubscribe because occasionally I do find time and when I do I often come across something that is very interesting or very useful. On a day like today, when I’m keeping email work to a minimum, I’ll probably use the delete button a lot. It can be very effective.